Residents of a village in India’s most backward Mewat district in Haryana

MUMTAZ ALAM |Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI: The Niti Aayog, new avatar of the erstwhile Planning Commission, has released a ranking of 101 most underdeveloped districts in the country. Mewat, a Muslim-dominated district hardly two-hour drive from the national capital, is country’s most backward district.

The Aayog on Wednesday released a baseline ranking of 101 districts on the basis of 49 indicators across five sectors – Health and Nutrition (30% weightage), Education (30%), Agriculture and Water Resources (20%), Financial Inclusion and Skill Development (10%), and Basic Infrastructure (10%).

In the composite ranking covering all five sectors, Mewat in Haryana stands at the bottom with just 26.02% score. Interestingly, Mewat is adjacent to glittering Gurgaon district (recently renamed as Gurugram), one of the leading hubs of MNCs in the country.

Mewat is not alone. In the top 10 from bottom, there are four more Muslim-concentrated districts – all from Uttar Pradesh.

In the list of 20 most backward districts in the country, there are 11 Muslim-concentration districts (written in bold in the list below) including 3 from Bihar and 2 from Assam, besides 4 from UP.


NITI Aayog’s List of 20 Most Backward Districts

11 (in bold) of 20 Are Muslim Concentration Districts

  District State Score (%)
1 Mewat Haryana 26.02
2 Asifabad (Adilabad) Telangana 26.64
3 Singrauli Madhya Pradesh 27.67
4 Kiphire Nagaland 28.04
5 Shrawasti Uttar Pradesh 28.13
6 Bahraich Uttar Pradesh 29.01
7 Siddharthnagar Uttar Pradesh 29.26
8 Balrampur Uttar Pradesh 29.41
9 Namsai Arunachal Pradesh 29.82
10 Sukma Chhattisgarh 29.93
11 Araria Bihar 30.16
12 Sahibganj Jharkhand 30.57
13 Katihar Bihar 30.76
14 Chandel Manipur 30.99
15 Darrang Assam 31.26
16 Pakur Jharkhand 31.55
17 Purnia Bihar 31.81
18 Goalpara Assam 31.88
19 Sonebhadra Uttar Pradesh 31.88
20 Banka Bihar 31.95


More than a decade ago, the then Congress-led UPA government had prepared a list 90 Minority Concentration Districts (with 25% or above minority population) that had both socio-economic and basic amenities indicators below the national average. Hundreds of crores of rupees were annually allocated for development of those districts, but it seems nothing has changed on the ground. And this is evident from the latest list of Niti Aayog.

This is a sad commentary on the part of the successive governments, both in the centre and states, that they have done little, for one reason or the other, in the last several decades to bring those backward districts on to the path of development.

The idea behind the Aayog ranking of these districts is to push them to compete with each other.

From the beginning of the next fiscal year (from April 1), a real-time data collection and monitoring online of these districts on the given indicators will be open for public viewing.

“India cannot grow at a high rate on a long run until these districts catch up, whatever high are the GDP number, it has no meaning until the benefit of growth percolates down to very basic level,” NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said while announcing the launch of the baseline ranking for the ‘Aspirational Districts’, the name given to the 101 most backward districts.

In January this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the ‘Transformation of Aspirational Districts’ programme which 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 program will focus on the strength of each district, identify low-hanging fruits for immediate improvement, measure progress, and rank districts,” says Aayog.


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