Sources said that an empowered panel headed by Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant had prepared the blueprint of the entire scheme.
New Delhi: A significant project to improve development parameters of 115 backward districts across the country and to bring them into the social mainstream, envisaged by the Prime Minister’s Office, is awaiting finance ministry clearance while the Centre seems to be in a dilemma on whether to announce it in the 2018-19 Union Budget.
The scheme has its genesis in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s interaction with Central secretaries in June this year, when he asked them to work on mission mode to improve conditions in the 100 most backward districts and come up with concrete objectives for these under a definite timeframe.
Highly-placed sources told this newspaper that the delay in clearing the scheme by the finance ministry’s expenditure finance committee has led to some raised eyebrows within the government as the PMO was keen to expedite it.
They further said that under the Rs 3,000-crore project, a national dashboard will be set up of these 115 backward districts. It will be a database with numerical details of various development parameters of these districts like health, education, sanitation, financial inclusion, etc. On the basis of this data, measures will be taken to improve basic necessities in these districts to bring them back into the social mainstream.
The district magistrates of these 115 districts will be empowered to use funds up to Rs 10 crore each to come up with innovative ideas to improve the development parameters. If the ideas given by DMs find acceptability with the Centre, these would be implemented under the scheme, the sources added.
Once the dashboard is prepared, it would be monitored by a committee which would be headed by an additional secretary of the Niti Aayog and all the DMs would be its members.
Sources said that an empowered panel headed by Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant had prepared the blueprint of the entire scheme. However, things on the fiscal front appear to be stuck as the finance ministry has not yet provided clearance to the project.
Also, within the government, there seems to be a rethink on the timing of officially launching the scheme. Sources said that it is now being thought that as clearance by the finance ministry is taking time, announcing the scheme in the Union Budget for 2018-19 may not be a bad idea. The Budget, as in the previous fiscal year, in likely to be presented on February 1, 2018 by finance minister Arun Jaitley.
Out of the 115 backward districts which have been earmarked under the scheme, 30 have been identified by the Niti Aayog, 35 by the Union home ministry and the remaining 50 by other Central ministries.