Statistical Commission Experts Resign in Protest Over Jobs Data, Govt Attitude

P.C. Mohanan and J.V. Meenakshi – the only two non-government members of the commission – tendered their resignations because of the body's ineffectiveness.

New Delhi: The only two non-government members of India’s National Statistical Commission have resigned, leaving just chief statistician Pravin Srivastava and NITI Aayog’s Amitabh Kant at the head of a body that is the apex advisory organisation for all of the country’s core statistical activities.

According to sources with knowledge of the matter, both P.C. Mohanan and J.V. Meenakshi tendered their resignations on Monday (January 28).

Mohanan is a former member of the Indian Statistical Service and Meenakshi is a professor at the Delhi School of Economics. Both of their tenures, according to the NSC’s website, were supposed to end in June 2020. Mohanan also served as the chairperson of the NSC.

Their exits were prompted, The Wire has learned, by the inability of the Modi government to interface with and effectively take on board the commission’s contributions.

P.C. Mohanan and J.V. Meenakshi.

Another sore issue was delays in the release of the new NSSO employment survey data, which was vetted by the statistical body. The new “survey data, called ‘periodic labour force survey’, has not been made public even though it was approved by the NSC in December.

The Centre has over the last year found itself in a number of controversies over issues of national statistics, most recently over the release of the back-series GDP data.

Last May, media reports indicated that the Centre wanted to give more teeth to the NSC by rejigging it as a public corporation and giving it powers to audit and regulate the country’s core statistics.

Ministry responds

In a clarification put out on Wednesday afternoon, the ministry of statistics noted that the concerns put forth by Mohanan and Meenakshi were “not expressed” in any of the meetings of the commission “in the last few months”.

“The Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation not only places a high regard for the Commission but also values its advice and on which appropriate action is taken,” a government statement said.

In response to concerns raised over the delayed release of the NSSO labour force survey, the ministry noted that the NSSO was still “processing the quarterly data” and that the report would be released thereafter.

“In so far as the Back Series of the GDP is concerned, the National Statistical Commission had itself urged the Ministry to finalise and release it. 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.”