On January 28th, two members of the NSC or the National Statistical Commission of India resigned- P.C. Mohanan, a retired career statistician and the acting chairman of the NSC, and Prof J.V. Meenakshi of the Delhi School of Economics. Their initial tenure was supposed to end in June 2020.
What is the NSC?
Set up on the 1st of June 2005 following the orders of the Government of India, the National Statistical Commission of India or NSC is the supreme autonomous advisory body of our country concerning any statistical matter.
What are its primary roles and functions?
The objective behind setting up this board was to reduce the problems encountered by other statistical agencies of our country pertaining to data collection. NSC being an autonomous body can collect data from both central and state government departments without facing much hassle, unlike other statistical institutions. Its primary role involves collecting unbiased data and releasing trustworthy figures on behalf of the government. Its other functions, as recommended by the Rangarajan Commission include monitoring and enforcing statistical priorities and standards alongside looking into the statistical coordination among the various agencies.
Background of the case and reasons for resignation-
The Hindu Business Line on January 30th reported that the two external members who resigned had cited “disagreement with the Centre on the labour force survey results and the Back Series of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)” as the reason for their resignation. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) in their statement said that these concerns regarding the functioning of the commission were not expressed by any of the members in any of the meetings conducted in the last few months. In their resignation letter, the members had stated their disappointment with the lack of their involvement concerning key decisions, for example, the GDP back series which was recently released, the delay in the publishing of the employment-unemployment report for 2016-17 long after its approval and the launch of the new economic census. Further, concern was also raised regarding the involvement of the Niti Aayog in the release of the GDP back series.
Who are the remaining members of the board?
The board should ideally consist of seven members. With the resignation of these two external members, the board is now left with only two other members- Chief Statistician Pravin Srivastava and CEO of Niti Aayog Amitabh Kant. The NewsClick on January 30th reported that the resignation clearly shows the lack of communication and consultation of the Narendra Modi Government and several instances of their bypassing the NSC several times in the previous year. Congress leader P.Chindambaram stated that the government’s “malicious negligence” led to the death of another paramount and distinguished institution.
What was MOSPI’s statement pertaining to their actions?
Responding to the issue regarding the labour force survey MOSPI said, “NSSO is processing the quarterly data for the period of July 2017 to December 2018 and the report will be released thereafter. Keeping 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”. The MOSPI further added that the Ministry had started working in order to bring out the data regarding new enrolment in various schemes such as Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF), Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Scheme and the National Pension Scheme (NPS). Regarding the GDP back Series MOSPI said, “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. This was later discussed in the National Statistical Commission. Moreover, the methodology adopted by the Ministry for the Back Series is available in the public domain.”
In the light of the above events, Pronab Sen, former Chairman of the NSC said, “The NSC was essentially meant to bring about a sense of credibility to the data put out by the National Statistical System, and if the NSC feels that it is not being permitted to carry out its functions, then it is entirely appropriate that it resigns.”
Sources– NewsClick, The Hindu, The Economic Times, The Free Press Journal, The Hindu Business Line, Wikipedia, GK Today(Current Affairs)
Image Credits- Livemint