Address by Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, Honourable Vice President of India after presenting Champions of Change Awards 2018, instituted by medial platforms Power Corridors and Panchayati Times, in New Delhi on December 26, 2018.

New Delhi | December 26, 2018

“It is my pleasure to felicitate the change makers who are sincerely trying to transform governance in the 115 Aspirational Districts of India.

I congratulate the media platforms Power Corridors and Panchayati Times for having instituted the Champions of Change Awards to honor such exceptional people under the guidance of Justice Shri K.G. Balakrishnan.

I understand that the winners of these prestigious awards have been chosen through a rigorous selection process by a distinguished Jury Board.

The awardees are those DMs, SPs, MPs, NGOs and individuals who have ushered in refreshing changes in their districts through their commitment, dedication, creative interventions and innovations. They have all been inspirational leaders.

I congratulate the winners of today and hope that they would keep up the pace of their good work in the future too. The nation stands with you in your quest for change and progress.

The ‘Transformation of Aspirational Districts’ program, the brain child of the premier think tank of India, the NITI Aayog, aims to quickly and effectively bring about transformational changes in the chosen 115 districts of India.

The programs aim to bring about all round development through Convergence of Central & State level Schemes and Collaboration of Central and State machinery. It hopes to inspire a healthy Competition among districts and drive growth.

India, as a federal polity has always given its states the autonomy to set their own goals of development and chart their own paths of progress. In tune with these strongly held values of cooperative federalism, the Aspirational Districts program envisions the States as the main drivers of policies and programs for development.

Addressing a National Legislators Conference on “We for development” in March this year, our Prime Minister said that his government had identified 115 most backward districts and termed them as “aspirational,” he told parliamentarians and legislators from states, “There used to be a time when hardcore politics, round-the-clock politics involving agitations and struggle would work. Time has changed. Whether you are in power or in opposition, what matters is whether if you come to people’s help.”

It is a matter of great satisfaction that, even though politicians from opposing parties disagree with each other, there is a consensus that backward districts and areas need special attention. There may be differences of opinion about the ways and means to address the issues concerned but everybody agrees that there has to be a special focus on Aspirational Districts.

Sisters and brothers,

I strongly believe that the coming decade is India’s decade. Our economy is robust and resilient. India is the fastest growing major economy and the last quarter of 2018 saw a growth rate of 7.1%.

India is a young country. 65% of our population is below 35 years of age. There is an incredible amount of potential within our young work force. We have to realize the demographic dividend.

We have consolidated our economy, reformed our taxation through the Goods and Services Tax and launched an all out war against corruption and black money. We have sworn to clean up our economy and our environment.

Even while pushing agendas of progress and development, we have succeeded in maintaining our thrust on strong social security measures and comprehensive insurance schemes.

The Jan Dhan Yojana which can only be termed as a revolutionary new step towards inclusive development is rapidly bringing all citizens of India into the banking network.

Indian Private Sector is at its vibrant best and we are moving from the ‘red tape’ regime to the ‘red carpet’ regime. The world is coming to India to invest, to manufacture and to create wealth.

Even while taking heart from these myriad possibilities and opportunities, we should not overlook the fact that progress is possible only when we are able to utilize the potential of people to participate fully in the burgeoning economy.

The Government is committed to the motto of “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas”. The last person in the queue should have a say in the process of development and the fruits of development too should reach this last person.

‘Antyodaya’ should go from being a long cherished dream, a work in progress, to being an everyday reality.

I understand that Health & Nutrition, Education, Agriculture & Water Resources, Financial Inclusion & Skill Development, and Basic Infrastructure are core areas of focus in the Aspirational Districts.

I hope that the program is able to usher in a new era of healthy competitive federalism where the districts are encouraged to catch-up with the best district within their state, and then aspire to become one of the best districts in the country in terms of the 49 development indictors, by competing with, and learning from others.

I am happy to know that the NITI Aayog in partnership with the Government of Andhra Pradesh has successfully leveraged Information Technology to create a dashboard for monitoring the real-time progress of the districts with all the data being available in the public domain.

Sisters and brothers,

I strongly believe that for any development strategy to be effective, it should help achieve broad-based economic growth to ensure balanced development across all regions and states and across sectors.

This would happen only if we accept new technologies, promote innovation and undertake skill development at a rapid pace.

We will have to focus on mainstreaming of marginalized regions such as the North East, hilly and remote areas, in addition to the 115 Aspirational Districts.

We will have to modernize and consolidate our agriculture. Majority of our workforce still finds employment in the agriculture sector.

I have stressed upon the fact time and again that India cannot survive on imported food security. We will have to nurture sustainable agricultural practices and place great emphasis on the efficiency.

‘Maximum output through optimal utilization of resources’ should be our Mantra.

It is heartening to note that the government’s endeavors to uplift Aspirational Districts are being appropriately supplemented by private initiative, by media platforms like Power Corridors, Panchayati Times and others.

The media in our country is a crucial stake holder in the development process. They provides news, puts it in perspective, analyzes events, exposes wrongdoings, exposes corruption, and generally highlights what is wrong. Often politicians criticize the media for focusing on negativity, trivialization, and glamor.

The criticism is not entirely misplaced, but it is also true that the media, at least a section of it, also highlights positive things, good news, stories of change and progress that are happening.

Good things do happen in India, whatever cynics may say. I hope that media increasingly focuses on good news and aids and abets the process of development by telling inspiring stories and by spreading the message of change.

I have no hesitation in saying that the Champions of Change Awards is an endeavor to tell the world about positive developments in India. It is crucial that the stories of people who toil for the betterment of their brethren be told again and again.

Such stories would serve as a call to action and inspire people to take up their own projects of positive change.

Both Power Corridors and Panchayati Times are performing not only the media dharma but also carrying out their social responsibility.

In recent years, cleanliness is being promoted by the government in earnest; today, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is an integral part of our development strategy.

It is gratifying to note that Power Corridors and Panchayati Times have taken it upon themselves to honor people who have played an important part in making Swachh Bharat a proud success.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Sanitation is more important than political freedom.” In the past few years, India has made extraordinary progress towards achieving universal safe sanitation goals.

The ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan’ which was started off by the government eventually became a ‘Jan-andolan’, a people’s movement.

Ever since the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi launched ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan’ and called upon the countrymen to come together and work to achieve ‘Clean India’ by 2019, the response from them has been tremendous.

I have noticed that today’s awardees have contributed significantly to the success of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

Nation building is a collective endeavor. All Members of Parliament, government officials, philanthropists, private citizens, the young and the old have their own unique roles to play in it.

Sisters and brothers,

Those who work to make things around them better are driven by passion and compassion rather than the want for personal glory.

The bureaucrat who rights wrongs, the cop who goes above and beyond his call of duty to protect and serve people, the businessman who sees beyond his profit and the activist who puts his heart and soul into his cause, should all be celebrated and honored.

Once again, I congratulate all the award winners. Let me also compliment the organizers of this noble ceremony. I hope that these awards will keep inspiring and motivating people to do more.

I wish all of you a very happy and prosperous New Year!

Jai Hind!”