Even as a political row erupted following the resignation of two National Statistical Commission (NSC) members, the Centre on Wednesday stated the members had never expressed their reservations in any of the meetings of the Commission in the last few months.
On Monday, P C Mohanan and J V Meenakshi stepped down from their respective positions protesting against the withholding of the NSSO’s (National Sample Survey Organisation) first Annual Survey on Employment and Unemployment for the year 2017-18. This report, the first by NSSO in this government, was expected to reflect job losses in the wake of demonetisation.
“These concerns were not expressed by the members in any of the meetings of the Commission in the last few months,” the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) clarified. It added that the ministry values the advice of NSC and takes appropriate action.
Mohanan, a career statistician, and Meenakshi, Professor at the Delhi School of Economics, were appointed by the government as members in the NSC in June 2017. Mohanan was also the acting chairperson of the Commission.
NSC is an autonomous body constituted in 2006 and tasked to monitor and review the functioning of the country’s statistical systems. Three years ago, it was snubbed by the Niti Aayog over finalisation of GDP back series data.
Referring to the issues concerning labour force survey, the MoSPI stated that “NSSO is processing the quarterly data for the period July 2017 to December 2018 and the report will be released thereafter.”
Further, it said that in view India’s strong demographic dividend and around 93 per cent of the informal workforce, it is important to improve measures of employment through administrative statistics and complemented by periodic surveys.
“In this direction, MoSPI has started bringing out estimates of new subscribers and members enrolling in large social security schemes like the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF), Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Scheme and the National Pension Scheme (NPS),” said the statement.
When contacted, Mohanan had told The Indian Express: “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.”
“Over a period, it was noticed the government does not take the NSC seriously,” Mohanan had added. “NSC was kept out while key decisions were taken. We were unable to effectively discharge our duties.”
“The 2017-18 job survey did not present a good picture on the employment front. This is most likely the reason for holding it back,” said a source in the NSSO.
In the aftermath of the members’ resignation, the Congress stepped up its attack on the Narendra Modi-led government, accusing it of destroying yet another institution. It said one more venerable institution has “died” due to the government’s “malicious negligence”.
“One more venerable institution died on 29 January, 2019 owing to malicious negligence by the government,” Chidambaram tweeted. “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,” he said in another tweet.