New Delhi: Calling it a knee-jerk reaction, Surjit S Bhalla, the former member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Economic Advisory Council, in his book ‘Citizen Raj’ has said that withholding the NSSO unemployment data by the government was a “huge mistake”.
“The Modi government, owing to a knee-jerk reaction, has to date not released the report or the underlying raw data. This is a huge mistake. It will be desirable if the government cuts its losses and releases the data and the report,” Bhalla said. On another occasion, he had said the leak occurred “simply because of the reluctance of the part of the government”.
Bhalla joins a long list of experts who have expressed concerns over the holding back of the unemployment figures, which has snowballed into a huge controversy ahead of the general election.
Senior government officials had said that Niti Aayog had found shortcomings in PLFS methodology and had brushed aside the controversy over the “leaked report”, saying the NSSO data is not finalised and is a draft report.
R Nagaraj of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research told IANS that the unemployment data (Periodic labour force survey, PLFS) was not released and as per the laid out procedure and was behind schedule. “Niti Aayog has no role in the release of PLFS data. However, it has interfered in and found shortcomings in PLFS methodology and to the best of my knowledge, Niti Aayog does not have required expertise on statistical matters,” Nagaraj said.
Nagaraj, alongside several economists, in a statement released earlier last month, questioned the government’s intent behind the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) methodology revision.
and called for the restoration of independence of statistical bodies in light of the allegations that the government was suppressing uncomfortable data. Earlier this year, a report citing the National Sample Survey Office’s PLFS data, the publication of which was withheld, revealed that unemployment in the country was at a 45-year-high of 6.1 per cent in 2017-18.
Despite the high voltage debate around whether the government is trying to hide uncomfortable data, one piece of data that is no longer available is National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics on suicides in India, which was stopped after 2015.
The NCRB data was widely used to analyse farmers’ suicides and evidence of the agrarian distress.