On January 29, Tuesday, two independent members of the National Statistical Commission (NSC) resigned over alleged disagreements with the Narendra Modi government. According to the reports, the two resigned from the commission over government’s failure to publish a report on employment that had been prepared last month.
After the resignation of P.C. Mohanan, who was also the commission’s acting chairperson and J.V. Meenakshi, the commission is now left with only two members – chief statistician Pravin Srivastava and Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant.
“The two members have resigned from the National Statistical Commission and tendered their resignation on January 28,” an official said, as reported by News18.
Three vacant seats and two down
While talking about his resignation to the media, Mohanan said that he had decided to quit because he felt that he was unable to make “any effective contribution”. Additionally, he said, “We are not discharging the duties of the commission.” He also said that his resignation came after the central government’s failure to release the jobs report. “We have approved the report, but they have not released it, I don’t know why,” he told The Scroll. Mohanan and Meenakshi cited withholding of the publication of the National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO’s) employment survey for 2017-18 along with lack of consultation with the Commission before releasing the backdated gross domestic product (GDP) series last year as some of the main reasons for their resignations, as reported by Business Standard.
As per the Commission’s website, Mohanan and Meenakshi’s tenure was to end in June 2020. Both of them had joined the NSC in June 2017. The NSC, under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI), is to have seven members, however, three posts were already vacant and with the resignation of two independent members the body is now just left with two members.
The National Statistical Commission was set up by the government of India on 1 June 2005 on the recommendation of the Rangarajan commission. The National Statistical Commission (NSC) of India is an autonomous body whose objective is to reduce the problems faced by statistical agencies in the country in relation to the collection of data.
Alleged manipulation of data
According to The Telegraph, in the past, the Modi government has refused to release reports by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) and its labour bureau. Reportedly, the government also tried to manipulate the data based on payroll data sourced from the Employees Provident Fund Organisation, Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) and the Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) to project an increase in the number of jobs in the past four years.
Meanwhile, a study by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) said that India’s unemployment rate had shot up to 7.4 per cent in December 2018.
“This is the highest unemployment rate we’ve seen in 15 months,” said Mahesh Vyas of CMIE. He added, “The rate has increased sharply from the 6.6 per cent clocked in November. The climb to 7.4 per cent also indicates that the small fall in the unemployment rate seen in November was possibly an aberration in a trend that indicates a steady increase in the unemployment rate.”
He said that the count of unemployed has been increasing steadily which increased by a substantial 11 million. He further added that the count of the employed is declining. “In December 2018, an estimated 397 million were employed. This is nearly 11 million less than the employment estimate for December 2017,” Vyas wrote in a report, as reported by The Telegraph.
Not the first incident
This isn’t the first time that the government has run into controversy over reports prepared by the National Statistical Commission.
On November 28, the government revised the 2006-2012 Gross Domestic Product growth rates to show a “more accurate picture of the economy”. The data was released by the Central Statistical Office (CSO) in a joint press conference with Niti Aayog on November 28.
As per the estimates, India recorded a peak growth rate of 8.5% growth in 2010-11 as opposed to 10.3% for the same period in the old report. Niti Aayog, in its official statement, had said that the back series was checked for its “methodological soundness” by leading experts in the field.
Opposition attacks Modi government
After the resignation of two members from the National Statistical Commission, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram attacked the Modi government for the resignation. In a tweet, he said, “One more venerable institution has “died” due to the government’s “malicious negligence”.
One more venerable institution died on 29 January 2019 owing to malicious negligence by the government.
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) January 30, 2019
The resignation of all non govt members from the National Statistical Commission has rendered yet another public institution defunct & toothless
It also serves the government’s larger objective to black out all data & statistics of its mis-governance since last 5 years
— Ahmed Patel (@ahmedpatel) January 29, 2019