Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] True Antyodaya: Aspirational programme to fight COVID

Aspirational Districts in a unique initiative to unleash the shackles of underdevelopment, through an exclusive focus on social development in sectors like health and education.
By IASToppers
August 12, 2020

Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Aspirational Districts Programme
  • Positive Trends
  • Effective steps by the districts to contain COVID
  • Conclusion

True Antyodaya: Aspirational programme to fight COVID

For IASToppers’ Editorial Simplified Archive, click here

Introduction:

The core guiding philosophy behind India’s development trajectory has been the idea of Sarvodaya (welfare for all) through Antyodaya (uplifting of the weakest). Antyodaya serves as the backbone of the Aspirational Districts Programme, currently at the forefront of India’s battle against COVID-19.

Aspirational Districts Programme:

  • Aspirational Districts programme was launched in January 2018.
  • It aimed to quickly and effectively transform some of the most underdeveloped districts in the country.
  • 112 of the most backward districts throughout India are identified as the Aspirational districts.
  • Broad contours of the programme are Convergence (of Central & State Schemes), Collaboration (of Central, State level Prabhari Officers & District Collectors), and Competition among districts driven by a Mass Movement or a Jan Andolan.
  • The program focuses on the strength of each district, identify areas for immediate improvement, measure progress and rank districts.
  • Six Thematic areas of Aspirational Districts’ programme are Health & Nutrition, Education, Agriculture & Water Resources, Financial Inclusion & Skill Development, and Basic Infrastructure.

Positive Trends:

  • A few years ago these districts were epicentres of myriad epidemics, neglect, economic hardship and social distress.
  • As on August 2, only 21% of the districts have reported more than 1,000 COVID-19 cases, and 62 districts (55%) have a case-count of under-500 with some having zero reported cases.
  • Aspirational districts are home to about 18% of India’s population, however, with under one-lakh COVID-19 cases, they account for less than 6% of India’s total cases and 2.5% of total fatalities.
  • This is because the Aspirational Districts programme has given the highest weightage in the health sector.
  • It has resulted in terrific transformation and reengineering of public health systems across the country.
  • The districts invested heavily in augmenting health system— primary health care centres were set up; the number of specialists increased; doctors doubled, and over 100 nurses were recruited.
  • The existing health resources are sufficient to handle current caseloads.

Effective steps by the districts to contain COVID:

1. Awareness:

  • The districts did a tremendous job in spreading awareness among the masses.
  • Some examples include- radio-based awareness generation in Nuh (Haryana), street art in Rajgarh (Madhya Pradesh), community counselling in Pakur (Jharkhand), conversion of schools and gram panchayats as quarantine centres etc.
  • The campaigns like NITI Aayog’s Surakshit Dada-Dadi & Nana-Nani enabled greater protection and specialised care for over 13 million senior citizens.

2. Efficient Testing:

  • Cost-effective innovation in districts is driving efficient testing.
  • West Singhbhum (Jharkhand) created a phone-booth sample collection centre costing approximately Rs 15,000, and Aurangabad (Maharashtra), corona warrior vans each under Rs 10,000 function as mobile testing labs.

3. Uninterrupted delivery of supplies:

  • The districts are ensuring minimal disruptions in supply-chains through contactless, doorstep deliveries of rations.
  • Anganwadi workers in Guna (Madhya Pradesh), are serving ready-to-eat meals.
  • Self-sufficiency is being assured through the production of essentials like masks, face covers and PPE.
  • Proceeds from the sale of locally-produced sanitisers in Bokaro (Jharkhand) are being deposited in the District Disaster Relief fund.
  • Home learning programmes in Dahod (Gujarat), open-air community classes in Baramulla (J&K), and instruction through loudspeakers at religious sites or schools are ensuring the continuation of education.

4. Protection of livelihood:

  • The livelihoods are being protected, and economic security is being guaranteed.
  • Local produce in Hazaribagh (Jharkhand) is taken to nearby markets, providing timely income to farmers; Bank Sakhis in Kanker (Chhattisgarh) are administering disbursements of MGNREGA payments, pensions, and financial transactions.
  • As a model for Vocal for Local Kanker (Chhattisgarh) has also launched a Bihan Gadhiya Bazaar—a store dedicated to products made by SHGs and managed by differently-abled women.
  • Grameen Dak Sevaks in Gaya (Bihar) have been engaged for door-to-door cash withdrawal services, and in Kondagaon (Chhattisgarh) skill-based training is provided to the local community.

5. Use of technology:

  • These districts in the hinterland are progressively leveraging technology against coronavirus.
  • This include– CCTV surveillance, drone photos, smart sheets and route mapping of containment zones to prevent transmission; automated robotic devices to deliver food, water and medicines to infected patients; Telemedicine centres and dedicated helplines for mental health and domestic violence
  • Bokaro (Jharkhand) has launched SARAL (Safe Arrival and Accommodation of Labor)—a technology-based system to facilitate re-entry of locals stuck in other parts of the country.

Conclusion:

Improved access and enhanced quality of healthcare have contributed significantly to stronger health care systems—a critical weapon in the ongoing battle against COVID-19. The districts reflect the vision for a New India; its people are essential to weave the fabric of India’s socio-economic development. The Aspirational Districts programme has put these sections of society back on the map of India.

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