In a major statistical system overhaul, govt plans to merge CSO, NSSO

A Data Quality Assurance Division has also been set up, replacing the Data Processing Division
To streamline and strengthen the statistical system, the government has decided to merge the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) and the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) to form a National Statistical Office (NSO).

The move is a follow-up of a decision taken in 2005, during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s tenure, which was based on recommendations of the report of the National Statistical Commission, headed by former Reserve Bank of India governor C Rangarajan.

Both the wings are currently part of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI). While the NSSO comes out with various sample surveys such as on consumption expenditure, employment and unemployment, the CSO releases various data such as GDP and IIP.

“The CSO and the NSSO are two organs of the same body and need to work together. This is a measure to avoid duplication of work and leverage the strength of the statistical system. There is no dilution of independence and in fact strengthens the system,” Chief Statistician of India Pravin Srivastava, who will head the NSO, told Business Standard.

The order to constitute an NSO was passed on May 23 with the approval of the outgoing Minister of Statistics D V Sadananda Gowda. Srivastava said the CSO and the NSSO worked as subordinate offices of the MoSPI and officials working there felt they had no authority. 

“This will help in meeting the requirement of the statistical system as a lack of control on these two bodies was one challenge presently. The National Statistical Commission will continue to work as an overarching body and at an arm’s length,” Srivastava said.

The move will align India’s statistical system with other countries, he added, and was a long-pending decision which has materialised after 14 years.

A Data Quality Assurance Division has also been set up, replacing the Data Processing Division, which will have the responsibility to bring about improvements in survey and administrative databases. This division will be strengthened through “re-skilling and deployment of existing personnel”.

India’s official statistics came under a cloud after several experts raised questions on credibility of the new GDP series. The government’s move to withhold the first periodic labour force survey, which showed unemployment rate at a 45-year high, put a further dent.

The MoSPI is expected to come out with a detailed note on a wide range of official statistics to put all speculations to rest, a government official said.

The Rangarajan committee had also recommended setting up of the NSC, headed by a person with a Minister of State-level designation, to serve as a nodal and empowered body for all core statistical activities of the country.

“The administration of the statistical system will become easier with setting up of an NSO. Integration will ensure that various bodies do not work in silos,” said another government official.

According to the Rangarajan Commission, the new NSO was envisaged as an agency to implement and maintain statistical standards and coordinate statistical activities of Central and State agencies as laid down by the NCS.

The NSO’s other roles included collection of core statistics, carrying out methodological research and studies, maintaining a warehouse of core statistics, as per the Rangarajan Commission report.

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