14.2 Present Indian Statistical system: Organisation

  • 14.2.1 The Indian Statistical System presently functions within the overall administrative framework of the country. The Indian federal structure has influenced the organisation of the statistical system as well. The division of administrative functions between the Government of India and the State Governments is on the basis of the subject classifications under the Union, State and Concurrent Lists as detailed in the Constitution of India. At the Centre, the responsibilities are further divided amongst the various ministries and departments, according to the Allocation of Business Rules, 1961 that are amended from time to time. The collection of statistics on any subject generally vests in the authority (Central Ministry or Department or State Government Department) that is responsible for that subject according to its status in the Union, State or Concurrent Lists. By and large, the flow of statistical information emanates from the States to the Centre except in cases where the State-level operations are an integral part of Centrally- sponsored schemes or data are collected through national sample surveys.
  • Statistical System at the Centre
    • 14.2.2 The collection of statistics for different subject-specific areas, like agriculture, labour, commerce, industry, etc. vests with the corresponding administrative ministries. More often than not, the statistical information is collected as a by-product of administration or for monitoring the progress of specific programmes. Some of the ministries, like Agriculture, Water Resources, Health, etc. have full-fledged statistical divisions, while most others have only a nucleus cell. Large-scale statistical operations like the Population Census, Annual Survey of Industries, Economic Census, etc. are generally centralised, and these cater to the needs of other ministries and departments, as well as State Governments. In important ministries, officers of the Indian Statistical Service (ISS) and subordinate statistical staff perform the statistical functions. The Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoS&PI) is the nodal agency for a planned development of the statistical system in the country and for bringing about coordination in statistical activities among statistical agencies in the Government of India and State Directorates of Economics and Statistics. Further details about the coordinating role of CSO along with its other activities have been given in the Report elsewhere.
  • Statistical System in the States
    • 14.2.3 The Statistical System in the States is similar to that at the Centre. It is generally decentralised laterally over the Departments of the State Government, with major Departments, such as, agriculture or health, having large statistical divisions for the work of departmental statistics. At the apex level is the Directorate (formerly Bureau) of Economics and Statistics (DES), which is formally responsible for the coordination of statistical activities in the State. The DESs have large organisations at the headquarters, with statistical offices in the districts and, in some cases, in the regions of the State. The statistical activity of the DESs is more or less uniform. They publish statistical abstracts and handbooks of the States, annual economic reviews or surveys, district statistical abstracts, and State budget analysis; work out the estimates of the State Domestic Product and Retail Price Index Numbers and engage in such other statistical activities as is relevant to the State. Most of them participate at least on a matching sample basis in the national Sample Survey Programme, and some of them carry out an Annual Survey of Industries for factories not covered by the ASI of the NSSO. Generally, the States do not have a common statistical cadre.
  • System Flow.
    • 14.2.4 The flow chart given below attempts to depict a simplified version of the present Indian Statistical System, the flow of Administrative Statistics, and the links between different statistical offices and the strength of those links. The unshaded part of the chart shows the system that existed long before the State Directorates of Economics and Statistics and the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) at the Centre were created, and which exists even now. It is a system built upwards from district offices of formerly Provincial and now State Government departments, to the level of these departments, and from there to the corresponding ministries at the Centre. This is its true representation: a collection of State-level systems forming a National system. In the current context, making the National system the starting point, from the perspective of an inverted view the system can be described as laterally decentralised among the Ministries of the Government of India (GOI), and in every one of them, vertically decentralised, between the Centre and the States. The bond between the State departments and the Central Ministries in the field of statistics has always been strong.
    • 14.2.5 The main features of the Indian Statistical System can be thus summarised as:
      • The Administrative Statistics System is its major component;
      • It is laterally and vertically decentralised;
      • In it, not only data collection but also compilation, processing and preparation of results are carried out by the States for most of the sectors; and
      • It is the State-wise results, which flow to the Centre, and statistics at the all-India level are obtained as the aggregates of State-level statistics.
    • Flow Chart 14.1: Indian Statistical System
      Central Statistical Organisation (CSO)       Statistical Units (SUs) of GOI Ministries
      < < <
        ^   ^         ^ ^ SU of GOI Ministry I     SU of GOI Ministry II  
        ^   ^         ^ ^
        ^   ^         ^ ^
        ^   ^         ^ ^
        ^   ^         ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^
        ^   ^         ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^
        ^   ^         ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^
        ^   ^         ^ ^ SU of State Govt. Dept. I SU of State Govt. Dept. II
        ^   ^         ^ ^
        ^   ^         ^ ^
        ^   ^         ^ ^
      State Directorates of Economics & Statistics(DES)       Statistical Units (SUs) of State Govt. Departments   ^         ^      
            ^ ^ ^
            ^ ^ ^
      < < < ^ ^ ^
            ^ ^ ^
                      District offices of Dept. I District offices of Dept. II
      > > > > Primary Flow of Administrative Statistics
      > > > > Subsequent flow of Administrative Statistics
      > > > > Strong Coordination
              Weak Coordination
    • 14.2.6 The question of lateral coordination, among Ministries at the Centre and among the Departments in the States, was not much of an issue when statistics were compartmentalised. It is a later-day need when, for treating all Government statistics as one subject, Central statistical offices were created at the Centre (the CSO) and in the States (the State Directorates of Economics and Statistics). When a single office was charged with the responsibility of bringing together all statistics relating to the country, and of examining them from the perspectives of quality, timeliness, accuracy and other desirable merits which statistics should possess, a new situation was created which, although it did not make the Ministry strictly answerable or accountable to the CSO for its statistics, required it at least to share information on the methodology and procedures of collecting those statistics with an office outside of itself. This created a new requirement, that of effective lateral coordination between the CSO on the one hand and the ministries on the other, for the system to function satisfactorily. The same situation was created in most States where, as the chart assumes, the system is fully laterally decentralised.
  • Functions of the Statistics Wing, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation
    • 14.2.7 The Statistics Wing of Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoS&PI) consists of the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), and Computer Centre. This is the apex body in the official statistical system of the country. Its responsibilities, as per Allocation of Business Rules, are the following:
      • Act as the nodal agency for planning an integrated development of the statistical system in the country.
      • Coordination of statistical work with a view to identifying gaps in data availability or duplication of statistical work in respect of the departments of the Government of India and State Statistical Bureaus (SSBs) and to suggest necessary remedial measures.
      • Lay down and ensure maintenance of norms and standards, in the field of statistics, involving concepts and definitions, methodology of data collection, processing of data and dissemination of results.
      • Advise the Departments of the Government of India on statistical analysis of data.
      • Prepare national and regional accounts as well as publication of annual estimates of national product, Government and private final consumption expenditure, capital formation, saving, estimates of capital stock and consumption of fixed capital, as also State-level gross capital formation of supra-regional sectors and to prepare comparable estimates of State Domestic Product (SDP) at current prices.
      • Compile and release the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) every month in the form of `quick estimates'; conduct an Annual Survey of Industries (ASI); and provide statistical information to assess and evaluate the changes in the growth, composition and structure of the organised manufacturing (factories) sector.
      • Organise and conduct periodic all-India Economic Census and Follow-up Enterprise Surveys.
      • Conduct large scale all-India sample surveys for creating database needed for studying the impact of specific problems for the benefit of different population groups in diverse socio-economic areas such as employment, consumer expenditure, housing conditions and environment, literacy levels, health, nutrition, family welfare, etc.
      • Examine the survey reports from a technical angle and to evaluate appropriate sampling design including survey feasibility studies in respect of surveys conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) and other Central Ministries and Departments.
      • Provide an in-house facility to process data collected through various socio-economic surveys and Follow-up Enterprise Surveys of the Economic Census conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation and the Central Statistical Organisation.
      • Disseminate statistical information on various aspects through a number of regular or ad hoc publications to Government, semi-Government, or private data user and agencies; and dissemination of data, on request, to United Nations Agencies like the United Nations Statistical Organisation, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and International Labour Organisation; and other international agencies.
      • Give grants-in-aid to registered Non-Governmental Organisations and research institutions of repute for undertaking special studies or surveys, printing of statistical reports, and finance seminars, workshops, or conferences relating to different subject areas of official statistics.
      • Function as the Cadre Controlling Authority and deal with the centralised aspects of managing the Indian Statistical Service including all matters pertaining to training, career planning and manpower planning.
      • Ensure the functioning of the Indian Statistical Institute in accordance with the provisions of the Indian Statistical Institute Act, 1959 (57 of 1959).
    • Central Statistical Organisation
      • 14.2.8 With a view to coordinating statistical activities of the different ministries of the Government of India and the State Governments and the evolving of statistical standards, the CSO was established in May 1951. The responsibilities of CSO include coordinating statistical activities and liaison with the Central Government Departments, State Governments and International Agencies; preparation of national accounts; conducting Annual Survey of Industries, Economic Censuses and their Follow-up Enterprise Surveys; constructing IIP and consumer price indices for urban non-manual employees; compiling Social Sector Statistics; imparting training in official statistics; formulating a Five Year Plan programme relating to development of statistics in the States and Union Territories; disseminating various statistical information including those relating to social and environment statistics; undertaking periodic revision of National Industrial Classification, etc. The CSO is also responsible for periodically conducting the Conference of Central and State Statistical Organisations.
      • 14.2.9 The Director General (post lying vacant since September 1997) heads the CSO, a post that has recently been upgraded to the level of Special Secretary to Government of India. Three Additional Director Generals, four Deputy Director Generals and a team of other officers and supporting staff assist him in his work. The CSO is organised into the following major Divisions: National Accounts Division, Industrial Statistics Division, Economic Census Division, Social and Miscellaneous Statistics Division and Training Division.
      • 14.2.10 Most of the activities of the CSO have been critically discussed and recommendations for improvement given elsewhere. The remaining activities – Coordinating role, Economic Census and Follow-up Enterprise Surveys of Economic Census – are discussed below.
      • Coordinating role of the CSO
        • 14.2.11 One of the major responsibilities of the CSO is to act as the nodal agency for planned development of the statistical system of the country. The CSO is entrusted with the responsibility not only to coordinate the statistical activities of the Government of India and State Directorates of Economics and Statistics (DESs) but also to lay down and maintain norms and standards in the field of statistics. Though the CSO has no legal authority to enforce standards and coordination, the work is done through institutional arrangements like inter-departmental meetings of Working Groups, Technical Advisory Committee on various subjects, Standing Committee, etc. in the case of Central Ministries. Coordination with States was through appointed liaison officers, meetings with high-level statistical coordination committees of the State Governments and also through a Conference of Central and State Statistical Organisations (COCSSO).
        • 14.2.12 At the suggestion of the Standing Committee of Departmental Statisticians, the first Joint Conference of Central and State Statisticians was held in December 1951. During the period 1951-60, nine such sessions were held. In the year 1961, the Government of India constituted the Central Technical Advisory Council on Statistics to serve as an advisory body for the Department of Statistics constituted during the same year. It was also decided that the Annual Conference of Central and State Statisticians should be designated as the Central Technical Advisory Council on Statistics from its tenth session held in December 1961. During the period 1961-71, this Council had met only twice. In the year 1971, the above Council was renamed as the Conference of Central and State Statistical Organisations (COCSSO) with an objective to hold the COCSSO once in two years. The first meeting of the COCSSO was held in September 1971. During the period September 1971 – January 1992, ten such conferences were held. After a long period of inactivity, during October 2000, the COCSSO was organised with a limited purpose to mostly facilitate the members of the present Commission to interact with the representatives of the States, Union Territories and Central Ministries and Departments for assessing their views on various issues identified by the Commission.
        • 14.2.13 As per the recommendations of the Kripa Narain Committee as early as 1980, a National Advisory Board on Statistics (NABS) was established in 1982. However, this mechanism could not succeed primarily because of official apathy and a lack of legal or constitutional backing, as the decision taken in this forum has no binding on any agency (see Para 14.3.13 for further details).
        • 14.2.14 The COCSSO provided a forum for exchange of views and experiences concerning the development of statistical activities in the country. However, this forum was not used; meetings were not held during February 1992 to September 2000. The other coordination mechanisms had also withered away.
      • Recommendations on the Coordinating Role of the CSO
        • 14.2.15The Commission recommends that:
          • The post of Director General (DG), Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), should be immediately filled up.
          • The practice of organising the Conference of Central and State Statistical Organisations once in two years should be revived.
          • A unit in the CSO should be created for proper documentation of various papers connected with the meetings of the various technical committees. The CSO should publish periodically technical monographs on different subjects piecing together recommendations relating to various issues.
          • The CSO, as a coordinating agency, should maintain a pool of eminent experts in different subject areas. This would be useful for getting comments on various statistical matters quickly and also for constituting various committees and working groups on technical matters.
          • The CSO should acquire membership of the important national as well as international statistical associations and institutions and participate in the conferences arranged by them so as to develop expertise in the field of official statistics.
          • In order to gain exposure to the methodologies adopted by other countries for compiling official statistics, arrangement should be made to get publications, journals and related documents brought out by the US Bureau of Census, Statistics Canada, Australian Bureau of Statistics, etc.
    • Economic Census and Follow-up Enterprise Surveys
      • 14.2.16 From the early fifties, information about unorganised economic activities is being collected through sample surveys. To improve the frame for such surveys, a periodic census of all enterprises (including those in the organised sector) was considered necessary. Accordingly, a scheme on Economic Census (EC) and Follow-up Enterprise Surveys was launched by the CSO in 1976 with two main objectives namely,
        • To provide a frame (list) from which samples could be drawn for collecting detailed information;
        • To provide at regular intervals some basic information on location, type of activity, nature of operation, etc. about the enterprises in the country and number of persons employed by them at the level of villages, and census enumeration blocks, i.e. EBs in case of large villages and urban areas (except in the recent EC in which Urban Frame Survey blocks of NSSO were used).
      • 14.2.17 So far four ECs have been conducted during 1977, 1980, 1990 and 1998, respectively. While the First (1977) and the Fourth (1998) ECs were independently conducted by the CSO, the Second (1980) and the Third (1990) were integrated with the house listing operations of the 1981 and 1991 Population Censuses, respectively.
      • 14.2.18 The EC, 1977 covered only non-agricultural establishments (i.e. enterprises employing at least one hired worker on a fairly regular basis). On the other hand, each of the other three subsequent ECs covered both agricultural (other than crop production and plantation) and non-agricultural activities and they covered establishments as well as own account enterprises (i.e. enterprises employing no hired worker on a fairly regular basis – i.e. run with the help of household members only).
      • 14.2.19 The EC is financed, planned and technically supervised by the MoS&PI but the fieldwork, data entry and preparation of State-wise results are done through the States.
      • 14.2.20 Each of the ECs collected certain basic items of information about the enterprises namely, location of enterprise, nature of operation, description of activity, type of ownership, social group of owner, whether power or fuel used and number of workers in the enterprise. However, there were inclusions of certain additional items in some of these ECs, for example, agency of registration in the First and Fourth ECs and value of annual output or turnover or receipt in the First EC.
      • 14.2.21 Using the EC frame, Follow-up Enterprise Surveys of all non-agricultural enterprises under the following sectors have been conducted at periodic intervals
        • Manufacturing,
        • Mining and quarrying,
        • Trade,
        • Hotels and restaurants, transport,
        • Storage and warehousing,
        • Other services.
      • 14.2.22 Until recently, the fieldwork for all the Follow-up Enterprise Surveys was carried out by the Field Operations Division of the NSSO under the technical supervision of the CSO (Economic Census Division) except in the case of manufacturing and trade (own account enterprises and non-directory establishments), which had been the responsibility of the NSSO. In 1998-99, a combined survey of all non-agricultural activities barring a few was taken up by the Department of Statistics without the approval of the Governing Council of the NSSO. After 1998-99, the entire survey work for all non-agricultural sectors has been spread over different years and been conducted by the NSSO, with the approval of the Governing Council.
      • 14.2.23 Processing of the data from the Follow-up Enterprise Surveys was the sole responsibility of the Computer Centre till 1993-94. Afterwards, the Data Processing Division of NSSO took over the data processing work of surveys planned by the NSSO.
      • Deficiencies
        • 14.2.24 The difficulties involved in conducting the Fourth EC have been enumerated in detail in the Report of its Monitoring Group. The difficulties clubbed under four major heads are:
          • Pre-Field Operations: Lack of statutory backing; failure to launch the scheme in time; inadequate time allowed for pre-field operations; delayed finalisation of rural and urban directories; absence of skeleton staff for undertaking the preliminaries; delay in creation and filling up of the posts sanctioned at the State Directorates of Economics and Statistics (DESs); lengthy schedules and instructions; delayed printing of schedules and instructions in local languages; difficulty in engaging primary enumerators; inadequate honorarium to enumerators and supervisors; inadequate training of enumerators and supervisors; and lack of public awareness and participation.
          • Field Operations: Non-completion of fieldwork within stipulated time period of one month; inadequate supervision; and difficulty in identification of Urban Frame Survey blocks.
          • Post-Field Operations: Delay in preparation of provisional results by most of the States; problems faced in the use of uniform software developed by the Computer Centre for data entry and processing; delay in identification and finalisation of data entry agency in some of the States; delay in finalisation of detailed results due to discrepancies in the data files and tabulated results received from the States; and difficulties in comparison of lower geographical level results over different Economic Censuses on account of re-alignment of boundaries.
          • General Administrative Problems: Delay in release of funds to the DESs by the respective State Governments; and lack of facility for quick communication with States and Union Territories.
      • Recommendations on the Economic Census and Follow up Enterprise Surveys
        • 14.2.25The Commission recommends that:
          • In future the operation of EC should be part of house listing operations of the decennial Population Census. For this purpose, the census EBs and UFS blocks have to be linked in a manner such that each UFS block is made up of a number of complete census EBs. Since this involves close cooperation between the MoS&PI and the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, the issue should be taken up immediately. If for this purpose, changes are required in the Census Act, they should be made.
          • Proper remedial measures should be taken to improve the quality of data in the Follow-up Enterprise Surveys as the existing sampling design and method of data collection have failed to provide satisfactory data. The responsibility of designing all the Follow-up Enterprise Surveys should rest with the NSSO.
    • Business Register: Recommendations
      • 14.2.26 The Commission recognised the need for conducting a Survey of Non-Manufacturing Industries (SNMI) covering “bigger” units, other than those in the public sector. The “smaller” units are to be covered through Follow-up Enterprise Surveys of the Economic Census. To facilitate the SNMI, it is necessary to develop a list of such units for being used as the frame for sampling. The Commission feels that a beginning in this direction could be made by combining together available lists of such units – like the frame of the Fourth Economic Census, ASI frame, lists maintained by the Department of Company Affairs, Development Commissioner of Small Scale Industries, Municipalities and Sales Tax Departments of State and Union Territory Governments, various Associations or Chambers of Commerce, etc. The list so developed should contain in addition to identification details of the units, other relevant items of information to make it a so-called Business Register.
      • 14.2.27 The methodology for combining the lists, criterion for “bigness”, items of information to be included, procedure for updating the list are all complex issues, which should be left to a technical group for examination. To what extent this work can be done with the involvement of State Governments and local agencies should also be examined in consultation with the State DESs.
      • 14.2.28 An approach indicated in the paper (Annexe 14.1), prepared by the Secretariat of the National Statistical Commission, could be used as a starting point by the technical group. The Commission would however like to emphasise that after the project has been formulated, it should be implemented in phases starting with a pilot phase.
    • National Sample Survey Organisation
      • 14.2.29 The National Sample Survey (NSS), initiated in the year 1950, is a nation-wide, large-scale, continuous survey operation conducted in the form of successive rounds. It was established on the basis of a proposal from Professor P.C. Mahalanobis to fill up data gaps for socio-economic planning and policy-making through sample surveys.
      • 14.2.30 Initially, all aspects relating to the designing of surveys, processing of data and preparation of reports were entrusted to the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI). The then Directorate of NSS in the Government of India had been responsible for carrying out the fieldwork in all areas except the State of West Bengal and Bombay City, where the fieldwork was carried out by the ISI. To get rid of inordinate delay in release of survey results, all aspects of survey work were brought under a single umbrella by setting up the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) under the resolution dated 5th March 1970. However, the delays persisted till the nineties, when with effective use of modern electronic computers the problem was finally resolved. Since its creation, the NSSO has been functioning under the overall direction of a Governing Council with autonomy in the matter of collection, processing and publication of survey data, thus ensuring freedom from political and bureaucratic interference.
      • Current Status
        • 14.2.31 The NSSO carries out Household and Enterprise Surveys, undertakes the fieldwork for the Annual Survey of Industries, provides technical guidance to the States in respect of the Crop Estimation Surveys besides assessing the quality of primary work done by the State Agencies in area enumeration and yield estimation, prepares the urban frames useful for selection of urban blocks for the surveys and collects price data for rural retail prices as well as selected items consumed by the urban non-manual employees required for the preparation of consumer price indices for agricultural labourers and urban non-manual employees, respectively.
        • 14.2.32 The Director General and Chief Executive Officer (DG&CEO) heads the NSSO. He is responsible for implementing all activities of the organisation. The NSSO has four Divisions namely, the Survey Design and Research Division (SDRD), Field Operations Division (FOD), Data Processing Division (DPD), and Coordination and Publication Division (CPD), with each Division headed by an Additional or Deputy Director General. The headquarters of both the SDRD and the DPD are located at Kolkata. The DPD has Data Processing Centres at Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Giridih, Kolkata and Nagpur. While the headquarters for the CPD are located at Delhi, the headquarters for the FOD are located at Delhi and Faridabad with a network of Zonal Offices, Regional Offices and Sub-Regional Offices spread over the country.
        • 14.2.33 The NSS is carried out in the form of successive rounds. A unique feature of the NSS is that all the State and Union Territory Governments except the Union Territories of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Lakshadweep participate in the programme at least on an equal matching sample basis. Since its inception in 1950, the NSS has collected data on a large number of subjects of interest. Annexe 14.2 indicates the subjects covered in the NSS during last 10 years.
        • 14.2.34 The NSS has completed its 56th Round of survey in June 2001. The subjects of enquiry were unregistered manufacture, household consumer expenditure and employment-unemployment. The fieldwork of the NSS 57th Round (covering household consumer expenditure, employment-unemployment and most of the non-agricultural economic activities other than manufacturing and trade) is in progress and is likely to be completed by the end of June 2002.
        • 14.2.35 The activities of the NSS have been reviewed by Expert Committees from time to time. The latest one set up in September 1998 was a two-man Expert Committee comprising Professor J. Roy, Research Professor Emeritus, ISI, Kolkata and Shri S. Ramanatha Iyer, formerly Director, FOD, NSSO. The Expert Committee, in its report submitted in March 1999, made a number of recommendations on the functioning of the organisation. The Commission considered the Report of the Expert Committee. Major recommendations of this Committee along with the important views on these recommendations from some experts are summarised in Annexe 14.3 . The Commission also forwarded a query to the major data users and producers on the adequacy of the subject coverage and the periodicity of data collection on different subjects in the NSS. The queries raised along with a summary of responses received are placed in Annexe 14.4.
      • Strength of the NSS
        • 14.2.36 The NSS is the largest repetitive survey operation in the world. It provides important data on various socio-economic characteristics, to meet the needs of planners, policy makers, researchers and other users.
        • 14.2.37 The sample surveys are all scientifically designed so that great attention is paid to control of sampling and non-sampling errors. To account for seasonal variations, the survey operations (for yearlong surveys) are spread out by conducting the survey over quarterly seasons in the form of four sub-rounds.
        • 14.2.38 The greatest strength of the NSS lies in its complete freedom from administrative and political influence, which is ensured through its autonomous Governing Council (GC) comprising academicians, professional statisticians and users.
        • 14.2.39 Some of the landmark findings of the NSS which greatly influenced administrative decisions are:
          • Alarming growth of population during early fifties,
          • Self-sufficiency in food production in late sixties,
          • Pattern of landholdings,
          • Number of persons with different kinds of physical handicaps,
          • Changes in consumption pattern, etc.
        • 14.2.40 Permanent and well-trained investigators carry out fieldwork in the NSS. This ensures maintenance of uniformity in concepts and definitions adopted for data collection. On the other hand, this may also cause occupational boredom, lead to too much familiarity with the subjects and breed complacency.
        • 14.2.41 The NSS provides alternative information to act as a crosscheck on the data generated on population, enterprises, agriculture and livestock through various censuses conducted by the respective agencies.
        • 14.2.42 The Commission is happy to note that through dedicated teamwork, the NSSO released as many as thirty-one reports covering results of seven NSS Rounds, 48th (January – December 1992) to 54th (January – June 1998) during 1998 and 1999. With a clearing of the backlog of all the earlier survey results, the NSSO could start data processing for the NSS 55th Round (July 1999 – June 2000) almost concurrently with the collection of data and release key results of the NSS 55th Round in the form of four reports by December 2000, i.e. within six months after completion of the fieldwork (see Annexe 14.5 for details). A remarkable achievement indeed!
        • 14.2.43 The reports are now made available to any user in the form of printed publications or on floppy disks. Unit-level data are also available on floppy disks. Both are priced on a marginal cost basis. The demand for the reports is on the rise: the proceeds from sale of reports increased from about Rs. 1.64 lakh in 1998-99 to Rs. 2.19 lakh during 2000-01.
      • Deficiencies
        • 14.2.44 The scientific approach of problem solving through analytical studies and pilot experiments, for which the NSS was well known in its early days, have been given up under the pressure of day-to-day work. Survey sampling activities at the NSSO have almost been routinised.
        • 14.2.45 Almost from its inception, for most of its sample surveys the NSS has been using a standard sampling design: inter-penetrating, multi-stage, stratified, probability-proportional-to-size, circular systematic. There is no system of carrying out methodological studies for assessing the suitability of the sampling design and bringing about improvements.
        • 14.2.46 Though circular systematic sampling was an excellent innovation in the early fifties, the method has serious disadvantages. Although it allows estimation of the sampling error through inter-penetrating sub-samples, it has no way of relating the error to the sample size. It does not provide any rational way of determining, for example, the number of households, villages and urban blocks to be sampled.
        • 14.2.47 There is no regular mechanism in the NSSO to analyse the quality of the survey results. Very seldom does the NSSO provide the users an indication of the margin of error of the statistics published by it.
        • 14.2.48 The Governing Council (GC) of the NSSO, as an autonomous body, provides technical guidance on the conduct of the NSS. However, the Commission has noted that the GC has no role in certain activities of the NSSO like the collection of data in the Annual Survey of Industries, price collection and the work relating to compilation of Agricultural Statistics. The Commission also noted that in 1998-99, a survey of major non-agricultural activities was conducted by the Department of Statistics using all the resources of the NSSO but without approval from the GC.
        • 14.2.49 All the resources of the NSSO are at present tied up with the regular survey work. No separate resources are available for quickly conducting an enquiry, the need for which might suddenly arise. There is no resource available to take up methodological studies including trying out innovations in survey practice.
        • 14.2.50 Though the States collect a matching sample, the results from the State and Central samples have seldom been pooled together to provide more reliable estimates at the State level.
        • 14.2.51 The NSSO has not been able to inform and educate the laymen about its activities and explain how these are beneficial to the public and the Government. The result has been the general indifference of the public towards the NSSO activities and consequent lack of cooperation.
        • 14.2.52 Recently, large divergences between NSS estimates and those based on other sources have drawn critical attention of the media. Very seldom have efforts been made by the NSSO to examine the nature of such divergences and offer an explanation. Of late, an Expert Committee to review the divergences in the alternative data sets looked into some of these issues and made useful recommendations.
        • 14.2.53 There are occasions in the recent past when the sampling design or method of data collection followed for a long time has been changed without adequate experimentation and sometimes even in the middle of a round. This has affected the quality and comparability of the survey results. A study carried out by Professor J. Roy on the consumer expenditure data collected by the NSSO in its 51st (July 1994 – June 1995) to 54th (January – June, 1998) Rounds, showed that there was no pattern in the change over time in respect of over 45 per cent of parameters while it is very reasonable to expect an approximately linear growth. This is a serious defect. Ad hoc arbitrary procedural changes in these rounds seem to be the reason.
        • 14.2.54 For several rounds of the survey during the nineties, on the plea of economy, the existing practice of constituting technical working groups for the purpose was arbitrarily given up. This brought down the quality of the surveys as the study by Professor J. Roy has shown.
        • 14.2.55 Generally, determination of sample size for various States and Union Territories is solely based on the number of field investigators available. The practice followed has no statistical justification.
        • 14.2.56 Most of the schedules canvassed by the NSS are unduly long causing respondents’ fatigue and thereby affecting the quality of the data.
        • 14.2.57 The Commission has observed that, at times, the planning of a round of the survey has been considerably delayed. This affects the overall efficiency of the surveys and should be avoided.
        • 14.2.58 In the past, the NSSO’s journal, Sarvekshana used to contain many important articles and papers related to NSS. But over the years, the practice has almost stopped. At present, the journal contains mostly the survey reports prepared by the NSSO.
        • 14.2.59 The Commission has also observed that there is an acute stagnation of a large number of staff in the organisation.
      • Recommendations relating to the functioning of NSSO
        • 14.2.60 The Commission has taken note of the pioneering role played by the NSSO in the field of conducting large-scale sample surveys on various socio-economic characteristics. It has also considered the Report of the Roy-Iyer Review Committee and the comments on it, as also the views of data users on subject coverage and periodicity of data collection in the NSS. The Commission makes recommendations under the following heads: (a) Organisational, (b) Methodological, (c) Survey Programme, and (d) Publicity and Dissemination.
        • 14.2.61 Regarding organisational aspects, the Commission makes the following recommendations:
          • All activities of the NSSO, presently excluded from the scope of the NSSO Governing Council, such as Annual Survey of Industries, Price Collection, or Agricultural Statistics, should be brought within the scope of the Governing Council.
          • Highest priority should be given to develop specialised skills in the methodology of large-scale sample surveys.
          • The NSSO through the Government of India should become an institutional member of the International Association of Survey Statisticians.
          • The nature of the departmental journal, Sarvekshana should be changed to make it a medium of publication of technical papers based on NSS data or related to survey practice.
          • E-mail facilities should be made available to all offices of the NSSO and video discussion facilities between pairs of important offices.
          • Steps should be taken to re-distribute total available resources, particularly investigators, among the States and Union Territories on a rational basis.
          • The practice of field visits by officers of the SDRD, FOD and DPD followed up by interactive feedback sessions should be restored.
          • Planning for any survey should start well in advance so that necessary requirements could be completed in time.
        • 14.2.62 On methodological issues, the Commission recommends that a Methodological Study Unit should be set up in the NSSO to regularly undertake studies for bringing in improvements in the survey methodologies. The unit should be equipped with library and computer facilities. The requisite number of field and data processing staff should be transferred to this unit. Some topics which can be taken up urgently are listed below:
          • Pilot studies on the effectiveness of intensive stratification and one-by-one sampling in place of systematic sampling.
          • Theoretical and empirical studies on the use of time series data and information from sources outside the current survey, and to borrow strength from them to improve the precision of estimates through the technique of small area estimation.
          • Exploring use of the rotational sampling design for selection of first stage units for repetitive surveys to make comparisons over time more precise and cut down the cost of listing of first stage units.
          • Developing suitable procedures for data collection pertaining to the Trade and Services Sectors to get better estimates of value added.
          • Reconciliation of divergence between data from different sources and assessment of their quality.
          • Ascertaining reasons as to why aggregates are usually underestimated in NSS while there is no such problem with averages and ratios.
          • Examining the feasibility of reducing the size of schedules canvassed by the NSS without affecting quality.
          • Extracting useful information from the listing schedule.
        • 14.2.63 On survey programme, the Commission makes the following recommendations:
          • The present practice of covering various subjects with the existing periodicity should be continued. All the Follow-up Enterprise Surveys of Economic Census currently undertaken should be the responsibility of the NSSO. A ten-year programme indicating the subject coverage should be prepared and released in advance for the benefit of the users.
          • There should be flexible arrangements for the inclusion of a few selected items of topical interest to the Government as an additional feature in the normal NSS programme.
          • The NSSO may undertake, along with its normal programme, very short duration (monthly) surveys, each devoted to one topic of interest to any GOI Ministry, and produce results in a short period. After trying this on a modest basis, if the experiment shows that the users appreciate the scheme of such supplementary surveys, the scheme should be incorporated on a permanent basis and the necessary additional resources provided to the NSSO.
        • 14.2.64 The Commission makes the following recommendations regarding publicity campaigns and dissemination of data:
          • The commencement of a new survey and the main results of a concluded survey should be widely publicised through newspapers, magazines, radio and TV. Regular publicity campaigns should be arranged by the Government to apprise the respondents of the role played by the NSS in meeting the data requirements.
          • The NSSO should identify two or three important characteristics in every round for quick release.
          • All publications of survey results of the NSSO should contain an assessment of the associated errors.
          • The NSSO should play an important role in apprising the Government, as early as feasible, of the changes taking place in the structure of the society, with respect to some of the important variables for which data are collected every year, like literacy level, employment-unemployment situation, sex ratio, consumption pattern, etc.
          • For providing an idea of the soundness of the estimates, the marginal totals of the number of reporting units should be indicated in the tables of the NSS reports for important survey characteristics.
    • Computer Centre
      • 14.2.65 The Computer Centre was set up in 1967 as an office attached to the then Department of Statistics, Cabinet Secretariat, to cater to the data processing needs of the Department and other Departments in the Government of India. Since then it has effectively performed the task of building up a database for many organisations of the Government of India, and has also played an important role in imparting intensive training in systems analysis and data processing. The Computer Centre is headed by a Deputy Director General.
      • 14.2.66 The Computer Centre has undertaken the responsibility of processing and tabulation of NSS data right from the 27th Round (1972-73) onwards to the 50th Round (1993-94). Further, the Computer Centre undertook the summary and detailed tabulation of data for ASI 1974-75 to ASI 1992-93. The software for processing and tabulation of data of the Economic Census (EC) of 1977, 1980, 1990 and 1998 was also developed by the Computer Centre. The software developed for the Economic Census 1998 was also made available to the States for data entry, validation, processing and tabulation of State-level data. The data of different Follow-up Enterprise Surveys of the CSO have been processed at the Computer Centre. The processing of monthly price data, right from data entry to production of final consumer price index for urban non-manual employees CPI (UNME), is also being carried out at the Computer Centre. The Centre also completed the data processing work of the Time Use Survey, conducted by the CSO in collaboration with six participating States.
      • 14.2.67 As per the ‘National Policy on Dissemination of Data’, approved by the Cabinet in January 1999, the Computer Centre has been entrusted with the responsibility for the creation and maintenance of the National Data Warehouse of Official Statistics. The Computer Centre has initiated action in this regard. Under the project, the Computer Centre will preserve data generated by various Central Ministries, State Governments and Public Sector Undertakings on electronic media, organise the data in the form of databases and provide remote access facilities to users through a network. A large volume of data, including those pertaining to various NSS rounds and Annual Surveys of Industries (ASI), has already been preserved by the Computer Centre on electronic media. These are now being disseminated to a large number of users. The users would be further benefited in the coming years if the Computer Centre starts functioning as a data-warehousing unit not only of official statistics generated by the MoS&PI but also of those generated by various other Central Ministries, State Governments and Public Sector Undertakings.
      • 14.2.68 With effect from September 1999, the Computer Centre has also been given the responsibility for the creation, design and update of the MoS&PI’s website hosted by the National Informatics Centre. Efforts are underway to make the website bi-lingual. The Computer Centre regularly updates the material available in the website. To the extent possible, press releases are also put on the website on the same day.
      • 14.2.69 Apart from processing monthly price data for compilation of CPI (UNME), the Computer Centre is responsible for the generation of all-India tables based on data collected through the Economic Censuses. The Computer Centre also conducts various training courses on IT for officials of Junior Certificate Courses in Statistics, software packages for middle-level Indian Statistical Service officers besides in-house training courses on new topics of IT for its officers and staff.
      • Deficiencies
        • 14.2.70 For several years in the past, one of the major and regular activities of the Computer Centre had been to tabulate the NSS data, ASI data and the data of periodic Enterprise Surveys planned by the Economic Census Division (ECD) of the CSO. But with the taking over of the tabulation work of the NSS and ASI data by the respective organisations and with the Centre now assigned the task of storing and dissemination of data, the Centre’s future course of activities needs to be properly assessed for effective utilisation of its resources.
        • 14.2.71 Only the post of the chief of the Computer Centre (Deputy Director General) has been encadred in the Indian Statistical Service. Therefore, there is a lack of mobility and promotional avenues for other officers working in the Centre.
      • Recommendations relating to the Computer Centre
        • 14.2.72 The Government has already decided to reorganise the Computer Centre as the Data Storage and Dissemination Office (DSDO) to act as the central repository of various data collected by the Government. It should be built by making use of modern data warehousing technology. A high-level technical group should be constituted immediately to work out the plan and a budget for setting up and maintaining the DSDO. As this is likely to take some time to be fully operational, the present Computer Centre should continue to take up data processing jobs for the proposed NSO.
        • 14.2.73 Recommendations relating to other uses of Information Technology in general are given in the section on Information Technology.
  • Role of the Private Sector in Statistics
    • 14.2.74 Arising out of the trend of downsizing the Government, and spurred by considerations of economy in long-term costs and of obviating the problems of staff management, and to avoid possible bias and lack of objectivity in data collected by Government departments a view seems to be gaining ground that Governments may engage the NGOs and other reputed “private” sector organisations as official data collection agencies.
    • 14.2.75 The other side of the argument is that the Government cannot abjure its primary duty to collect data on as many aspects of people’s life as possible, there is no guarantee that data collection by private agencies would not be subject to its own biases, that monitoring the quality of such data would be difficult, and finally, that the competence of such agencies may be doubtful.
    • Recommendations
      • 14.2.76 Since the issue relating to data collection by private agencies is complex and important, the Commission recommends that the proposed NCS would formulate the necessary guidelines in this respect from time to time. Till then a committee of Central and State statisticians and experts outside the Government should go into all aspects of the question, before any data collection work is outsourced by any Government agency in India.
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