IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 16th April 2018
Districts under LWE brought down to 30
Part of: Mains GS Paper II- Governance, Internal Security
- In a big development, the government has announced that 44 districts have been taken out of the list of Naxalism-affected areas.
Here, the Naxal presence has either been entirely uprooted or restricted to minimal.
- Now, most of the left-wing extremism is restricted to just 30 worst-hit districts.
- The announcement was made by the home ministry saying that the forces have been able to reduce the geographical spread of Naxalism-related violence significantly in the last four years thanks to a multi-pronged strategy that involves security and development-related measures.
- The anti-Naxal policy has focussed on zero tolerance towards violence as well as massive efforts to bring in development in affected areas like new roads, bridges, and telephone towers to make the lives of the poor and the vulnerable easier.
The SRE scheme:
- The Ministry of Home Affairs had earlier listed 106 districts in 10 states as LWE-affected districts.
- These districts came under the purview of the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme that has been formulated for the purpose of reimbursement of security-related expenditure like transportation, communication, the hiring of vehicles, stipend to surrendered Maoists, construction of infrastructure for forces etc.
- Such a categorisation helps in focused deployment security as well as development-related resources.
- The initially-designated 106 SRE districts increased to 126 over the last few years due to a number of them being carved into smaller districts.
- The MHA recently carried out an extensive exercise to review the LWE-affected districts so as to ensure optimal deployment of forces and resources is these areas keeping in mind changed ground reality.
- It is part of this exercise that 44 districts have been excluded from the SRE list and 8 new added. Now, the total number of SRE districts stands at 90. Also, the count of worst LWE-hit districts has got reduced to 30 from 35.
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General studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes.
General studies 3:
- Inclusive growth and issues arising from it
- Investment and Infrastructure
- Agrarian/Rural distress and Rural Development
The Aspirational Districts Programme
The Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) is a radical departure from the country’s previous development strategies in its scale, scope and ownership.
This landmark programme recognises the disparities in development across states and districts
It focuses on transforming 115 districts across 28 states that have witnessed the least progress along certain development parameters.
These 115 districts account for more than 20% of the country’s population and cover over 8,600 gram panchayats.
A radical scheme:
This is the first time that a government in India has focussed on India’s most backward districts and the exercise envisages a serious re-imagination of government and governance and deepens cooperative federalism.
The programme is informed by the failures of the past and therefore has a more contemporary vision of how public services are best delivered to those who need them most.
Deliberately, the districts have been described as aspirational rather than backward so that they are viewed as islands of opportunity and hope rather than areas of distress and hopelessness.
Choosing of the 115 districts:
The 115 districts were chosen by senior officials of the Union government in consultation with State officials on the basis of a composite index of the following-
- Deprivation enumerated under the Socio-Economic Caste Census.
- Key health and education performance indicators.
- The state of basic infrastructure.
A minimum of one district was chosen from every State.
The largest concentration of districts is in the States which have historically under-performed such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, or which are afflicted by left-wing extremism such as Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
There is no financial package or large allocation of funds to this programme.
The intent is to leverage the resources of the several government programmes that already exist but are not always used efficiently.
The government doesn’t always need to spend more to achieve outcomes but instead to spend better.
Key features of the programme:
Focus on district-specific strengths:
The composite district-level data allows GoI to take into account the huge variation within India.
With districts as diverse as Dantewada and Bastar in Chhattisgarh that are affected by leftwing extremism and Baksa in Assam where access to education is a challenge, a‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy will not work. For instance, the priority given to stunting will vary in Tawang district in Arunachal Pradesh, where 8.1% of its under-five-year-old population is stunted, than in Rajgarh in Madhya Pradesh where nearly 39% of under-five children are stunted.
The detailed data collected will allow the government to take into account the specific contexts, challenges and capacities of each district and state.
Shifting the focus to socio-economic outcomes:
The programme shifts the focus away from output and draws attention to socio-economic outcomes.
To provide an initial benchmark for the programme, the government has collected statistics on 49 indicators across five core dimensions: health and nutrition, education, financial inclusion, agriculture and water resources, skill development and basic infrastructure.
Not all dimensions are considered equal in the construction of the composite index for each district, acknowledging the specific nature of India’s development challenges.
For example, health and nutrition and education are each given a 30% weightage in the index. These two areas account for 21 of the 49 indicators.
Placing data at the core of policymaking:
Through its large-scale efforts to collect, distill and disseminate data, the programme is grounded thoroughly in evidence.
The NITI Aayog has created a dashboard to monitor real-time progress in the districts.
The availability of the latest district-level statistics in the public domain is not only enhancing transparency and accountability, but it is also ensuring that policy actions are backed by evidence.
Emphasising collaboration across various levels of government:
The ADP brings together all levels of government, from central and state officers driving operations, to the district collectors implementing innovative measures on the ground.
The ADP echoes the government’s belief that states and districts should have a greater voice in their development. It truly embodies India’s shift toward cooperative federalism.
The local government is in a unique position to understand the complexities of the districts. They can experiment with different measures to enhance socio-economic development on the ground.
Therefore, district collectors play a central role in improving outcomes, monitoring progress and decision-making in their respective aspirational districts.
The state and central governments rank different districts to promote competition, augment technical capacity and share best practices with the districts.
Partnering with civil society:
The programme is a collaborative effort between government, various foundations and civil society. Through partnerships with several voluntary organisations, the programme benefits from different perspectives, technical skills and on-the-ground experience.
For example, NITI Aayog is working with Piramal Foundation to strengthen public systems particularly in health and education.
Similarly, Tata Trusts, IDinsight, L&T, ITC and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are also playing key roles in the programme.
These public-private partnerships will help boost implementation of the programme.
Ensuring success of the programme:
- Achieving success in this programme requires three tiers of government, the Centre, States and district administrations, to work in tandem.
It is necessary for the Centre and States to be involved because not all decisions can be taken at the level of district.
- On financial inclusion, the full cooperation of banks is necessary and only the Central government has leverage over them.
In a way, the ADP is a big pilot programme from reorienting how government does its business of delivering development. A decisive shift in the paradigm of governance is likely to finally fulfil the many broken promises of the past.
Connecting the dots:
- The Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) is a radical departure from the country’s previous development strategies in its scale, scope and ownership. Analyze.
TOPIC : General Studies 2:
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
Boosting bi-lateral trade between India and Azerbaijan
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj recently visited Azerbaijan, in the backdrop of the mid-term ministerial meeting of the NAM (Non-Aligned Movement) countries, had been a long-pending one.
- Strategically located.
- $170-billion economy with substantial oil reserves
Low on diplomacy index:
The country ranks low on our diplomacy index.
Though the period 2000-2010 saw a few senior ministers reach out through various delegations and platforms, Azerbaijan never really figured even in the second orbit of India’s foreign policy outreach.
Bilateral trade between India and Azerbaijan:
It has shot up almost 10-fold from 2005 to 2017 (from about $50 million to close to half a billion dollars in 2017).
This jump in bilateral trade coincided with the opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline to the Mediterranean port in 2007, from where Indian oil companies have been buying substantive quantities of crude oil (ONGC Videsh is an investor in BTC).
Naturally, the bilateral trade between the two countries has largely been hydrocarbon-centred, with India being a minor exporter of only few products.
Bilateral trade: Potential to grow
- Logistical complexity between India and Azerbaijan has been a key issue that led to the setting up of a trade foundation and the exploring of synergies between the two nations.
- The North South Transport Corridor (NSTC), amongst others, will go a long way in removing the fundamental logistical problems facing both the nations.
The NSTC is a multi-modal network of ship, rail, and road routes for moving freight between India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia.
The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, and Baku.
Once complete, the route is set to drastically reduce transport time between India and Azerbaijan.
The route bypasses the Suez Canal and will ensure Indian products reach St. Petersburg in Russia in just 14 days. At present, this is a 42-day journey, skirting North Africa and Europe.
- Once the Iran-Azerbaijan leg of the NSTC is completed, Indian ports can be linked with Azerbaijan via Iran (Chabahar Port), providing a smoother logistics experience for suppliers at far lesser costs.
A study says that the new route will reduce distance and costs by 40 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively.
- Three sectors that have substantial potential for bi-lateral trade are food processing, pharma and technology.
- As Azerbaijan looks to diversify and reduce its dependence on hydrocarbons, India can play a very enabling role in partnering it for the same.
Connecting the dots:
- The bilateral trade between Indi and Azerbaijan is set to grow. Discuss.
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