Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] NITI Aayog’s Aspirational Districts Programme

If successful, the Aspirational Districts Programme of NITI Aayog can present a new template for governance. It is therefore critical to try and get it right.
By IASToppers
November 02, 2019


  • About Aspirational Districts Programme
  • Features of ADP
  • Outcomes of Aspirational Districts Programme
  • Reason behind the improved outcomes of ADP
  • Suggestions
  • Way Forward

NITI Aayog’s Aspirational Districts Programme

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About Aspirational Districts Programme

The Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) is NITI Aayog’s flagship initiative to improve health, nutrition, education, and economic outcomes.


The pillars of the programme are:

  • Convergence (of Central & State Schemes): It creatively brings together the horizontal and vertical tiers of the government.
  • Collaboration (of Central, State level ‘Prabhari’ Officers & District Collectors): It enables impactful partnerships between government, philanthropy and civil society.
  • Competition (among districts): It fosters accountability on district governments for final outcomes (instead of inputs) using high-quality data.
  • Out of 112 districts, NITI Aayog plays a mentoring role in 27 districts in eight states while remaining districts are mentored by various 12 central government ministries.

Features of ADP


  • Shifted focus away from inputs and budgets to outcomes, such as learning and malnutrition.
  • Introduced non-financial incentives to encourage government officials to deliver results.
  • Actively encourages forging partnerships with philanthropies and civil society to create better impact using the same amount of budgetary spends.
  • Developed a lean data infrastructure that smartly exploits complementary strengths of administrative and survey data.

Outcomes of Aspirational Districts Programme

As per the recent surveys, Aspirational Districts Programme resulted in

  • Increase in registering pregnant women into the health system (from 73 % to 86 %)
  • Increase in Institutional delivery of babies (66 % to 74 %)
  • Increase in Anti-diarrheal treatment via ORS (51 % to 67 %) and zinc (34 % to 53 %).

Reason behind the improved outcomes of ADP

  • Pioneering state and district-level initiatives in both the ADP and non-ADP districts in areas prioritised under the programme.
  • Due to competition focused outcomes, local governments target their efforts and improve programme implementation and design.
  • The focus on outcomes enables local experimentation based on a firm appreciation of ground realities.
  • Partnerships between various philanthropic and civil society organisations with district governments augment local capacity.


  • High quality administrative data is critical to improve programme implementation. The poor quality of administrative data is usually due to capacity issues at the ground level. Hence, building each district’s internal capacity to produce reliable and actionable data can be made a priority for the ADP.
  • The ADP published Delta ranking for the Aspirational Districts across six areas of Health and Nutrition, Education, Agriculture and Water Resources, Financial Inclusion, Skill Development, and Basic Infrastructure. However, a simplified ranking index, with few chosen output, can more clearly signal national development targets.


  • ADP is a laboratory of various cutting-edge governance reforms. Each of these reforms is a radical shift from the status quo in governance today. Therefore, it is critical to carefully document and learn from the ADP’s experiences.


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