Reforms in the statistical system in India

Reforms in the statistical system in India

News: Recently, The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) has constituted a Standing Committee on Statistics (SCoS) to reform the statistical system in India.

What is the SCoS?
• The Standing Committee on Statistics (SCoS) is a newly formed panel by the government of India to review and advise on the country’s survey methodology and data quality.
• It was established as a replacement for the Standing Committee on Economic Statistics (SCES), which was set up in 2019.
• The SCoS is chaired by Dr. Pronab Sen, India’s first chief statistician and former chairman of the National Statistical Commission (NSC).
• It consists of 10 official members and four non-official members, including eminent academics.
• The committee’s terms of reference (ToR) include reviewing the current framework and addressing anyissues raised regarding subject, results, methodology, and more. It will also provide advice on survey design, sampling frame, tabulation plan, and finalization of survey results.

Which are the important organizations involved in statistics in India?
• Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) - This is the nodal ministry for official statistics in India. It was formed in 1999 by merging the Department of Statistics and the Department of Programme Implementation. It has two wings: Statistics and Programme Implementation.
• National Statistical Office (NSO) - It is an attached office of MOSPI and the primary statistical agency in India. It was formed in 2019 by merging the Central Statistical Office (CSO) and the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO). It conducts regular surveys on various topics such as national accounts, consumer price index, industrial production, employment and unemployment, social consumption, health, education, etc.
• Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) - This is a public university recognised as an Institute of National Importance by the Indian parliament. It was founded in 1931 by Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis in Kolkata.

What are issues with Indian statistical system?
• Data quality and accuracy - There have been concerns about the reliability and validity of the data collected and disseminated by various agencies. For example, the GDP estimates have been questioned for their methodology.
• The government have a timetable for the release of national accounts, the Index of Industrial Production and inflation. But there are no specific timelines for the release of labour force statistics and consumption expenditure surveys.
• The use of small surveys for estimations, incorrect approach in data collection and collation and data on agriculture, industry etc are often outdated or incomplete.
• The government is accused of data suppression for political reasons. For example, govt allegedly withheld the release of Periodic labour force survey (PLFS) for 2017-18 which showed high unemployment rate.
• There have been issues of inconsistency and divergence in the data produced by different agencies. For example, the household consumption expenditure data from the NSSO and the CSO differ significantly.

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