New Delhi: It's a
labour of love that's taken 10 years and resulted in a 27-volume
encyclopaedia on the demography, economy and social structure of
rural India to aid the development process. It complements a
similar work on the country's towns and cities.
"Tens of thousands of crores (of rupees) are spent on rural
development in the country. This work will serve as a
comprehensive one-point source of information on our 6,311
community development blocks, and 240,561 gram panchayats will
increase the effectiveness of this investment," N. Seshagiri, who
founded the National Informatics Centre (NIC) and served as
special secretary in the Planning Commission, told IANS in an
"Survey of Rural India - A Comprehensive study of Gram Panchayats
and Community Development Blocks" (Rs.90,000/Gyan Publishing
House) follows "Encyclopedia of Cities and Towns of India".
Earlier, the information was scattered over hundreds of sources
including a large number of private organizations like NGOs,
private charitable societies and companies, in addition to
different departments and attached offices of the central and
state governments and district administrations, census offices at
the states and the centre etc. Also, there was a need to validate
some of the data from these sources.
According to Seshagiri, the central and state governments and
district administrations, as well as administrators of government
schemes and projects and all decision-making levels "would benefit
from the more than 200 information descriptors for each city and
town of urban India and more than 175 information descriptors for
each community development block (CDB) of rural India".
"It would be of particular use to those making studies on
grass-root level planning and local policy making at the CDB,
taluka, district and state level. Not only the planning of state
and national schemes and projects but also their implementation
will be better facilitated for increasing the effectiveness of
investments," Seshagiri added.
Exactly how would this happen?
"Grass-root level planning requires information not only at the
CDB level but also upwards up to the state level so that inter-se
priorities can be established between towns or between CDBs. With
better micro-level information across towns or CDBs, the state
government can make better investment decisions and better
Similarly it can facilitate better need-based investment decisions
by the central government by evolving better inter-se priorities
between states. The private companies, with a nationwide presence
like the telecom, infrastructure and agro-based companies, banks,
retail chains & transporters can make better location decisions as
well as make better marketing plans," Seshagiri explained.
The encyclopaedia would also be of "immense help" to universities
and institutes, media houses, researchers, writers, scholars,
policymakers, planners, administrators, political parties,
librarians and multi-location entrepreneurs "and other
stakeholders in the development of the nation who want to use
information about the socio-economic, political and demographic
structures of India," Seshagiri said.
As for the future, Seshagiri said the long-term goal was to bring
about a one-point uniform data source of all the 54 volumes to
become query-based information system through the internet and
organized like some of the Amazon.com products.
Efforts are under way for letting the form itself evolve digitally
over time so that future editions become more and more computer
query-based databases," Seshagiri said.
With a doctorate in computers and communication from the Indian
Institute of Science, Seshagiri was a scientist at the Tata
Institute of Fundamental Research till 1971. He then joined the
government as director in the Electronics Commission, where he set
up the NIC in 1976 and headed it till he retired in 2000.
He was an elected governor of the International Council for
Computer Communication at Geneva and a nominated governor of the
Unesco Institute for IT in Education at Moscow.
Seshagiri was given a Lifetime Achievement Award in IT by
Dataquest and in Electronics by ELCINA. He was awarded the Padma
Bhushan in 2005.
(Vishnu Makhijani can be contacted at email@example.com)