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INTRODUCTION

With the constitution of Indian Planning Commission in March, 1950, planning experiment in India started in 1951 with the objectives of 1) Removal of poverty, 2) Building of a modern society making maximum possible use of Science and Technology and 3) Attainment of self-reliance (Planning Commission,). Key to national prosperity was identified in effective combination of three factors, technology, raw materials and capital (Scientific Policy Resolution, 1958). The initial approach of planning based on macro level assessment of resources did not yield the desired results. The inequities amongst people and disparities between regions persisted. Also, there was evidence of general environmental degradation and mounting stress on land and water resources. In order to overcome the situation, conceptual changes in the practice of planning was brought in, around late 70s, by adopting the decentralized or local level planning to ensure that the development is sustainable, area-specific and take into account the felt needs of the local people. The objectives of decentralized planning are ;1) Increase in Productivity of land, 2) Employment generation. Keeping in mind assets development, 3) Poverty alleviation and 4) Provisions of minimum amenities and infrastructure facilities. Towards this end, the Constitution (73rd and 74th Amendments, 1992 & 1993) was amended to empower the State Governments to form the institutions of local self - governance i.e. rural local bodies (panchayats) and municipalities in rural and urban areas respectively.

At the core of this concept lies an integrated approach to planning in contrast to the sectoral method. This requires a detailed knowledge of the interrelations and interdependencies between various sectors to resolve often-conflicting demands. This leads to a requirement for appropriate data management and analyzing tools and techniques and a large matrix of sectoral data, in digital format, on natural resources, demography, socio-economy etc. and integrating them to generate appropriate information/applications required for plan preparation.

India has a long tradition of systematic collection of spatial and non-spatial data at National level. Some of the national organizations involved data collection in difference sectors is given in the table-1.

Table-1 Some old national organizations for spatial and non-spatial data generation
 
Organizations Years of Operation
Survey of India 235 years
Geological survey of India 151 years
Marine survey of India 138 years
Census of India 130 years
India meteorological Department 126 years

At the district level, history of non-spatial data collection date backs to the eighteenth century, when a District Gazetteer used to be there for each district. There is a strong tradition of non-spatial data collection at the local level (district) by different departments. The development of database technologies, entry of computers in India in the late 70ís and first Indian Remote sensing Experiment in 1977, triggered the possibility of introduction and integration of geo spatial information in the planning.

Considering the emphasis on technological self-reliance and development and adaptation of suitable technologies for local needs to make an impact on the lives of ordinary citizens

(Technology Policy statement, 1983), the Government of India initiated a number of technology-based programmes to support the Local level planning in1980s viz. Natural Resources Data Management System (NRDMS) of the Department of Science & Technology, National Natural Resources Management System (NNRMS) of the Department of Space and Geographical Information System (GISNIC) and District Information System (DISNIC) of the National Informatics Center (Ministry of Communication and Information Technology).