Government clueless about number of villages in the country

Could welfare schemes be going to non-existent or uninhabited villages? The tantalising possibility is hinted in a report that explains why a definite data base is required

Photo by Mujeeb Faruqui/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Mujeeb Faruqui/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

NH Web Desk

The Government of India, suggests a report in, is clueless about the number of villages in the country. The Census of India, the data base for the MGNREGA and the data with the Swachh Bharat mission are widely divergent, points out the report by Richa Verma.

The divergence ranges between six lakh villages and over a million villages, it would appear.

The Census lists six lakh villages including 50,000 uninhabited villages. The census does not cover ‘unsurveyed villages’ and ‘forest villages’ though a Government circular has called for the conversion of all these villages into ‘Revenue Villages’ so that people residing there, mostly tribals, can benefit from welfare schemes.

All rural development schemes are implemented through 262,800 panchayats comprising one or more villages each. The health department works through sub-centres to service a population of 5,000. The ministry of Women and Child Development operates at the level of Anganwadis –one each for a thousand people.

The absence of a unified data base, the report points out, makes it difficult, if not impossible to track welfare schemes and map villages lagging behind or indeed to pinpoint the reasons.

“…if Bulandshahr district in Uttar Pradesh is not performing on par with others, it will need a couple of reports to figure out which villages are lagging behind, and on which parameters. Or, if a sub-centre is faring sub-optimally, it might not reflect which specific villages need better infrastructure in this regard, especially if that sub-centre serves more than one village,” the report highlights.

The central government launched a Local Government Directory (LGD) to encourage all state departments to update their record of newly formed panchayats, local bodies and also their reorganisation to ensure that all government bodies are mapped to the constituting geographies and that they all comply with the Census 2011 classification.

The ministry of panchayati raj, responsible for creating and maintaining the LGD, will work through a team of coordinators to ensure that the LGD is updated with the latest data from all the districts of the country; this will help to prepare the complete and final database of all villages in the country.

However, the adoption has been low and its use far from ingrained. States are failing to update the LGD regularly. As per LGD’s Updation Report, only Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry have completed the status of Panchayati Raj Institutions.

An example from a case study will help explain how a data mismatch because of confusing names can be tackled. The Census identifies a sub-district in Nashik, Maharashtra, as “Yevla”. However, some of the government information systems that the social data collection aggregator agency SocialCops has worked with, including the Nashik district administration, use the name “Yeola” for the sub-district.

Further, this sub-district is easily confused with another sub-district called Deola, also in Nashik. As a result, Yeola tends to get replaced with Deola, given it is the closest match, and therefore all data that are collected for the former get reported for Deola.

The full report can be read here.

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Published: 03 Aug 2017, 1:29 PM