Pronab Sen’s simple solution to restore data credibility; this one thing will ensure timely release

Mayank Kumar

Amid the controversy surrounding the government's alleged interference in the management of key economic data, India's first Chief Statistician Pronab Sen has asked the government to issue a calendar in advance for the release of economic data to help maintain its sanctity, The Indian Express reported. Pronab Sen is the head of the standing committee on economic statistics, the government body formed to strengthen the economic data frameworks. Pronab Sen told The Indian Express that the move will ensure a timely release and subsequently save the sanctity of the data. He added that suppression of data has led to demonising of figures by the officials and hence tarnishing the credibility of India’s statistical system.

"When data gets suppressed and then gets leaked, that happened over the last one year, the government's reaction has been to actually demonize the data. That's been the reaction. So earlier nobody questioned the data per se, now the government itself is questioning the data. And there's this bizarre situation of people outside the government, the users, are saying, no, this data is fine. It should be exactly the other way round," the English daily quoted Pronab Sen as saying.

As things stand now, the government has a set calendar for the release of data of national accounts, Index of Industrial Production, and Inflation but not for the consumer surveys and labour force which too are of direct interest for the population. The timely release of the statistics shall help the government frame better policies in tune with problems at immediate disposal as well as to the industries to make investments, Sen further said to The Indian Express.

Pronab sen also raised concerns about the threat to the autonomy of the National Statistics Commission after the government has put forward the NSC bill in public domain. He said that the provisions included in the proposed bill may end up making NSC a public sector undertaking without any sacrosanct power. He further said his role as the head of the standing committee on Economic Statistics is to submit qualitative data to the National Statistical Office (NSO) within the stipulated period of time.

Narendra Modi's NDA government has been facing scrutiny by academics and industrial experts over delaying or suppressing data depicting a true picture of the Indian economy. The government in the recent past had junked media reports citing undisclosed reports to expose the rise in unemployment and a significant fall in people’s consumption calling them not credible enough.