Issuing a corrigendum to its earlier order of restructuring the statistical system, the government has now stated that the National Statistical Office (NSO) will be headed by Chief Statistician of India-cum-Secretary (Statistics and Programme Implementation).
The May 23 order, which had cleared the merger of National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) and Central Statistics Office (CSO), had only mentioned Secretary (Statistics and Programme Implementation) as the head of NSO and not mentioned Chief Statistician of India. The May 23 order had not equated the Secretary (S&PI) with the post of Chief Statistician of India as was done in the earlier resolution notified by Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) on June 1, 2005, and had also skipped any mention of National Statistical Commission (NSC). The 2005 notification, in line with recommendations of the Rangarajan commission, had said that the NSO would be headed by an officer of the rank of secretary, who will be designated as the Chief Statistician of India and will also function as the Secretary of the NSC, whereas the May 23 order had mentioned NSO to be headed by Secretary (S&PI), with various divisions reporting to Secretary through the Director Generals.
Experts said not equating the post of Secretary, MoSPI with the CSI would have meant making the reporting authority for statistics to be a bureaucrat, rather than giving it as ex-officio charge to the Chief Statistician of India for carrying out statistical work.
Pronab Sen, the Country Director for the India Programme of the International Growth Centre and former Chief Statistician of India, said this modification takes care of the problem as mentioning only Secretary would have changed the nature of the position of the head of NSO. “Selection of Chief Statistician is based on the criteria of someone being familiar with statistics, data, whereas a Secretary doesn’t require those conditions. Mentioning only Secretary (as the head) would have changed the nature of the post and this modification takes care of the problem,” Sen told The Indian Express.
The previous NDA government in one of its last decisions on May 23 had cleared merger of the NSSO with the CSO under an overarching body, NSO, under the MoSPI, a decision which was perceived by many experts as a dent on the autonomy of the Indian statistical system. The MoSPI had said that the order for restructuring the Indian official statistics system was issued “in order to streamline and strengthen the present nodal functions” of the ministry and “to bring in more synergy by integrating its administrative functions within the ministry.”
Experts had said that NSC’s control over NSSO would go away with the merger. They had also pointed that there is no clarity regarding the role of NSC in the May 23 order.
In January, the acting chairman of NSC, P C Mohanan and J V Meenakshi, Professor at the Delhi School of Economics resigned from NSC protesting against withholding of the NSSO’s first Annual Survey on Employment and Unemployment for the year 2017-18. The NSC is yet to be reconstituted.