Chairing the second National Conference of Chief Secretaries in Delhi on the 6th and 7th of January 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the launch of the Aspirational Block Programme throughout India. With a special emphasis on the “India-First Approach”, the programme aims at developing the most backward blocks of the country identified based on a variety of factors as recognised by NITI Aayog.
The Aspirational Block Programme (ABP) aims to provide financial assistance to aspirational districts in India to improve their development outcomes. The ABP is a part of the government’s larger goal of inclusive growth and development.
The ABP is a centrally sponsored scheme, which means that the central government will provide 100% of the funding for the programme. The scheme will be implemented by the state governments, in collaboration with the district administration.
Objectives of the Programme
The objectives of the Aspirational Block Programme include:
- Improving the quality of life of people living in these underdeveloped blocks of India by providing them with the basic necessities.
- A Community Development Block (CD Block), often known as a Block, is a Tehsil subdivision that is formally designated for planning and development in India. The Grow More Food (GMF) Enquiry Committee originally proposed the idea of the community development block in 1952 to solve the issue of several rural development agencies operating without a sense of shared goals. Thus through this programme, the significance of introducing the blocks, in the first place, is highlighted.
- The programme aims at creating social and economic infrastructure. This makes sure that a higher than proportionate share of development reaches the disadvantaged and marginalized groups of the population.
- It tends to prevent the nation as a whole from adopting a “one-size-fits-all” strategy. Depending on the local environment and the most pressing requirements, the block administration may implement tailored strategies.
- Additionally, this approach aims at lowering the level of decision-making for the general public. In other words, it aims at decentralizing the decision-making power from the centre to the lower levels, so that the people who are directly affected by the programme and have sufficient knowledge about the prevailing conditions can make decisions.
Functioning of the Programme
Aspirational Block Programme (ABP) is a transformational programme initiated by the government to develop the most backward blocks of India. It is based on similar lines to the Aspirational Districts Programme, launched by the government in 2018 for the development of the backward districts of the country.
Under this programme, an inter-ministerial committee was formed to identify 500 underdeveloped blocks across 28 states and 8 Union Territories of India. However, more than half of these blocks are in 6 states—Uttar Pradesh (68 blocks), Bihar (61), Madhya Pradesh (42), Jharkhand (34), Odisha (29) and West Bengal (29).
ABP will concentrate on tracking 15 important socio-economic indicators (KSI) divided into broad areas. Health and nutrition, education, agriculture, and water resources, as well as basic infrastructure, skill development, financial inclusion, and social development, are some of these areas.
In addition to this, the states can add any specific socio-economic indicators (KSI) particular to the blocks in order to tackle local challenges, if required.
These KSIs will be monitored in real-time, and periodic rankings in important subject areas will be made public in order to promote healthy competition among the blocks and data-driven government.
The ABP will use a similar approach to the ADP, with a focus on convergence, collaboration, and competition.
The ABP will use a convergence approach to ensure that different government schemes and programs are implemented effectively in the identified blocks. This will involve bringing together different government departments and agencies to work together on a common goal. For example, the health department, the education department, and the rural development department may all work together to improve the health and education outcomes of children in a particular block.
The ABP will also involve collaboration with states and local governments. This will be essential to ensure that the program is implemented in a timely and efficient manner. The central government will provide technical and financial assistance to the state and local governments, but they will be responsible for the day-to-day implementation of the program.
The ABP will use a competitive approach to motivate the blocks to improve their performance. The blocks will be ranked every month based on their performance on a number of indicators, such as health, education, and rural development. The blocks that show the most improvement will be rewarded with incentives, such as additional funding or technical assistance.
The ABP is an ambitious initiative, but it has the potential to make a real difference in the lives of millions of people in India. The success of the ABP will depend on the effective implementation of the program and the commitment of all stakeholders.
Overview of the Aspirational District Programme (ADP)
- The Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP), introduced by the Honourable PM in January 2018, intends to rapidly and effectively improve 112 of the nation’s most underdeveloped districts.
- Convergence (of Central & State Schemes), Collaboration (of Central, State level Nodal Officers & District Collectors), and Competition (among districts by monthly delta ranking) are the program’s three main pillars.
- With States serving as the primary motivators, this programme focuses on each district’s strengths, identifying areas for quick development and tracking success by rating districts regularly.
- Ranking criteria: The criteria for ranking are the incremental improvements made across 49 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) organized into 5 major socio-economic topics.
1)Nutrition & Health (30%)
3)Water Resources & Agriculture (20%)
4)Financial inclusion and skill advancement (10%)
Shortcomings of the programme
- Lack of resources: The ABP is a large and complex program, and it will require a significant investment of resources. The central government has committed to providing technical and financial assistance to the state and local governments, but it is not clear whether this will be enough. It is important to acknowledge that resource constraints can limit the scope and pace of policy implementation forcing the government to make difficult choices and balance competing priorities based on available resources.
- Bureaucracy: The Indian bureaucracy is often slow and inefficient. The bureaucratic processes can be highly complex and involve multiple layers of approval. This complexity often leads to delays as files and applications move through various levels of scrutiny and decision-making. Corruption and rent-seeking practices within the bureaucracy can exacerbate these delays. Officials may demand bribes or engage in corrupt practices to expedite processes, creating a culture of inefficiency and favouritism. This could pose a challenge to the implementation of the ABP.
- Political will: Political will refers to the determination and commitment of political leaders or decision-makers to pursue and implement specific policies, reforms, or actions. It reflects the readiness of those in power to allocate resources, mobilize support, overcome obstacles, and prioritize certain issues on the government’s agenda. The success of the ABP will depend on the political will of the central and state governments. If the governments are not committed to the program, it is unlikely to be successful.
Despite these challenges, the ABP has the potential to be a game-changer for India. If it is implemented effectively, it could help to reduce poverty, improve education and health outcomes, and create jobs.
The Aspirational Blocks Programme is thus based on the success of the Aspirational District Programme. While the latter focuses on the development of districts, the former focuses on the development of the most backward blocks of the country.
The ABP is a significant initiative that has the potential to make a real difference in the lives of people living in aspirational districts. The programme is ambitious, but it is also realistic and achievable. The government has put in place a strong framework for the implementation of the programme, and it has committed to providing adequate funding.
The programme has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people living in aspirational districts. The success of the ABP will depend on several factors, including the commitment of the state governments, the district administration, and the people of aspirational districts and by taking advantage of the three Cs: Convergence, Collaboration and Competition. However, if the programme is implemented effectively, it can make a real difference in the development of aspirational districts and the lives of the people living there.
- META SHEET ASPIRATIONAL BLOCK DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME, (31st December 2021) https://jkplanning.gov.in/pdf/Metasheets%20of%20ABDP.pdf
- Niti Aayog (Feb,2023).Launch of the Aspirational Blocks Programme by PM | 2nd National Conference of Chief Secretaries. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hN6VkOhejs
- Niti Aayog (April,2023), Aspirational District Programme.https://www.niti.gov.in/aspirational-districts-programme
- Niti Aayog (April,2023). Aspirational District Programme – Champions of Change.http://championsofchange.gov.in/site/coc-home/
- Sharma, Harikrishan.(Thursday, June 2023).PM launches Aspirational Block Programme aimed at spurring development parameters. The Indian Expresshttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/pm-modi-aspirational-block-programme-spurring-development-parameters-8367955/
- Iyer, Parameswaran(Jan 23, 2023)Aspirational Blocks Programme: Building blocks of Viksit Bharat. The Indian Express. https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/aspirational-blocks-programme-building-blocks-of-viksit-bharat-8398073/
- PM launches Aspirational Block Programme(January 9, 2023)
Krishti Khandelwal is a Research Intern at IMPRI.
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