Reacting to two top members of the National Statistical Commission resigning in protest against withholding of the NSSO’s (National Sample Survey Organisation) first Annual Survey on Employment and Unemployment for the year 2017-18, the government on Wednesday said that the “concerns were not expressed by the Members in any of the meetings of the Commission in the last few months.”
This report, the first by NSSO in this government, was expected to reflect job losses in the wake of demonetisation. “… Reports from a section of media have suggested that the Members had expressed certain concerns on the functioning of the Commission including release of the labour force survey results and the Back Series of GDP. These concerns were not expressed by the Members in any of the meetings of the Commission in the last few months,” the government said in a statement Wednesday. P C Mohanan, a career statistician, and J V Meenakshi, Professor at the Delhi School of Economics, were appointed by the government as members in the NSC in June 2017 for a three-year term. While Mohanan was the Acting Chairperson before he resigned, Meenakshi quit as the Member of NSC. “The Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation not only places a high regard for the Commission but also values its advice and on which appropriate action is taken,” the government said. Repeated calls and messages to both Mohanan and Meenakshi on the government’s assertion did not elicit responses.
Sources close to the NSC members said that they didn’t want to engage in a debate about the government’s assertion about them not raising any concerns in the meetings of the commission held in last few months. The media can understand the government’s clarification, the sources said.
NSC is an autonomous body constituted in 2006 and tasked to monitor and review the functioning of the country’s statistical systems. The Centre said the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) brings out annual estimates of the labour force on employment and unemployment along with quarterly estimates for the urban areas. “NSSO is processing the quarterly data for the period July 2017 to December 2018 and the report will be released thereafter,” it said. When contacted for his comments, Vijay Goel, Minister of State for Statistics and Programme Implementation said the government has already issued a statement on the issue.
Mohanan had told The Indian Express on Tuesday that “the normal convention is that NSSO presents the findings to the Commission and, once approved, the report is released within the next few days. We approved the NSSO survey on employment/unemployment in December beginning,” said Mohanan. “But the report has not been made public for almost two months.” On the issue of NSC not being consulted in finalisation of the gross domestic product back series data, the government said the NSC “had itself urged the Ministry to finalise and release it. The official estimates of the Back Series of GDP were accordingly computed using the methodology adopted in the 2011-12 Base Year series and this was approved by the experts in the Advisory Committee on National Accounts Statistics, which is the appropriate body.”
Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said in a tweet on Wednesday: “One more venerable institution died on 29 January 2019 owing to malicious negligence by the government … We mourn the death of the National Statistical Commission and remember with gratitude its valiant fight to release untainted GDP data and employment data … May the NSC rest in peace until it is re-born again!”