How ADP has addressed regional disparity

Amitabh Kant
Contd from last Saturday
First, that lack of funding is not the sole or even the predominant cause of backwardness as due to poor governance funds available under existing schemes (both Central and State) are not effectively utilized. And second, the prolonged historical neglect of these districts has created a vicious cycle of low motivation among district officials. Breaking this cycle through the infusion of data-driven governance is in fact the key to unlocking the potential of these districts.
During its three years of implementation, the programme has provided the right institutional framework to push substantial improvement across a multitude of sectors through its core principles of convergence (between central and state schemes), collaboration (between Centre, State, district and development partners) and competition (between the districts).
Through ADP, the Government is using technology to not only streamline coordination but also channelise efforts in a targeted manner. ADP’s Champions of Change platform, developed by NITI Aayog, supports the district administration with self-service analytics tools, which aids them in analysing data and developing targeted local area plans. The platform ensures that the districts are constantly competing with each other in order to improve their position in the programme’s delta rankings. Competition ensures that new ideas to improve service delivery are constantly being explored.
While several schemes have tried to address regional disparities over the years, there has been very little convergence between them. By measuring the districts on the 49 KPIs, ADP leaves them with the discretion to streamline and channel the schemes that can best enable them to achieve outcomes. In this way, development efforts go beyond the scope of individual schemes and are viewed through the prism of the results they are intended to bring. This convergence of Central, State, and district-level efforts is one of the founding principles of ADP.
The programme has brought together NGOs/civil society organisations and district administration to work in collaboration with each other, as opposed to duplicating efforts or working in silos. This has ensured that sarkar, samaaj and bazaar all work towards achieving the same objectives by leveraging their respective assets. Over the years, the districts have been able to benefit from each other through the circulation and replication of best practices. Certain practices innovated and adopted by one district have been replicated by others. The programme allows such inspiration to flow across districts, along with the necessary flexibility to mutate the practices as per local requirements.
The Aspirational Districts Programme is highly cognizant of the differences across States and even districts and provides a suitable mechanism to allow for those differences.
In fact, the programme intends to deepen this vision by encouraging districts to replicate this model at the block level. We hope that taking the model further will provide deeper insights into the challenges faced by a district and how to overcome them.
ADP is a shining example of cooperative–competitive federalism. The recognition and recommendations from international organisations about ADP’s template and successes validate our efforts immensely. In fact, it is only fitting that a model to address regional disparities should come from one of the most diverse countries in the world, and we are committed to evolving the programme to one of the best instruments of equalising development.

Amitabh Kant is CEO, NITI Aayog. Views expressed are personal.