GS-3- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Context: Recently, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) passed an order to merge the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) into the National Statistical Office (NSO). This was done in order to overhaul the statistical system in India and to bring about greater coordination between the agencies.
However, the merger has raised concerns that the autonomy of the National Statistical Commission could be compromised. In this regard, the following are the rationale and concerns related to the recent merger.
- In 2000, a committee headed by former RBI governor C. Rangarajan suggested the establishment of two bodies- National Statistical Office (NSO) by merging CSO and NSSO and National Statistical Commission (NSC).
- It had recommended that National Statistical Office (NSO) should function ‘as the executive wing of the Government in the field of statistics and act according to the policies and priorities, laid down by the National Statistical Commission (NSC).
- Subsequently, the National Statistical Commission was set up as a non-statutory body and it was entrusted with the responsibility of acting as a Nodal and empowered body for all core statistical activities of the country. It was also given the supervisory powers over the NSSO.
ABOUT NSSO- The National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), formerly called the National Sample Survey Organisation is the largest organisation in India conducting periodic socio-economic surveys. It is under the Ministry of Statistics of the Indian government. Set up in 1950, the employees of the NSSO are from the Indian Statistical Service (appointed through the UPSC) and the Subordinate Statistical Service (appointed through the Staff Selection Commission). The NSSO conducts large-scale sample surveys throughout India.
ABOUT CSO-The Central Statistics Organisation (CSO) of India is responsible for the coordination of statistical activities in India, and evolving and maintaining statistical standards. The CSO is headed by the Director-General who is assisted by Five additional Director-Generals and four Deputy Director-Generals, six Joint Directors, seven special task officers, thirty deputy directors, 48 assistant directors and other supporting staff. It has a well-equipped Graphical Unit. The CSO is located in Delhi.
The rationale for Merger:
- Both CSO and NSSO work under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI). Both have similar roles but focus on different metrics.
- Some of the Important Surveys/Indices published by CSO include GDP Growth Estimates, Consumer Price Index (CPI), Index of Industrial Production (IIP) and Annual Survey of Industries (ASI).
- On the other hand, the NSSO carries out periodic surveys related to consumption expenditure employment, land holdings, rural savings, Investment, etc. The NSSO and the CSO were functioning independently.
- In this regard, the merger of CSO and NSSO would eliminate duplication, activate synergies and resulting inefficiency.
Concerns related to the Merger
- The order says NSSO and CSO are to be merged into NSO. The secretary of the MoSPI would head NSO and he or she would be assisted by three director generals. However, the order does not explicitly states that the NSO would work under the purview of the National Statistical Commission. In this regard, critics have argued that the NSC would not able to exercise independent oversight mechanism over the functioning of NSO.
- It is to be noted that both NSSO and NSC were in news recently due to the controversy related to Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) Report. This report had stated that the unemployment rate in India has increased to 6.1% which is considered to be the highest in the last 45 years. The Government had stalled the release of this report, even though its release was authorized by NSC.
- Subsequently, it led to the resignation of two members of NSC. The critics have argued that the Government is undermining the NSC by keeping the NSO outside its purview. This raises serious questions about the independence of the process through which official survey data is collected and published.