Two members of India’s National Statistical Commission resigned in late January over the government’s attempts to hold the release of data to avoid unpalatable news. NSC Acting Chair PC Mohanan and member JV Meenakshi joined several other key Indian officials like Chief Economic Advisor Arvid Subramanian in resigning their posts in protest in recent months.
Prarthana Mitra tells us more about the resignations of top Indian statisticians in this report from Qrius.com:
Expressing grave disappointment over the government’s treatment of the NSC, the latest series of resignations leaves the commission without any external member, and follows Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian’s abrupt resignation last year. Erstwhile RBI governor Urjit Patel had also resigned over disputes concerning surplus transfer and PCA framework for debt-ridden banks, marking a precarious chapter for institutional autonomy in India.
The recently resigned NSC members cited a lack of consultation with the Commission before the government released the backdated gross domestic product (GDP) series last year, as a key reason motivating their decision. According to other sources, the NSC was also kept out of the release of the National Policy on Official Statistics and the latest Economic Census.
But a more immediate trigger for their resignations is the centre’s delay in publishing the National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO’s) employment survey for 2017-18—the first ever series of household survey. Also known as the periodic labour force survey, its entire point was to reflect job losses in the wake of demonetisation.
The NSC reportedly approved the survey report for release in its meeting on December 5, 2018, in Kolkata, but the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has not been made public yet.
“The report was approved and should have been released immediately, but was not. I thought I should not watch silently what was happening,” Mohanan told Business Standard after stepping down.