Tabling her fourth budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman spoke in much detail about promoting inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development across the country and remarked that it remains a priority area for the central government. The budget she introduced on 1st February 2022 backed her statement with a proposed high spending on rural and urban housing and planning at INR 48,000 crore, a novel scheme to cover the border area villages of the country and develop them so they become active participants in the larger economy as well as deepening the extent of one of the government's flagship program, the 'Aspirational Districts' initiative to the block level in those specific districts.

One of the government's most prominent initiatives, the aspirational districts program was launched in 2018 and aimed at promoting equitable and inclusive socio-economic development in some of the poorest and most backward districts of the country. In many ways, it is a program like no other with the task of raising quality of life standards in some of the most challenging areas in the country characterised by low access to basic utilities such as water, sanitation, education and health and poor performance on most human development indicators. 

However, within four years of its launch, the initiative has taken rapid strides in bringing all-round progress in the identified 112 aspirational districts. In the Finance Minister's own words in the Parliament yesterday, "Our vision to improve the quality of life of citizens in the most backward districts of the country through Aspirational Districts Programme has been translated into reality in a short span of time. 95 per cent of those 112 districts have made significant progress in key sectors such as health, nutrition, financial inclusion and basic infrastructure. They have surpassed the state average values."

What this implies is not only betterment of quality of life for the residents of those districts but also enhancement of economic and livelihood opportunities to ensure such progress remains sustainable and stable so that the local, often rural nature of such areas is able to cater to the aspirations and developmental needs of the residents without significant outward migration and further crowding of urban areas. 

To build upon the success of the program, the Minister announced deepening its presence to the block level of the identified 112 aspirational districts. Doing so would enable the lagging blocks in such districts to come at par with the other aspirational districts in terms of socio-economic development parameters and eventually, to the state and national levels with continual targeted interventions.