Business Standard reported on Friday that consumer spending fell for the first time in over four decades by 3.7 per cent between 2011-12 and 2017-18, according to the NSO’s ‘Key Indicators of Household Consumption Survey’. The survey, conducted between July 2018 and June 2019, was approved for release by an expert committee on June 19, 2019.
Following the report, the statistics
ministry said it has decided to junk the survey because of “data quality” issues. This was the first time the government decided not to release a survey conducted by the NSO, formely known as the National Sample Survey Office, a statistical body set up in 1950.
During the fag end of its previous tenure, the government had withheld the Periodic Labour Force Survey of 2017-18 for five months. The survey, which showed the unemployment rate
touching a 45-year high of 6.1 per cent, was approved by the National Statistical Commission
(NSC), an autonomous body overlooking India's statistical system, in December 2018, but was released in May 2019 after the results for the Parliamentary elections were announced. Two members of the NSC, including its chairman P C Mohanan, had resigned as the government was not releasing the data.
The letter by the economists said that until recently, India had “good cause to be proud of its statistical system” and that the sample surveys conducted by the NSSO
“have served as a shining example and a model to the rest of the world”. They said that the government had chosen to attack the credibility of India's "pre-eminent statistical institution simply because the results of the surveys do not accord with its own narrative about the economy, without providing any adequate reasons."
"This suppression of essential data is terrible for accountability and for ensuring that citizens have the benefit of official data collection that is paid for with their taxes. It is also counterproductive for the government, which may be kept in the dark about actual trends in the economy and, therefore, not be able to devise appropriate policies," the statement said.
Others who have signed the statement include several professors of Jawaharlal Nehru University, political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot and Swaraj India President Yogendra Yadav.