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Checklist – Village Study

Introduction
Village studies are conducted to investigate various aspects of rural life. In the context of
district facilitators’ training programme, a short duration village study has been planned
in order to provide the district facilitators opportunity to know as much as possible about
the village life. They would get first hand experience of how do people live their life in
rural areas? They would be exposed to facts of rural life and their socio-economic,
political and cultural settings.

Objectives:
The district facilitators would study following aspects of rural life as part of village study:
• Physical environment of the village
• Demography
• Village social organisation – caste, class, religion, gender, etc. and relationships
based on caste, class, land, employment, etc.
• Agrarian structure
• Women’s lives
• Literacy and education
• Formal and informal institutions
• Collective action
• Village economy (occupations and exchange, agricultural and non-agricultural
labour, credit, etc.)
• Changes in various socio-economic and cultural spheres of rural society, and
processes and factors of social change
• Government interventions
• Poverty
• Migration
• Public services

The district facilitators would also undertake a case study of the poorest of the poor
person of the village.

Methodology
It is important that the district facilitators stay (day and night) in the village for one week
to better understand the rural society and (based on their lived experience) to develop
sensitivity towards conditions and problems of poor villagers. It is advisable for the
district facilitators to stay in the house of a poor villager, preferably belonging to a
scheduled caste/scheduled tribe.

The district facilitator will select a village for her/his study. Given the limited time
available for the study, they should select a medium sized village (having between 200-
300 households). Other criteria for selection of the village may include – mixed caste
groups (General, OBC and SC), existence of various occupations. In the case of a tribal
village, it is suggested to select a remote village, with preferably more than one tribe.
Collect basic information about the village such as:
a) Population – age and sex wise; marital status (from Census).
b) No. of households – caste- and religion-wise (from Census).
c) Literacy and educational status (from Census); Schooling related data (such as
currently enrolled – within village or outside – children in the age group of 7-14
out of total) – from school registers.
d) Social geography of the village – location of the village in the larger socio-
economic context of the area/region); habitation pattern within the village (based
on caste or religion, etc.) – sources of information may be Panchayat functionaries
and district facilitator’s own observation.
e) Basic public facilities available in the village such as primary/elementary/high
school, ICDS centre, health sub-centre, public facility for drinking water (tube
well/hand pump/tap water), post office, community hall, etc. (sources of
information may be Panchayat functionaries and district facilitator’s own
observation).
f) Different programmes and schemes of the government implemented in last one
year in the village (sources of information may be Panchayat functionaries, Gram
Sevak, etc.).
g) Distance from the important institutions/services and local markets such as bank,
weekly market, PHC, block office, bus stand, railway station, main road, etc.
(sources of information may be Panchayat functionaries and Gram Sevak.).
h) Various civil society organisations – NGOs, SHGs, youth or women associations,
caste associations, etc. active in the village (sources of information may be
Panchayat functionaries and other villagers).

The district facilitators will do in-depth study of various aspects of village life which are
listed below. The basic tool to be used for the study will be focus group discussion
(FGD). The district facilitator will hold FGD sessions with separate groups based on the
themes of the study. These groups may be dalits/tribals, women, general caste, highest
landowning households, and landless labour households, etc. The district facilitators
should also make visits to public services at appropriate time so as to assess their
functioning. They should look at official and non-official records and meet elected
Panchayat representatives to collect official data. However, their main source of
information should be FGD with related social groups.

Themes to be studied in-depth:


a. Caste: traits of each caste, hierarchy, endowments of each caste (land, regular job,
house, literacy and education, etc.), occupation (traditional and current), internal
differentiation, life style, situation of women.
b. Class: identification of groups with common economic interest and shared
position in the economic system, how stable is one’s class position and factors
affecting class status, ownership of land – how adequate or inadequate it is as a
predictor of one’s class or economic status (i.e., relationship between
landownership and economic status), economic disparities between landowning
households and landless households, landless households and their
occupation/economic characteristics, characteristics of employer and labourer
households (e.g., agricultural labour in/outside the village, non-agricultural
labourer in/outside the village, only employer, only labourer, employer and
labourer, non-participant in hiring in/out of labour and respective sizes of these
groups), employment as a relationship and employment as a transaction, class and
tenancy status (leasing in and leasing out), employer among landlords and tenants.
c. Caste and class: distribution of employers and labourers among castes,
correspondence/dissonance between caste and class, evidence of upward or
downward economic mobility
d. Poverty: types of deprivations, poverty among labourers as opposed to employers
(comparative poverty), trends in income.
e. Gender: information regarding nutrition levels, maternal mortality, fertility
preferences, age at marriage, impact of marriage in the life of women, dowry,
ownership in property, political participation, labour force participation, domestic
work, decision-making in household matters, conditions of dependence, neglect,
female bias in the local culture, prevalence of female child labour, conditions of
women in cases of widowhood, childlessness, old age, etc.,
f. Village Economy: overall area of the village; land ownership pattern, tenancy –
area leased-in and leased-out, who leases-in land and who leases out (caste and
landholding size-wise), tenancy practices and terms and conditions of tenancy,
crops under tenancy contract, land sale and purchase, proportion of irrigated land,
means of irrigation, relative importance of agriculture in the village economy and
tends thereof (increase of decline in agriculture and its counterpart); other
investment in agriculture, technological advancement (e.g., no. of tractors, types
of seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, etc. used by the farmers), area and crops (in last
one year), crops sold by villagers; relative importance of traditional crafts and
services – no. of units, no. of persons involved as owner or labourer; non-
agricultural enterprises (e.g., shops, flour mill, etc.) in the village, no. of units ,
no. of persons involved as owner or labourer; inter-and intra-village exchange –
labour, product, credit, etc.; links with outside economy (e.g., trading), credit –
sources (types of formal and informal sources), interest rates, purpose, problems
associated with formal and informal sources, etc.
g. Occupations of adult males and females: need to capture details of occupational
structure, particularly diversification; occupation structure by caste, class,
religion, gender, etc. – cultivation, livestock, skilled self-employed, other self-
employed, seasonal or semi-regular wage employment (skilled and unskilled),
unskilled self-employment, regular wage employment (skilled and unskilled),
casual labour in agriculture, casual labour in non-agriculture, student, domestic
work, others. Further, within self-employment, in specialised caste occupations;
agricultural labour – availability of work within and outside village, forms of
employment (daily wage, piece rate, harvest share, exchange labour), which form
of employment is preferred for what type of work; wages – crop and within crop
activity wise for males and females, average no. of days for which employment is
available in agriculture. Carefully inquire into earning levels and working
conditions for each type of occupation; inquire about the role of personal contacts
and influence in job search and if persons with a low social status face a
disadvantage in the competition for regular and semi-regular wage employment.
h. Migration patterns – caste, class, religion, age and gender wise; destination, types
of occupation of migrants, earning and working conditions, reasons for migration
(push or pull factor), problems associated with migration, social significance of
migration, etc.
i. Formal institutions (e.g., Gram Panchayat, Gram Sabha, political parties, trade
unions, SHGs, women’s organisation, youth association, cooperative societies,
etc.): voting, fraud, manipulation, background of the Sarpanch (occupation,
landownership, economic condition, caste, etc.), background (caste, class, gender,
etc.) of main local leaders of political parties, cooperatives, local associations, etc.
j. Informal institutions (e.g., traditional/caste panchayats): role in conflict
resolution, opportunities/scope for collective action, reasons for inaction (if this is
the case).
k. Different programmes and schemes of the government implemented in last one
year in the village – programmes/schemes, nature of benefits, how many and who
have benefited (caste, class, religion, gender, etc.), strengths and weaknesses in
terms of outreach, regularity, participation, accountability, etc.; visit by the
district facilitator to the school, Anganwadi centre, health sub-centre, etc. to
assess how they effectively they are functioning.
l. Collective Action: cooperation/non-cooperation within groups with common class
characteristics, different domains of collective action, rallying points for
collective action, adversarial forms of collective action.
m. Social Change: with respect to the above. E.g., caste relations, occupational
change, caste and occupation, technological change, land ownership, income,
wages, migration, poverty, functioning of public services, etc. People’s
perception about changes. [Please decide about the timeframe for study of
change]

A Case Study of the Poorest of the Poor


The objective of studying the poorest of the poor of the village is to understand the issue
of poverty (and deprivation, marginalisation, exclusion and injustice) through the lens of
the person living in those conditions. The district facilitator should hold discussions with
villagers to develop criteria for identifying the poorest of the poor in the village. Their
case study should be based on extensive interaction with the concerned person.
However, information can be supplemented by interacting with other villagers. It is
essential that the district facilitator listens to the person with empathy, trust and respect.

The case study should focus on what the person living in those conditions is actually
experiencing (regarding material and non-material aspects and needs of her/his life),
her/his perception about how she/he landed up in such a situation, how she/he views
various social actors (family, neighbours, community, government, social organisations,
etc.) with whom she/he interfaces, what is her/his aspirations, and how she/he feels those
aspirations can be actualised.