Debate: Is There More to Statistical Commission Resignations?

Questions that arise from the resignation of two top National Statistics Commission officials.

3 min read

Addressing the recent controversy of the National Statistical Commission (NSC) Acting Chairperson PC Mohanan resigning from his post, BloombergQuint speaks to BJP Spokesperson Gopal Agarwal, Congress Spokesperson Muhammad Khan and Former Union Minister and Economist, YK Alagh for their take on the same. Mohanan resigned against the withholding of the National Sample Survey Organistaion’s (NSSO's) Annual Survey on employment and unemployment for the year 2017-2018.

The report by NSSO would be the first one to be published post demonetisation.  

The Controversy

The crisis was heightened when along with Mohanan, his colleague JV Meenakshi also quit the job. Both Mohanan and Meenakshi were appointed in 2017 and had a three-year term. Speaking to The Indian Express, Mohanan said the report was approved by NSC in the beginning of December but had not yet been released.

Mohanan had said that they had “noticed” that the commission was not taken seriously by the government and was kept out of key decisions.

The government, however, on Wednesday, had refuted this by saying that the members of the National Statistical Commission (NSC), who resigned recently, had never expressed their concerns in any of the meetings of the Commission in the last few months.

The Debate

Speaking about the issue, BloombergQuint asked BJP Spokesperson Gopal Agarwal, whether these resignations would be seen as a setback for the government. Agarwal responded by saying that since the accusation was against the government, it is ultimately to be answered by the government itself, not the party. He, however, said that the government had said the surveys had a lot of limitations and complications, in terms of the kind of questions they would answer.

“They (surveys) have a lot of limitations and do not always put the right information in the right perspective. That is the concern that the government had and it was conveyed.”
Gopal Agarwal, BJP Spokesperson

When asked if the data in the survey can hurt the government in power, Agarwal said that that could not be ascertained. He further stated that the main issue was that the survey had not been completed as of yet.


Is the Congress Exaggerating the Issue?

When asked if the Congress was exaggerating the issue since it is not known what exactly is there in the data, Muhammad Khan, Congress spokesperson, said that this was a matter of serious concern since this government seemed to be set on destroying all institutions. To prove his point, he gave examples of the CBI, CVC and the RBI, along with four Economic Advisers resigning within the same government.

“We should be concerned that this government is set on destroying institutions since day one. They cannot abide the idea of free speech.”
Muhammad Khan, Congress spokesperson

Economist YK Alagh, when asked if such things could raise a question mark over the legitimacy of official statistics released by the government, said that some of this was very disturbing since the official statistics released by the governments are used for many things like the assessments of the country’s prospects, international aide and other important factors required for a nation’s growth.

He further said that India is considered the best among developing nations when it comes to statistics, urging agencies to ensure that it is not questioned at all.

“Indian statistics have had a fairly good reputation. We might not have the accuracy of the G8 countries, but among developing nations we are considered to be the best in the world. I think its extremely important that we don’t tamper with them. The bodies that are set up to approve a statistical result should ensure that they are not at all questioned.”
YK Alagh

(With inputs from The Indian Express and BloombergQuint)

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