January 24, 2021: Launched by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in January, the Transformation of Aspirational District programme in Odisha aims to quickly and effectively transform these districts.
The 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.
With states as the main drivers, this aspirational District programme in Odisha will focus on the strength of each district, identify low-hanging fruits for immediate improvement, measure progress, and rank districts.
The state government has agreed to participate in the aspirational district programme of the Niti Aayog which it had rejected earlier with several conditions including a change of panel of Prabhari officers appointed for the backward districts.
Odisha’s change of mind
The change in the stand of the state government is reported to have come after the recent visit of the vice-chairman of Niti Aayog to Odisha and his meeting with chief minister Naveen Patnaik.
Besides a change in the panel of Prabhari officers, which the Centre wants to appoint for backward districts, the state government wants some new districts to be added to the list.
“Since the state government was not consulted at the time of finalization of the list of backward districts, we want Nuapada and Nabarangpur to be added to the list and dropping of Dhenkanal,” finance minister Sashi Bhusan Behera said.
Besides, the state government also wants restoration of the Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF) scheme which the Centre had stopped, he said.
Aspirational District programme in Odisha
Rayagada, Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Gajapati, Dhenkanal, Balangir, Koraput, and Malkangiri were the eight districts from Odisha selected by the Centre to cover under the programme. The centre appointed its officers (joint secretary rank) as Prabhari officers to oversee the development programmes.
Sources said the state government wants that the Prabhari officers appointed by the Niti Aayog should jointly work with the secretaries nominated by the state government for each of the backward districts.
Development Commissioner will be designated as nodal officer and the Prabhari officers along with secretary-level officers nominated for the districts will make a presentation before the State Level Committee headed by the chief secretary.
Nabarangpur, Kandhamal among top five aspirational districts
Nabarangpur and Kandhamal have emerged as top districts in the ranking for having adopted sustainable agriculture practices and efficiently managing water resources. While Nabarangpur topped the list, Kandhamal ranked fifth.
The central government think-tank had ranked 112 aspirational districts in 27 states across six developmental areas on the basis of incremental progress made in health and nutrition, education, agriculture and water resources, financial inclusion, skill development, and basic infrastructure.
The aspirational district programme, introduced in January 2018, aimed at transforming backward districts that have shown relatively lesser progress in key social areas.
Under the agriculture practices and water resources management project, water from springs is collected and distributed for drinking and irrigation purposes through a gravity-flow system taking advantage of the undulating terrain.
As part of the project, perennial stream water is harnessed in an elevated zone, and utilizing gravity power, water is brought to the lower-level through PVC pipe along with contours, intermittent outlets, and controlling devices.
The Integrated Tribal Development Agencies with the support of the District Planning and Monitoring Unit have applied the technology in the hilly regions of the districts to make it durable and cost-effective with the help of locals.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik expressed his happiness over the achievement.
“With the continued adoption of sustainable agriculture practices and efficient management of water resources, Nabarangpur and Kandhamal have emerged as top districts in @NITIAayog Delta Ranking. Development of agriculture and farmer empowerment are sustained priorities,” the CMO tweeted.
NITI Aayog picks six ideas from Odisha’s aspirational districts
In order to promote innovative ideas in backward districts across the country, the NITI Aayog has compiled a series of best practices implemented by several aspirational districts, including six from Odisha.
The NITI Aayog has selected the practice of bike ambulance, auto ambulance, and delivery van to promote institutional deliveries in the Kandhamal district of Odisha.
To bring the community on board, the district doubled its efforts for increasing the demand and supply-side interventions. Five bike ambulances and 11 Janani auto vehicles were deployed in remote pockets. Seven Maternity Waiting Homes (MWHs) were also established to facilitate institutional deliveries.
In the Dhenkanal aspirational district, pregnant women were prone to skip radiology tests due to inaccessibility. To facilitate these women, the administration enabled a mechanism for mandatory ultrasound sonography (USG) for all pregnant women by scheduling mass USG test dates across the sub-district hospitals under the Kalpana programmeme.
In order to reduce infant and maternal death, Ama Sankalpa Rath Yatras were organized to spread a message about precautionary measures for maternal and child health in the Rayagada aspiration district of Odisha.\
In Koraput, the incidents of malaria-related deaths were very high due to hilly terrain, forest cover, inadequate health facility coverage, and low education levels. To combat this, Mission API–10 was launched on July 15, 2017.
The two main interventions under API–10 include the use of Long-Lasting Insecticidal Nets (LLINs) coupled with supply-side interventions, complemented by bottom-up incentives and nudges such as ‘bell ringing’ as reminders to use nets and night patrolling by ASHA/AWW/Volunteers.
This initiative to create awareness about malaria has brought down the Annual Parasite Incidence (API) to 2 in the affected area.
To promote quality education in the Gajapati aspirational district, the state government has launched the Teach Gajapati campaign under the Mo School Abhiyaan. It is an initiative where the alumni of respective schools, interested public and community at large, participate in the overall development of schools.
In order to provide potable water to households in hilly and tribal regions of the Kalahandi district, water from springs is collected and distributed for drinking and irrigation purposes through a gravity-flow system taking advantage of the undulating terrain. Perennial stream water is harnessed in an elevated zone and utilizing gravity power, water is brought to the lower-level through PVC pipe along with contours, intermittent outlets, and controlling devices.