New Delhi: On Thursday, NITI Aayog vice-chairman held a ‘damage control’ press conference to clarify the government’s position on the thwarted NSSO report that has pegged the unemployment rate at 6.1 per cent, a four-decade high. Kumar claimed that the NSSO report was not final as the government had not approved it yet.
“The government will approve,” said Kumar in the press conference. When asked who in the government will approve, he said: “I suppose the Cabinet will approve. I don’t know,” creating a more embarrassing situation for the government than the damaging jobs data report, that led to the resignation of two top members of the National Statistics Commission (NSC).
Experts and statisticians have, however, rubbished this claim by the NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman, and even questioned his locus standi in holding a press conference on the National Sample Survey Organisation’s (NSSO) report, as reported by the Times of India report cited above.
“It has never happened. No. Never,” said former Chief Statistician and Chairman of the NSC, Pronab Sen, when asked if it was a practice to get the Union Cabinet’s approval for NSSO reports.
Sen said since long the NSSO, which falls under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, cited “well-laid out procedures for approving NSSO reports and surveys” that include rigorous vetting.
“Once the results (of the survey) arrive, they are verified by a committee and a report is prepared and sent to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. The chief statistician and the DG, NSSO, sign off on the report which is then sent to the NSC, which goes over the report and approves it,” said the report.
Sen also questioned what the NITI Aayog had to do with the matter anyway.
Former NSC chief P C Mohanan, one among the two members who resigned recently, also questioned Kumar’s referring to it as the “draft report”.
He told The Indian Express that this was the “final report” and it needed no further approval.
The thwarted NSSO report that has left the Modi government red-faced is the first assessment of the unemployment situation in the country after demonetisation in November 2016.
The report, details of which were reported by Business Standard said in 2017-18, India’s unemployment rate was at a 45-year high at 6.1 per cent, quoting the NSSO’s periodic labour force survey.
The report was one of the reasons that led to the resignation of two key members of the NSC, who said they were forced to do so as the government was not releasing the jobs.
Recall, that earlier, too, the Narendra Modi government, which had promised to generate two crore jobs a year, had even stalled the quarterly employment survey done by the Labour Bureau, Shimla, on the plea that the data only pertained to eight sectors.