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The Draft National Policy on Official Statistics, 2018: An Analysis

Context:

The MOSPI’s has brought out Draft National Policy on Official Statistics

What are official statistics?

  • Official statistics are those derived by the Government agencies from statistical surveys, administrative and registration records and other forms and papers.
  • Statistical analysis of these are generally published regularly
  • The official statistics give an empirical overview of the economic and social conditions of a State and help formulate policies

Historical Background:

  1. Professor P.C Mahalanobis (first statistical adviser to the Cabinet, GOI, 1949) had been the pioneer in development of official statistical system in India.
  2. 1949:
  • Nucleus statistical unit set up at the Centre in the Cabinet Secretariat
  • National Income Committee set up
  1. 1950: National Sample Survey (NSS) established
  2. 1951: Statistical unit developed into Central Statistical Organisation (CSO)
  3. 1961: Department of Statistics set up in the Cabinet Secretariat; CSO became a part of it
  4. 1999: Department of Statistics and Programme Implementation declared as the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoS&PI).
  5. 2005: National Statistical Commission (NSC) established

Present Official Statistical System in India:

  • Highly decentralised: Both laterally (between Ministries of GOI) and vertically (between Centres and States)
  • Apex agency at the Centre: Central Statistical Organization (CSO) in the Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation (MoS&PI),National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) and Indian Statistical Institution (ISI)
  • Apex Agency in the States: Directorate of Economic and Statistics (DES) and Statistical Divisions/Units in line Ministries and Departments

Critical Issues with Indian official data:

  1. Official data and post-truth politics
  • According to some political analysts and scholars, post 2014, in the age of post-truth politics there has been instances of manipulating and distorting data by the government.
  • Post truth politics is evoking public emotions and deviation from facts and details of policy.
  1. Faulty sampling frames
  • Identifying respondents and sample selection poor
  • Survey designs, questionnaires inappropriate in many instances

For example: The RBI adopts inflation targeting approach to maintain price level-monetary policy. This approach is based on data on inflations expectations of individuals (people are asked to compare their expectations of inflation rate in coming year). The reliability and validity of the data is a big question as ASER reports highlights extremely low mathematical skills of Indians.

  1. Delay/ Sporadic nature of Release of Data:
  • There is no strict process of monitoring for release of data.
  • Delay in publishing data is a persisting problem. However, there has been improvement in recent years
  • Reluctance in releasing caste census data
  • Sporadic nature of release: Example: employment data
  1. Discrepancy in data:
  • Lack of uniformity in data across government agencies is a major concern

For example: Contradicting data on job- Recently EPFO estimated that 3.68 million jobs were generated till November of fiscal year 2018- much higher estimation than that of other agencies

  1. Quality/ Accuracy of data:

Quality of official data is a major issue.

Example:

  • In 2011, commerce secretary admitted that India’s export figures for the April–October period were inflated by US$9.4 billion due to a misclassification of certain items and data-entry errors.
  • There has also been question over the accuracy of the Index of Industrial Production
  • Allegations that NSS systematically underestimated household consumption
  1. Ethics in data collection:
  • Data collection is increasingly being done by contractual employees and private organization. In such a scenario, supervising and ensuring honesty is a major challenge.
  1. Infringement of privacy by the government’s data-collection machinery.

Rangranjan Committee (2001) Recommendation and Establishment of National Statistical Commission

  • Established to review the statistical system of the country
  • Recommended creation of a permanent and statutory apex body – National Commission on Statistics (NCS) through an Act of Parliament
  • National Statistical Commission, was established in 2005 and started functioning in 2006
  • Consequent to the setting up of the new Commission, the erstwhile Governing Council of the NSSO was dissolved
  • The NSC has an advisory role. Major functions:
  1. identify core statistics of national importance,
  2. evolve national policies and priorities relating to the statistical system,
  3. evolve measures for improving public trust in official statistics

UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics

  • The UN adopted the fundamental principles of official statistics in 1994
  • The principles guide statistical agencies to demonstrate integrity and built trust and confidence in their data/statistics

10 Fundamental Principles

 

The Draft National Policy on Official Statistics, 2018:

  • The United Nations Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics was adopted by India in 2016. The government had also committed to bring out a National Policy on Official Statistics (NPOS)
  • To give furtherance to the principles, recently the GOI has placed the Draft National Policy on Official Statistics, 2018 in public domain

Key provisions:

  1. Dichotomise statistical products in the official statistical system into core statistics and other official statistics
  • Core statistics: national importance and critical to the economy. Example: National Income
  1. Amendment in the Constitution to bring in censuses on subjects other than population census and statistics declared by Parliament by law to be of national importance in the Union List.
  2. Production of official statistics should continue with the Government, whereas the related regulatory and advisory functions should be kept outside the Government
  3. Coordination between agencies
  • According to Sociologist Sonalde Desai, the policy statement indicates a tendency to centralise authority and decision making within well-defined structures such as NSC
  1. Registered society under MOSPI to be set up- for all government data collection and analysis
  2. Identification of statistical products through committees
  3. Quality assurance:
  • Apply National Quality Assurance Framework (NQAF) to each product of official statistics
  • evolve specific Quality Assurance Framework for the product consistent with NQAF
  • Promote compliance to NQAF through appropriate incentives/ awards
  • conduct statistical audit periodically through independent agencies on all the major statistical products
  1. To assure confidentiality:
  • Setting up standards for protecting confidentiality
  • Releasing Official Statistics in accordance with a pre-specified publication calendar,
  • Declaring Data Production and Management Policy for each agency responsible for producing official statistics
  • Implementation of the Code of Statistical Practice mandatory
  1. Publishing details of sharable and non-sharable official statistical datasets from time to time along with reasons
  2. Collaboration with other countries and UN and other international agencies on statistical matters

Way Forward

  1. Collaboration between academia and statistical agencies
  • Scholars from different disciplines should be incorporated for framing samples and questionnaires
  • Include takeaways from experiments designed by cognitive anthropologists, and survey design specialists
  1. Robust survey management structure to ensure quality and honesty in data collection
  2. Emphasis on private sector especially in technology-driven data collection
  3. Development of quality control parameters
  4. Avoiding any centralization of official statistical system.
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