This study deals with a new statistical domain, that of the village (or gram) panchayat. This domain has emerged in rural India as a consequence of the decentralisation programme initiated by the 73rd Amendment to the Indian Constitution. The work of the Expert Committee on Basic Statistics for Local-Level Development represents a landmark in this regard because it sheds light on the potential of village-level data sources for the new era of democratic decentralisation in India. This paper examines data sources at the gram panchayat level in relation to the needs that are generated if the Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 is implemented comprehensively. From this point of view, the paper identifies three categories of data needs. These are: data required for self-governance, of which data required for managing the transition to full-scope constitutional devolution are a special component (Data Needs I and Ia); data required for matters of public finance (Data Needs II); and data required for micro-level planning (and plan implementation) for economic development and social justice (Data Needs III).
The paper proposes that an essential constituent of village-level data should be a list of individuals and families resident in the village (a “People’s List”). The accuracy and quality of the various people’s lists available with gram panchayats and other village-level agencies are examined here, using data from independent surveys conducted by the Foundation for Agrarian Studies in two villages.
Jun-ichi Okabe and Aparajita Bakshi in Review of Agrarian Studies