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By The New Indian Express
Published: February 3rd, 2015
The recent District Development and Diversity Index Report for India and Major States by the US-India Policy Institute and Centre for Research and Debates in Development Policy provides significant insight into the regional imbalances in India’s development story. The report, prepared by using 17 development and livelihood measuring variables such as education, health and material well-being, has compiled data of 599 districts. Six districts in Delhi and Gautam Buddha Nagar and Gurgaon in the National Capital Region, Daman, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, Bhopal, Lakshadweep, Mohali, Andamans and Papum Pare of Arunachal Pradesh are the top 20 most developed districts. Not unexpectedly, districts in Bihar, UP, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh are at the bottom 20 across all indices.
A perturbing feature is that though huge proportions of development funds are earmarked for annual expenditures on essential programmes, most of these are never appropriated. The data should help governments even out regional imbalances. The distribution of welfare benefits has become contentious at the national, political level leading to promotion of discrimination at the grassroots. This needs to be corrected in a holistic manner.
The Centre can play a significant role through its financial allocations and grants to the states. More central funds should flow to states that visibly strive to remove backwardness, rather than those that stay backward. Backward states should learn from the better off, improve governance, endeavour to shed their backwardness, and get rewarded for the effort. The 13th Finance Commission had recommended setting up the District Innovation Fund, based on the premise that innovation can help accelerate the administration’s efforts to reach out to people and make public service delivery more efficient. This should be implemented and backward districts should be encouraged to use the grant to fill infrastructure gaps.