Jaspal Singh Sawhney, Chairman, Eagle Group
“Concrete measures are productspecific. For national accounts they will be different, for labour statistics they would be different. The policy only gives generic enabling provisions for laying down standards required for generating quality statistics.” Prabhakar Singh, head of institutional business at Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, a not-for-profit organisation, said that is easier said than done. “Making a policy is one thing. Implementing it is another,” he said. With the credibility of official statistics under strain, particularly when the next general elections are less than a year away, implementation of these standards will become crucial, especially where there are gaps left by the international framework. India for instance complies with International Monetary Fund’s Special Data Dissemination Standards (SDDS) for national accounts statistics such as GDP. But, the country has invoked flexibility provisions under SDDS for the release of labour statistics. The ramifications have been clear. While the government announces GDP numbers regularly, it has not released official unemployment estimates since 2016. The policy once again promises that “production of core statistics”— including unemployment rate—“and their release, as per a pre-announced calendar, free from government influence, will be ensured.” Making good on this promise though will be a challenge for the country’s statistical system, which has remained headless for most of this year, with the office of the Chief Statistician of India lying unoccupied among other vacancies. “For the past 20 years, the minister of statistics has always been a person of irrelevance. That shows the apathy of successive governments towards statistics and data,” Singh said. While quality statistics fulfil the need for evidence-based policies, the need for such policies may well ensure commitment to quality statistics. “It depends on how much value you put to evidence when making policies. If you do not have a tradition of evidence-based policy, then you are not going to strengthen your statistical policy,” Agrawal said. The question over credible statistics thus becomes one of whether the country’s policies are backed with evidence— and whether the National Policy on Official Statistics is.
12th Statistics Day celebration
Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation and Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) jointly celebrated 12th Statistics Day and the closing ceremony of the 125th Birth Anniversary of Prof. P. C. Mahalanobis on 29th June, 2018 at Kolkata. Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, Vice President of India graced the occasion as the Chief Guest. Other dignitaries who participated in the event include Shri D. V. Sadananda Gowda, Union Minister for Statistics & Programme Implementation, Prof. Bratya Basu, Minister of Information Technology and Electronics, Government of West Bengal, Dr. Vijay Kelkar, President, ISI and Prof. Goverdhan Mehta, Chairman, ISI Council. In recognition of the notable contributions made by Late Professor Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis in the fields of statistics, statistical system and economic planning, Government of India in 2007, has designated 29thJune as the “Statistics Day” in the category of Special Days to be celebrated every year at the National level. On the occasion, Vice President of India released a commemorative coin of Rs 125 and circulation coin of Rs 5 denomination as a mark of respect to Prof. Mahalanobis. The winners of Prof. P.V. Sukhatme Award 2018 and Prof. C.R. Rao Award 2017, were also felicitated for their notable contribution in the field of Statistics.
The objective of celebration of this Day is to create public awareness about the importance of statistics in socio-economic planning and policy formulation, to acknowledge the contribution of Prof. Mahalanobis, and to pay homage to him. Every year, one particular theme of current national importance is selected for focused discussions and efforts throughout the year aimed at bringing about improvements in the selected area. The theme selected for the Statistics Day this year is ‘‘Quality Assurance in Official Statistics’. The theme has been chosen to underscore the importance of compliance with essential parameters of quality in statistical systems and products. The Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) at Kolkata, set up by Prof. Mahalanobis in 1931, and was declared an autonomous “Institute of National Importance” through an act of Parliament in 1959, celebrates 29th June as the “Worker Day”. 29th June, 2017 marked the beginning of the 125th year of birth of Prof. P.C. Mahalanobis. ISI has held year-round celebrations. Statistics Day Celebrations held throughout the country by the field offices of National Sample Survey Office, State Governments and Universities/Departments by organizing Seminars, Conferences, Debates, Quiz Programmes, Lectures, Essay Competitions, etc.
Prof. Bratya Basu, Minister of Information Technology and Electronics, Government of West Bengal