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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 November 2007, 17:29 GMT
India collecting data on villages
By Sunil Raman
BBC News, Delhi

Villagers in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (Pic: Geeta Pandey)
Information on the real condition of rural India is still lacking
India has launched a comprehensive data collection exercise for each of its more than half a million villages.

The move is aimed at updating the government's information about social and economic indicators for each village to ensure better development.

At present governments depend on traditional forms of data collection and most of the villages are not connected to the internet.

About 70% of India's billion-plus people live in villages.

Backward districts

Samina Makhija, project director of the data collection programme, told the BBC that although the initiative was thought of in the 1980s, financial constraints had delayed the project.

Information about villages is available but it is all scattered and "comprehensive information" had to be made available in a "single place", she said.

Ms Makhija refused to reveal the project cost but said it had been re-started at the behest of the government-run Planning Commission.

"We have invited private individuals, researchers, non-government organisations and institutes to join in data collection," Ms Makhija said, and added that for each village for which data was collected, 3,000 rupees would be paid.

Villagers in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (Pic: Geeta Pandey)
More than 70% of India's billion-plus people live in villages

The 28 districts selected to flag off the pilot project were the most backward districts in the country.

The data collectors will gather information about the geographical features of a village, its infrastructure, schools and hospitals, number of toilets, access to roads, gender data and even information about the power consumption of the entire village.

A pilot project has already begun in a number of villages in the states of Haryana, Orissa, Karnataka and Goa.

This project seeks to use India's achievements in the IT sector to map out every village on a website.

At present governments depend on local village councils and administrative heads for information about a village.

Exactly 60 years after India became independent, officials say information on the real condition of rural India is lacking.

More than half a million villages will be covered over the next six months and data collected will be posted on the National Information Centre's website to be accessible to both the administration and local people.

Officials say they hope that this exercise will improve available information to carry out development work.

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