14.5 Recommendations On Restructuring The Indian Statistical System
14.5 Recommendations on Restructuring the Indian Statistical System
14.5.1 In the light of the experience of other countries, especially the UK to meet the problem of coordination and to ensure public trust in statistics, it is necessary to restructure the Indian Statistical System as per suggestions given in the succeeding paragraphs. The creation of a permanent and statutory National Commission on Statistics (NCS) is envisaged as a pre-requisite for improving the System. This is more or less on the lines of the UK except that the Indian NCS would have more authority in certain respects to cope with the federal structure of the Indian polity.
National Commission on Statistics
14.5.2 As official statistics play a major role in assessing the performance of Government, it is important that such statistics are not only accurate, but are also trusted as such by the layman as well as by its principal users. This is ensured if a high-level policy-making body that has commensurate authority and obligations, oversees the statistical system. This is not a new concept. For instance, in the Nehruvian era, Professor P.C. Mahalanobis, an independent non-official was the Honorary Statistical Adviser to the Cabinet, had this kind of authority, but his authority was entirely personal with no formal institutional arrangement. The Governing Council of the NSSO also had complete autonomy in respect of sample surveys conducted by the NSSO. The NABS was intended to be an institutional arrangement for the statistical system as a whole, but it did not succeed because it lacked legal backing. The Commission recommends creation of a permanent and statutory apex body – the National Commission on Statistics (NCS) – independent of the Government and responsible to the Parliament in respect of policy-making, coordination and certification of quality of Core Statistics.
14.5.3 The NCS should be entrusted with functions broadly categorised as follows so as to:
Serve as a nodal and empowered body for all core statistical activities of the country;
Evolve, monitor and enforce statistical priorities and standards;
Ensure strong coordination through a closer linkage between statistical programming and budgeting.
14.5.4 The NCS will be constituted through an Act of Parliament. It will determine the areas of official statistics that are to be considered as core or critical to the functioning of the economy and accordingly prioritise the statistical activities of National Statistical System. The statistics defined under critical areas could be called Core Statistics. The Core Statistics will have the following characteristics:
They should be of national importance;
It will be mandatory for the Governments at all levels to collect and disseminate them;
They should conform to prescribed definitions, concepts and standards laid down by the NCS;
They should be updated periodically, with suitable periodicity to be determined; and
They will be available at both aggregate and disaggregate levels, wherever appropriate.
14.5.5 The Core Statistics will be identified and accessed from all critical areas of the economy including agriculture, socio-economic sector, demographic, industrial, labour and employment, finance. The NCS will ensure that the production of statistics and their release are free from Government influence, by designating appropriate statistical institutions or functionaries to be solely and independently responsible for these functions. In designating the statistical institutions or functionaries for the collection and release of Core Statistics on different subjects, the NCS will adhere to the distribution of subjects in the Union, State, and Concurrent Lists of the Constitution of India. Though the compilation and release of statistics will be the sole responsibility of the agency concerned, the NCS will exercise a statistical audit over the statistical activities to ensure quality and integrity of the statistical products. The Act would empower the NCS to make it binding on all agencies responsible for the Core Statistics to comply with the directives of the NCS. The NCS would be required to submit its Report annually to Parliament regarding its own functioning, and that of other statistical agencies and about the statistical situation in the country.
14.5.6 The directive principle for the NCS will be that it shall work within the framework of a decentralised National Statistical System, both laterally among Central Ministries and vertically among the State Governments. In this context, it would be pertinent to mention that the National-level Statistics, in most cases, will be merely State -level aggregation of statistics. Particularly, its orientation shall be that:
National statistics would mean entire set of statistics collected officially from administrative returns or through sample surveys.
Statistics at the all-India level are an aggregation of State-level statistics in most cases.
In advising on the collection of Core Statistics, the NCS would keep in view the optimum use of national resources, in context of essentially decentralised character of statistical system. The national resources mean the resources of both Central and State Governments together.
Further, the proposed system shall provide a direct approach by the States to the NCS on any statistical issue, and
The States shall have the opportunity to bring directly to the notice of the NCS, their reservation on any policy decisions taken by the NCS and to request for its consideration.
14.5.7 The Mission Statement of the Indian Statistical System shall be to provide, within the decentralised structure of the system, reliable, timely and credible social and economic statistics, to assist decision-making within and outside the Government, stimulate research and promote informed debate relating to conditions affecting people's life.
Functions of the NCS.
14.5.8 Within the framework of the decentralised system, the functions of the NCS would be to:
Evolve and arrange to monitor the nation-wide strategies on: Core Statistics; updating the list of Core Statistics; framing and monitoring the advance release calendar; dissemination of data;
Evolve and arrange to monitor the nation-wide strategies on: Human Resource Development for Official Statistics; Information Technology and Communication needs of the Statistical System;
Improve Public Trust in Statistics by: increasing and promoting public awareness of Official Statistics; monitoring and ensuring reduction of respondent burden; arranging interaction with data users;
Function as Apex Authority on Statistical Coordination: between Central Ministries, departments and other Central agencies; between Central and State Governments;
Ensure Quality Assurance of Statistical Processes; evolve and enforce appropriate statistical standards; declare quality with statistical releases; audit Statistical Activities; determine modality of the release of data;
Constitute Technical Committees or Working Groups to assist the NCS in performing various functions;
Assess legislative requirements periodically.
Constitution of NCS.
14.5.9 The NCS will have a Chairman and four Expert Members. Since the NCS would be primarily a policy-making body working through a number of technical committees and should not be involved in routine administration, given the function of the NCS and the time that the Chairman and members are expected to devote to them, the Chairman and the members should be appointed on a part-time basis. The tenure of both would be 3 years. For administrative purposes, the status of the members should be at least that of Secretary to the Government of India. The Chairman and members will be eminent statisticians or social scientists and represent the following indicative areas of specialisation:
Agriculture and allied areas including, Meteorology and Environment;
Industry, Trade, Finance, National Accounts and Infrastructure;
Population, Health, Education, Level of Living, Labour, Employment and other Socio-economic Sectors;
Survey Design, Analysis and Statistical Modelling;
Statistical Information System and Information Technology;
State Statistical Systems.
14.5.10 The NCS would be assisted by technical committees in the following illustrative list of subject areas:
National Accounts Statistics
Large-scale Sample Surveys
14.5.11 For budgetary purposes, the NCS would be in the Ministry of Statistics. The Secretary of the NCS would be the head of the National Statistical Organisation (NSO) described below. He will be called the National Statistician and would also be the Secretary to the National Commission on Statistics. He will have the rank of a Secretary to the Government of India. To assist him in the responsibilities, a core secretariat should be established in the NCS. The post of National Statistician will not be reserved for any organised service of the Government of India. Recruitment will be made by open selection from among professional statisticians with long technical and managerial experience in large statistical organisations.
National Statistical Organisation (NSO).
14.5.12 The NCS will operate through the National Statistical Organisation (NSO), which will be the official agency to implement policy decisions of the NCS. The NSO will function as the single full-fledged Department of the Ministry of Statistics of the Central Government headed by the National Statistician, who would be the Secretary of the Department. Essentially, the NSO would be the restructured form of the present Statistics Wing of the MoS&PI. The National Statistician, will be its technical and administrative Head. The National Statistician, would broadly be responsible for the following activities:
To provide leadership to statistical activities by promoting coordination with components of the National Statistical System, particularly with the State Directorates of Economics and Statistics;
Assist in evolving and implementing the National Statistical Strategy;
Assist the NCS to decide and reallocate statistical priorities;
Promote reliability and integrity of statistics;
Formulate and implement plan scheme in statistics (as ex-officio Adviser, Statistics to the Planning Commission).
Functions of the NSO.
14.5.13 The envisaged functions of the NSO are enumerated below:
Implement and maintain statistical standards and coordinate statistical activities of Central and State agencies as laid down by the NCS;
Compile National Accounts according to the latest international standards at regular periodic intervals;
Collect or arrange to collect Core Statistics, which have not been collected so far;
Participate in regional, national, and international statistical forums and meetings;
Carry out methodological research and studies;
Publish Core Statistics at regular intervals together with critical analysis regarding the quality of data and implication of the use of data in policy- making and administration;
Arrange in-service training course for statistical personnel, in cooperation with universities and research institutes;
Maintain a “warehouse” for Core Statistics, for dissemination amongst all users in the public and private sectors inside and outside the country and serve as the sole provider of information to foreign Governments, international bodies and United Nations agencies.
Proposed Structure of the NSO.
14.5.14 The NSO will comprise the following four offices. The present rank and status of the heads of the first three offices, which now form the Statistics Wing of the MoS&PI, should be maintained. The existing structure of MoS&PI is given at Annexe 14.7.
Central Statistical Office (CSO), to replace the present Central Statistical Organisation;
National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), to replace the present National Sample Survey Organisation;
Data Storage and Dissemination Office (DSDO), to replace the present Computer Centre;
Consultancy Wing (CW), new.
These will be divided into a suitable number of Divisions.
Central Statistical Office.
14.5.15 The Central Statistical Office (CSO) will comprise the following Divisions with functions given below the names:
Coordination, Standards and Administration Division
Formulation and maintenance of statistical standards in coordination with statistical agencies inside and outside the country;
General Administration and Budget.
Human Resource Development Division
Cadre Management – to maintain job and personnel database, arrange cadre review, filling up vacancies, transfer and posting;
Assessing training needs, arrange training programmes.
National Accounts Division
Compilation of National Accounts, Comparable State Domestic Product, Input Output Transaction Table, Capital formation, etc.
Economic Statistics Division
Expanded form of the present Industrial Statistics Division to be responsible for Annual Survey of Industries (ASI), Index of Industrial Production, Economic Census, Business Register, etc.
Social Statistics Division
Social Sector Statistics, Environment Statistics, Index Number of Prices and Cost of Living, etc.
Research and Publications Division
Methodological Research on applicable theoretical innovations, Empirical research based on statistics collected in different subject areas, Reconciliation of the data generated from different source agencies, Publication of occasional research papers.
National Sample Survey Office.
14.5.16 The National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) will comprise the same four Divisions with more or less the same functions as those of present NSSO.
Survey Design and Research Division (SDRD)
Plan and design sample surveys conducted by the NSO;
Develop and maintain suitable frames for sample surveys;
Prepare instructions, validation and tabulation programmes, report generation, etc. for the surveys;
Undertake studies in survey design and quality aspects of surveys;
Assess sampling and non-sampling error of survey data.
Field Operations Division (FOD)
Undertake fieldwork for surveys of the NSO;
Explore improvements in data collection methodology jointly with SDRD.
Data Processing Division (DPD)
Transcribe, clean and tabulate survey data;
Develop related software.
Coordination and Publication Division (CPD)
Monitor survey activities;
Publish survey reports and the journal, Sarvekshana.
Data Storage and Dissemination Office.
14.5.17 The Data Storage and Dissemination Office (DSDO), with no break-up into Divisions, would perform the following functions:
Acquire from different sources Core Statistics, organise, store and disseminate them on electronic media and serve as a data warehouse;
Train data users;
Use excess capacity for data processing.
Consultancy Wing .
14.5.18 The Consultancy Wing (CW) would cater to the increasing demand for professional statistical services, especially within the Government. Presently, this demand is being partially catered to by private agencies whose competence could be questionable. It is understood that some Central and State Government departments have been incurring an annual expenditure of the order of a few hundred crores of rupees on account of out-sourced studies, surveys and consultancy work. An indicative list of some such projects assigned by the Government Departments to outside agencies is given in Annexe 14.8. The Consultancy Wing will aim to cater to the increasing demand for investigations and studies of a statistical nature and provide related professional statistical services that cannot be accommodated in the existing arrangements within the Government. This Wing would essentially function as an autonomous body and aim to be the commercial wing for professional statistical activities. In its nascent stage it will be nurtured by the NSO, before it hives off as an independent corporate entity outside the Government.
14.5.19 To start with, it may undertake projects from Governmental and international agencies regarding data collection, processing, analysis and report generation through sample surveys or other means on topics assigned to it. It could also take-up consultancy services relating to statistical problems including methodological studies and model building. It would carry out detailed analytical reporting, consultancy (both national and international) and compete in the consultancy market on commercial terms. Some of the activities include methodological studies, surveys, macro-econometric modelling and forecasting, and consultancy to the State Governments. It will adhere to the appropriate statistical standards and methodology. The Consultancy Wing would be free to hire skilled personnel for project-specific work including officers of the Indian Statistical Service on deputation.
14.5.20 This being a new activity, the Commission recommends that the organisational structure for it should evolve along with the growth of its activities.
Improvement of lateral coordination at the Centre through Statistical Advisers.
14.5.21 At present there is no institutional mechanism through which the MoS&PI can effectively coordinate with different ministries at the Centre in statistical matters. The Commission is of the view that heads of the statistical divisions in the ministries and departments should be responsible for the professional integrity in the statistical activities of their departments and improvement of these activities. In discharging their responsibility, they will work closely with the National Statistician as the head of the national statistical system. They will be responsible to the National Statistician for the professional quality of their work. They will collaborate with the National Statistician in their professional responsibilities while remaining in the administrative organisation of their ministries or departments. The heads of the statistical divisions, to be designated as Statistical Advisers, would thus have dual responsibilities – assisting the concerned ministry in matters of statistics and coordinating with the National Statistician in respect of maintenance of quality standards as laid down by the NCS. Considering the high level of responsibility of their posts, the Commission recommends that the Statistical Advisers in the major ministries or departments, such as Agriculture, Industry, Commerce, Finance, Health, Water Resources, etc. would be of rank one step below the National Statistician, while in other ministries and departments, the Statistical Advisers should be of a sufficiently high rank (see Annexe 14.9). The Statistical Adviser would:
Be designated as the ‘Nodal Officer’ with regard to all statistical matters pertaining to the ministry or department;
Assist the Secretary of the administrative ministry or department in all statistical matters;
Be associated closely with the National Statistician in implementing the guidelines outlined by the NCS;
Coordinate flow of information to and from the NSO.
Improvement of coordination with the States by empowering the State Directorate of Economics and Statistics
14.5.22 The close vertical coordination between the Statistical Divisions of the ministries of the Government of India and those of the departments of the State Governments, and between the CSO and the State Directorate of Economics and Statistics (DES), has been the strength of the decentralised Indian Statistical System. The weakness of the lateral coordination so far at the Centre between the CSO and the Government of India ministries had also led to weak lateral coordination in the States (where the statistical system is not fully centralised) between the State’s DES and the statistical units of the departments. The system did not formally provide for a review by the DES of the content and methodology of the statistics collected by other State Government departments.
14.5.23 With the creation of the NCS and establishment of an NSO that will have a wider role than that of the present CSO, the lateral coordination at the Centre between the NSO and Central Ministries will greatly improve with a much more cohesive approach to the statistics of the ministries. The new institutional arrangement will not however loosen the present strong ties of vertical coordination between the CSO and Government of India, ministries on the one hand and the DES and State Government departments on the other. On the contrary, it should lead to a strong lateral coordination at the level of the States.
14.5.24 To ensure that this takes place, the existing coordination of the State DES should be widened to cover technical coordination. The Directorates of Economics and Statistics should be formally entrusted with the responsibility for a periodic review of the content, methodology and output of the statistics of all State departments and to make suggestions for the further improvement of these statistics. The Conference of Central and State Statisticians should be held regularly. A similar forum for a meeting of State Departmental Statisticians should be created by the State Governments to review the performance of the statistical system of each State. The report of the review and the suggestions may be forwarded by the DES to NSO and by the departments to the corresponding ministries, for action at the Centre (see next section).
14.5.25 The enhanced role of the DES and the wider technical discussion of the State’s Statistics will help State Governments take a holistic view of the State’s Statistical system to enhance its utility to the State Governments and indirectly to achieve the same result at the Centre (see next section).
14.5.26 The Commission recommends that a Centrally-sponsored scheme for strengthening the statistical system in the States be drawn up immediately for inclusion in the Tenth Five Year Plan, with the specific objectives of developing a survey and data-processing capability in the States.
14.5.27 The earlier mechanism of setting up working groups in the CSO to formulate the plan schemes in statistics at the all-India and State levels should be revived immediately for the Tenth Five Year Plan.