Post Mortem

Meddling with the data to advance political-interest

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 2/7/2019 11:19:05 AM IST

 Yet another shoddy show by the Government at the Centre. The “leaked” official report reveals plummeting of employment has created huge furor across sections of the Indian society. The National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) in its survey findings indicated that there has been unprecedented and stupendous rise in unemployment/joblessness. A business newspaper cited an NSSO survey pegging the unemployment rate in the country at a 45-year high of 6.1%. This figure goes diametrically opposite to what the PM Modi said in 2014 that 2 Crore jobs a year, which by now after four and half years there should have been at least by now about 9 Crore jobs. While on the other, 6.5 Crore youth are jobless in 2017-18 alone.  When questioned, Niti Aayog, a government think-tank, said that it was a “draft report” and not final. 

In data publication can we have semi-final and then final. Over and above, It has added more fuel in the current backdrop wherein two members of the National Statistical Commission who said that they were bypassed by the government. In addition, many kept asking what were the reason for the government not to release jobs report, which has already been finalized by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) in December 2018? Is it due to a sharp decline in employment post-note ban?  In recent times there have been clear manifestations that the autonomous character of the governmental agencies is gradually being clipped. In the case of NSSO, it had finalized the jobs report in December, 2018, and when asked why the report was not published: NITI Aayog vice chairman, Rajiv Kumar said that the numbers have to be approved by the cabinet. Why should the experts have to wait for approval from politicians? 

To a barrage of questions, he maintained that “the government would approve” and who would approve the NSSO data: “I suppose the Cabinet will approve it. I don’t know”. His responses have been evasive and thus posit ambiguity. Negating what the NITI Aayog VC said, former chief statisticians said the cabinet is not supposed to approve NSSO surveys. Pronab Sen, former chief statistician and ex-chairman of the NSCO said TOI that there was a well laid out procedure for approving NSSO reports and surveys. For the job survey, a standing committee of experts under retired Kolkata University professor S. P. Mukherjee was set up, one of the most respected statisticians, who oversaw the designing and execution of the survey, Sen said. 

Procedurally, the moment results are submitted they are verified by the committee and a report is prepared and sent to the ministry of statistics and program implementation (MOSPI). Following which the chief statistician and the DG, NSSO sign on the report and then sent to the NSC that thoroughly goes through and approves it. Sen detailed the meticulous procedure and process involved. He also rubbished the argument that the jobs report was not released, because the government wanted a quarter-on-quarter comparison. For this, his response was that “They started the exercise in April 2017, so they have data for 2018 also”.  One more government agency has nose-dived and thus lost its credibility, which in turn candidly reveals the ways with the Government at Centre keeps meddling in the affairs and functioning of autonomous agencies.

India’s statistical system considered as a source of pride once and now seems to be gradually becoming a proxy for yet another institutional decay. The classic example is what the whole country keep witnessing the ways with which it dealt the recent jobs data. The latest episode manifests its total submission to the government’s dictates. The National Statistical Commission, a body supposed to set up standards, looks as if it is being thoroughly hollowed. It also shows and thus adds yet another factor of frequent government’s interference in the functioning of the agency as two of its independent members recently resigned leaving the seven-member body with just two representatives, both from the government. This reveals and leads to multiple questions of the working and functioning of this agency. Its independence and autonomy are now being questioned. People across the country are perplexed with these questions: what made the government not to reveal the job report and was it deliberate move or attempt to hide the data from the people?  Neither the agency nor the government at the Centre have no answers because now it has come out in the open that report was ready in the month of December, 2018 and why was it kept secret and not published?

The delays rips open many things—the very transparency and accountability of the Government-related agency and the government. Nowadays we come across government agencies invoking methodology as an excuse. Even in this case, NSSO tried to bring in methodology as an excuse or an issue. How to go about and how many are in the job market and out of the market and by employing a viable method to find out from this period to the period designed what really happened. In what way the cabinet would help in altering the figures that have already been arrived? The agency may have waited for the government’s nod or approval, because it would certainly reflect the government’s performance at the Centre, because this huge volume of joblessness has not been accounted in the past 45 years. So massive that goes against the PM Modi’s promises. This is indeed a staggering and stunning revelation for PM Modi and BJP.

If this is the fact, what can be done? In what ways the policy-makers would help the ruling dispensation by concealing the facts and figures? The bureaucrats do not want to face the wrath of the current regime These are the questions that loom at large as we keep hearing that the report was not made public because it should get the Cabinet’s approval. If this is procedure, one can agree to it, but this is not the case. In support of the government, the top wigs of NSSO keep saying many things, but more they talk, more they contradict. One things comes out clearly that the Government can inflate or deflate the number in order to suit its purposes—be it poverty, unemployment, shelter, toilets, hunger, population, health, wellness, development, amenities provided in the urban and rural households for which methodology comes handy. How does methodology(s) help to derive correct figures? 

Meddling with data for one’s vested interests and political stakes is immoral and unethical. The Government at the Centre five years ago in its manifesto promised jobs for so many people and at the end of its tenure the graph shows something drastically opposite. Failing to fulfill the promises should not lead to concealment of the data, facts and figures. Hiding the facts and figures is nothing but “cheating” and “betrayal” from the side of the Government at the Centre. The electorates believed you and your election promises delineated in the manifesto and voted for you. The government should not silence the facts by not publishing because the data poses the hard and naked facts of Crores of young Indian lives. To add further, in the year 2017, NSSO initiated a new household survey primarily to publish annual labor force data and its release being delayed no one knows, probably could be after the Lok Sabha elections. Certainly, this is indeed going to be one of the major issues in the 2019-Lok Sabha election because the young India want jobs and development, and certainly not empty rhetoric and promises.

Dr. John Mohan Razu

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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