ArticleAmitabh Kundu, a former professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, talked about the importance to establish the dignity and credibility of the national statistical system
- Amitabh Kundu states that with the goals of achieving rapid economic growth, equity, and employment generation, it would be important that the people accept the information coming out of the National Statistical Organisation (NSO)
- However, he also accepts large segments of the Indian electorate do not care about data and research and get swayed by rhetorics and slogans.
- National Statistical Organisation (NSO) is a single entity emerged after the merger of National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) with the Central Statistics Office (CSO) under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI).
- NSSO was established as part of the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), as an independent and non-bureaucratic data gathering organization. Despite it coming under the Ministry in 1972, the degree of its independence could largely be maintained.
- NSSO database constituted not only the backbone of the plan preparation and monitoring by Planning Commission, but it also led to interesting debates among researchers within and outside the government on critical national issues such as the trends and patterns of consumption, poverty, employment, and other socio-economic parameters.
- NITI Aayog has extensively used NSSO data in putting forward development perspectives and visions for strategic interventions.
Issues with merger
- There are apprehensions that this merger will compromise the independence, impartiality and smooth flow of data to researchers outside the government.
- Centralization of data in the ministry can become a hurdle for its quick and timely release for public research and debate, it is argued.
- Such apprehensions can easily be traced to the procedural lapses in the release of the gross domestic product (GDP) data, the methodology for computing national income series with a new base year and non-release of the unemployment data in recent times.
- NITI Aayog and other government departments becoming the main users of the data and make their access for independent researchers and research organizations extremely difficult.
- The author opines that any attempt to discredit the official data through sample surveys, sponsored by international or private agencies, were contested and resented as interference by vested interests to compromise national priorities.
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- The government should take subsequent steps to strengthen the independence and credibility of the national statistical system, provide access to disaggregated data to researchers and other users and create an environment for informed debate on empirical issues of national importance.