After scrapping consumer expenditure report, statistics ministry now seeks 'critical' details

India's statistics ministry recently scrapped a survey report that sought to measure consumption of households. Now, the field operations division of the survey arm of National Statistical Office (NSO) has reportedly sought critical field inspection reports pertaining to the survey. Many view this as an attempt to gather information in order to justify its cancellation.

According to a Livemint report, the NSO sent a letter to all regional offices seeking a detailed report that highlighted all "important/critical/alarming issues" that had been raised by field inspection staff during the survey, on November 18. These reports have to be submitted at the latest by Friday.

The survey which is supposed to be conducted after every five years, was undertaken in 2017-18 to measure consumption of households. A leaked report by the NSO, based on the consumer expenditure survey, showed a decline in comsumer spending by 3.7% for the first time four decades due to lesser rural demand. The NSO's Key Indicators of Household Consumption Survey incidentally had been approved for release by an expert committee on June 19 this year.

Soon after this information became available however, the statistics ministry cited data quality issues and junked the survey.

The Business Standard on Thursday, November 21, reported that the Narendra Modi government’s expert committee which was put together to review the leaked consumer expenditure survey done by National Statistical Office (NSO) "did not recommend junking it".

The committee included NSO director general and National Statistical Commission (NSC) member GC Manna, failed to flag the ‘data quality’ issues in the 2017-18 report and instead issued it for publication in June 2019 itself.

Also read: Egg on Modi govt's face: NSO panel denies recommending 'junking' consumer expenditure report

This is the first time the government has chosen to not release a survey conducted by the NSO. However, statisticians find the latest move, to gather additional data an even more unusual step. According to the report in Livemint, Pronab Sen, former chief statiscian of India called it a "very unusual step", while PC Mohanan, former chairman of National Sample Survey Office called the timing of the move odd.

Reportedly over 200 economists from across the globe have written collectively to the NDA government seeking the release of the scrapped curvey report.

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