Mr Modi and his team expect to win the 2019 elections, the groundwork for improved performance of India's economy in their second term should be done now.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a file photo | PIB
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New Delhi: A group of 108 economists and social scientists came together Thursday to protest against what they said was the Narendra Modi government’s move to revise or withhold the release of unfavourable economic data.

The NDA government has been under fire for its decision to withhold the release of the National Sample Survey Organisation’s employment survey for the year 2017-18, despite the nod of the National Statistical Commission (NSC). The survey would have shown a record high unemployment rate, but the government said the jobs data had not been finalised.

The government has also been criticised for its new back series GDP data that drastically lowered growth rates during the regime of the previous UPA government. The numbers released by the NITI Aayog were in complete divergence from the numbers arrived at by a sub-committee of the NSC.


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The NSC has the final say on all such economic data, but was allegedly bypassed at least twice by the government, resulting in the resignation of its only two remaining independent members, including chairperson P.C. Mohanan.

“…Any statistics that cast an iota of doubt on the achievement of the government seem to get revised or suppressed on the basis of some questionable methodology,” the economists said in a joint statement.

They added that political considerations are now dominating public releases, and batted for restoring integrity and access to public economic data.

“The national and global reputation of India’s statistical bodies is at stake. More than that, statistical integrity is crucial for generating data that would feed into economic policy-making, and that would make for honest and democratic public discourse,” the economists said, advocating greater autonomy for institutions like the NSC.

The economists who signed the statement include Abhijit Sen, Himanshu, Jayati Ghosh and C.P. Chandrasekhar of Jawaharlal Nehru University, R. Nagaraj of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development and Research, Jean Dreze of Allahabad University and Abhijit Banerjee of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


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Political influence

Speaking about the political influence on data in recent times, the economists pointed out the anomalies with the GDP back series data.

“In 2018, two competing back series for varying lengths of time were prepared – separately by two official bodies, (a committee of) the National Statistical Commission and later by the Central Statistics Office. The two showed quite opposite growth rates for the last decade,” they said, pointing out that the NSC numbers “were removed from the official web site and the CSO numbers were later presented to the public by the Niti Aayog, an advisory body which had hitherto no expertise in statistical data collection”.

“All this caused great damage to the institutional integrity of the autonomous statistical bodies,” the statement read.

On jobs data, the statement pointed out that the NSSO data’s release was withheld and the release schedule not met despite approval by the NSC.

Read the full statement and the list of scholars who have signed it here. 

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11 COMMENTS

  1. ThePrint is mouthpiece of opposition parties…. Have you checked the Mudra Loan figures being provided by the Govt….. If Mudra Loan figures are more or less accurate then you have to count that also as a job provided…. Check the account now….

  2. One way or another, it does not really matter. Lots of anecdotal evidence. A very lucid interview in which Dr Ila Patnaik explained to Ms Jyoti Malhotra how the turbine of private investment has stalled, taking job creation down the sink. One feels sorry for a gentleman like Dr Sanjiv Sanyal justifying demonetisation.

  3. Look at the number of Bengali intellectuals on that list. Tell my wife, who is from Calcutta, a vegetarian, It must be due to the fish that they eat …

      • Ironically, the British first settled in Surat in the year 1611., after which they established the Madras Presidency in 1639 and then the Bengal Presidency in 1689. Guess where Surat is?
        Such baseless and factually wrong comments reflects the endemic illiteracy that plagues India today, and reflects in the government that we choose. Fudging facts and statistical figures is key to the right wing propaganda that the current government hinges on, and they are successful because of the existence of people like you.

    • Your remark ,make me recollect the late anglicized writer Nirad Choudhari saying that Bengalis are real intellectuals, because they eat fish.Anyway, I find a large chunk of the list is from Bengal/JNU/migrant academia to U.S.A. etc.,But hardly those who are really doing the hard empirical research in India.Another political strategic attempt of congress for elections.But, in vain . Because too less people will read, and too less among them will understand this intellectual excercise.

  4. What will some people, who are well past their prime, not do for 15 minutes of fame! They sound so much like that character from the musical “Cats”, which sings the song “Memory”. Sad and pathetic.

  5. Didn’t the same “economist” also discredit the NSSO numbers as untrustworthy last year since it was showing favorable numbers for GOI? So now that they suspect its unfavorable it suddenly has become credible? Who are these “Arm-Chair” economist or “social scientists”?

  6. All the economists are silent on the issue whether the NSSO and NSC sampling methods reflect the contemporary realities of the economy and economic opportunities (not just formal jobs but also the figures on self employment and secondary and tertiary jobs created). Because Govts reasoning said the alternate series and indices reflect contemporary realities much better. Academic comment on the comparison of sampling methods is missing from the public discourse. What is apparent is anti-establishmentism and political noise.

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