Even as the government responded to the controversy over withholding a National Statistical Commission (NSC) employment survey for 2017-18 by calling it a draft report, P C Mohanan, who resigned as the acting Chairman of the NSC in protest over the delay in releasing the survey, has said that questioning the report is perhaps the first step in the standard government response.
According to Mohanan, the next step possibly would be to refer the report and its methodology to a committee of experts, only to delay the findings.
“…it was the NITI Aayog and not the Chief Statistician whose job it is to uphold the integrity of the official statistics that took the initiative to raise technical doubts on the report and the survey methodology. A similar involvement of NITI Aayog in the release of the GDP back series had also raised questions,” he said, adding that modifying survey estimates would amount to changing the standard procedures based on sound statistical theory.
Mohanan said that the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) paid special attention to the employment survey report of the NSSO, Periodic Labour Force Survey, for 2017-18, “possibly because the report implicitly contradicted some of the claims of the government” and in the process, fundamental questions on the independence of statistical agencies came to the fore, which in turn pushed him to leave the Commission rather than “acquiesce to the deliberate slighting of the NSC”.
Mohanan said his resignation along with the resignation of another non-official member, J V Meenakshi was the last act in “a long story of disregard” of NSC’s recommendations that “reduced its effectiveness”.
Earlier, the Annual Report for 2017-18 had stated that the Commission “painfully notes that apart from the lack of resources” within the Commission, its recommendations appear to be of “little interest to the government” as no action taken report on these recommendations is ever provided to the Commission. “Even in matters within the purview of the Commission, the Ministry has been reluctant to take its view and is seen flouting its own notifications. For example, even though the gazetted guidelines for conduct of surveys issued by the Government in 2011 specifies that concurrence of NSC is mandatory for starting any survey, it is seen that the MOSPI itself has announced surveys/census without any reference to the Commission,” it had said.
The Commission had highlighted issues in its Annual Report for 2016-17 as well with regard to no follow-up on the recommendations of the Commission. “Several committees set up by the Commission in the past had made a number of recommendations on specific subject areas. The annual reports of the commission also contained many recommendations. Many of these recommendations have not been followed up and a more effective approach for overseeing the implementation of the recommendations is necessary,” the report had said.