14.6 The States Statistical System

  • Improving the Administrative Statistical System
    • 14.6.1 The Administrative Statistical System (AdSS) is in disarray in three sectors: agriculture, industry and labour, of which the first and the third belong to the States’ Statistical Systems (SSSs). In Agricultural Statistics, the system of regular yearly recording of area under crops has almost ceased to operate. Overburdened with all kinds of other work, the village official, the last point of revenue administration, whose basic function is the maintenance of land records, does not find time for this work. For a different reason, the same is true of the system of Labour Statistics. The Office of the Chief Inspector of Factories (CIF), charged with the implementation of the Factories Act (1948), does not even maintain an up-to-date list of factories, and neglects to collect the half-yearly and annual returns, the basic returns to be filed under the Act, from more than a third of the factories. The situation about education statistics is only a little better. The position about the collection of other Administrative Statistics is equally unsatisfactory. It may appear that the failure of the AdSS is restricted only to a few sectors. But its causes are not specific to these sectors and reflect such systemic degeneration as would be common to all. It is only a question of time before the AdSS collapses in other sectors. Therefore, the ills of these sectors have to be urgently remedied.
    • 14.6.2 The causes of the failure are of two different types. The first is the overburdening of the staff with other work to such an extent that they are left with no time for their normal work. The second failure occurs, without these extenuating circumstances, and consists in the neglect of the normal work by Government offices.
    • 14.6.3 The failure of the first type is a process that has started long ago. On one hand, one notes a constant reference being made to burgeoning bureaucracy; on the other, at the farthest end of the Government system, at the lowest level of village, the Government staff, the patwaris, the gramsevaks or primary teachers, is loaded with work as if the staff is a kind of infrastructure. Given our penchant for planning by campaigns, and with little thought paid to the consequences, this staff is burdened continually with ever-new assignments forcing it to neglect normal work. Apparently, in spite of their close bonds with the State Government departments, the ministries of the Government of India have not been able to deal with this problem effectively.
    • 14.6.4 It is apposite to mention another factor that affects not the AdSS but other statistical projects of the Indian Statistical System such as the Agricultural Census or the Livestock Census. The planners of these projects also adopt the same approach when they assign the project work to the lowest-level staff of patwaris, gramsevaks or primary teachers. Further, since the collection of data by these functionaries, costs almost nothing, reducing considerably the cost of the project, village-level staff become an easy choice as field workers. That also induces the ministries of the Government of India to plan censuses of different types rather freely; i.e. without having to consider the cost of fieldwork, and with freedom to choose the census as the means of collecting data, without having to consider alternative ways of collecting data. The result is that the staff have least respect for statistical work in general. They have also become aware of why they get loaded with such projects and are now hesitant to do such work conveying a message that the days of free data-collection are over.
  • Ebbing Efficiency of Government Administration
    • 14.6.5 The second cause for the failure of AdSS arises out of the ebbing efficiency and effectiveness of Government administration. As stated before, Administrative Statistics are generated indirectly as a part of Government administration from the quantitative information that departments collect in order to implement the Acts, Rules or Regulations, which also empower and require them to collect information from the relevant units in prescribed forms. Collection of information thus becomes a part of their normal function. The soundness of the AdSS thus depended on the assumption that the department carried out its functions satisfactorily. For example, quantitative and other information is collected from factories because it aids the Office of the Chief Inspector of Factories (CIF) to carry out its functions of inspection of factories to see that they satisfy the provisions under the Factories Act and other related Acts. Factories are required to furnish relevant information to the Office of the CIF in various forms (called factory returns) prescribed under Rules framed under the Acts, and it is the responsibility of the Office of the CIF to ensure that they do so. But when that office carries out its functions without a large proportion of factories having filed their returns, it should be obvious that it is not doing so as satisfactorily as it is expected to do. The growing unsatisfactory condition of factory statistics system is but a reflection of this unsatisfactory working of the Office of the CIF. In general, over the years, the system of Government administration is deteriorating. The failure of the AdSS is but a corollary of this deterioration of the system of Government administration.
    • 14.6.6 Neglect of normal duties by Government functionaries has caused a failure of Government administration in both cases. In the first case, the Government officers or offices responsible for Government statistics are different from those whose officers or staff are responsible for data collection: Agricultural Statistics office and Revenue Department, and State’s statistical office and the Office of the CIF, respectively. Since the problem involves different departments, only the highest level of Government administration, the Chief Secretaries of the States, can resolve it. The State Governments should appreciate that the AdSS is the prime responsibility of the State Governments, that the entire structure of the Indian Statistical System is founded on its basis, that the AdSS is presently in a state of collapse in certain sectors, and that the effects of this collapse will not be restricted to particular States but will affect the completeness and quality of national statistics. They have to take urgent steps to remedy the situation by resolving administrative problems in some cases and toning up the administration in others. The States have played a dominant role in building the National Statistical System known for its soundness all these years. Inaction by States about the AdSS will gravely impair the national system. That will necessarily lead to a creation of alternative systems by the Central Government, which will be centralised, and will produce statistics which the States will have to accept in place of those they have failed to generate from their own systems. The States will thus lose power over the field of statistics, which belongs to the Concurrent List of subjects in the Constitution. The Commission therefore highlights the seriousness of the whole issue, and its implication for not only the States but for National Government as well. Without improvement in Government administration and a resolution of the administrative problem of excess burden of work on the staff, attempts at revamping the statistical system of the whole country in isolation can only be partially successful.
    • 14.6.7 The extent to which this central issue is resolved will set measure for the effectiveness of improvements in interconnected aspects of the States’ Statistical Systems (SSSs) and in turn of the Indian Statistical System. However, independently of the resolution of this central issue, attempts at improvements in other aspects of the statistical system should have their own positive influence of encouraging the State Government authorities to address the central issue of the AdSS.
    • 14.6.8 Since the subject concerns the States, and further since the situation about the SSSs varies in different States, the Commission is not able to recommend measures for different States. It is also not able to consider the question of resources for implementing its recommendations. In view of this it will restrict itself to suggesting certain main policy guidelines for the improvement of the SSSs. The State Governments may consider setting up commissions or committees to advise them on the manner of implementation of these guidelines and on other issues relating to SSSs. The guidelines that follow have the objective to help State statisticians improve the usefulness of their statistics to the Governments.
    • Enhancing the Usefulness of the State Statistical System to the State Government
  • Statistics for Decision-Making.
    • 14.6.9 The most common problem of the States’ statisticians is that their Governments do not provide them with the necessary resources. But its obverse side is that statistical offices will gain importance only by establishing the usefulness of statistics to the State Government. To succeed in raising his status and that of statistics, a State Statistician’s job should, therefore, be that of enhancing both the demand for and the supply of statistics and their analysis. The “mission” of his office should be to improve decision- making of the Government by providing quality statistical service.
    • 14.6.10 Presently, the statistical work programme of the States’ DESs has been more or less standardised in the country. Their publications include statistical abstracts and handbooks for the States, annual economic reviews or surveys, budgets-in-brief, economic-cum-functional classification of the budgets, estimates of State Domestic Product, district statistical abstracts, social and economic indicators of development, municipal year books, periodic releases of price index numbers, and reports based on tabulation and analysis of sample survey data including those based on the survey of the NSS matching sample. These publications do make available to the people and the States’ administrators considerable useful statistical information about the State and its districts. The timely issue of these publications and maintaining a quality of these statistics in all respects will always be the primary function of the DESs. But experience shows that for the DES to be useful to the Government, much more is required to be done.
    • 14.6.11 Broadly there are two kinds of statistics needed by Governments. One, at the macro-level, of national aggregates, such as national income and accounts, poverty, unemployment or such other macro-level economic variables. The other is statistics at the micro-level for operational planning where disaggregated statistics are more relevant and therefore, important. Broadly again, the two types of statistics are identifiable separately with the concerns of and use by the two main levels of Government; the macro-level for use by the Central Government, given its responsibility of economic policy-making, and the micro-level with the State Governments, for operational planning, that is, for the formulation of specific plans and programmes.
    • 14.6.12 A very important characteristic of the statistical requirements for State Government decision-making is that, of the two main types of statistics, the average or the total and the distribution, it is the latter that is more frequently required. This is because a State Government’s decisions about its plans and programmes mostly relate to specific groups of people or units, needing statistical information for such groups defined in a manner relevant to the plans and programmes. Generally, the information is required urgently. The statistician must accept the challenge, for it is only on such occasions that the administrators come in meaningful contact with the statistical system, and these occasions provide an opportunity for establishing the usefulness of the statistical system.
  • Operational Aspects.
    • 14.6.13 In most cases, the State’s Statistical System possesses the data. What is needed is the capability to process this on demand and to synthesise the data from different sources. With computerisation now, both processes can be easily carried out. The first will also require a fundamental change in the orientation of production of results, from a “fixed-product” approach of pre-determined tabulation plans to a “demand-determined-product” of tabulation on demand. The second will require a greater effort at coordination, by including a set of common parameters in all data collection projects, so that data from diverse sources can be linked. For this development the State Statistical Systems should be so developed that they can create the following facilities:
      • Unit-level data of one department would become accessible to other departments;
      • A central storehouse of unit-level data of all departments should be created in the DES;
      • A small set of data elements should be identified (such as permanent village codes) that should be included in all forms of data collection of the AdSS.
  • Computerisation of Administrative Statistics.
    • 14.6.14 The entire system of Administrative Statistics is record-based in the offices of the Government, which are empowered and responsible for the administration of different Acts and Rules of the Government. The PC and information technology revolution have prompted many State Governments to declare their intentions to launch programmes to computerise their administration to achieve the goal of e-governance. In this programme, computerisation of the offices administering the Acts and Rules, (Sales Tax Commissioner, Transport Commissioner, Registrar of Stamps and Duties, Chief Inspector of Factories, and the like), which directly deal with units or people, deserves to be accorded a priority. This will lead to three tangible benefits. First, it will facilitate and systematise the routine, essentially clerical, operation of recording, maintaining, updating and processing of administrative records and data, resulting in an increase in the efficiency of the office, and help in enhancing the quality of information. Second, these offices will be able to speedily process the Administrative Statistics collected by them. Technology is available to link the PCs in their sub-offices to the processing PC in the headquarters office and the Directorate of Economics and Statistics for further speeding up of the process. Third, apart from the improvement of Administrative Statistics, computerisation will also act as a strong catalyst in the improvement of the overall working of these offices to the benefit of the concerned units and people, the recipients of the Government services. The focus of computerisation in the States’ administration should thus be on these offices.
    • 14.6.15 An apparently minor, but in fact vital, point requires to be brought out. Quite often modernisation is interpreted solely in terms of use of sophisticated computer equipment at the top while easily forgetting the fact that the lowest-level functionary, the patwari or gramsevak, is not supplied even with a simple calculator. It is on him that the accuracy of the statistical work basically depends, and the computer becomes useful in processing data fast, only if he supplies accurate data. In the age of computers, and with attempts to inject modern technology, it is a paradox that simple inexpensive “technology” is not introduced where it is most needed, and where it will be most effective. Supplying such simple equipment to these functionaries should be the first priority in the modernisation of the Indian Statistical System.
  • Potential of the NSS Survey Mechanism and Data.
    • 14.6.16 It is indeed a sad state of affairs that although most States carry out the field-work of the matching sample of the NSS, most of them do not tabulate the collected data and publish the NSS findings for the State because of a mismatch of resources for data collection and those that should be devoted to the tabulation and analysis of the same. This is a glaring example of wastage of resources and the States should attempt to immediately correct this imbalance, as the NSS data they possess are a mine of information that would prove extremely useful to the State Governments.
    • 14.6.17 Further, the NSS offers two potentially great advantages to the States. Participation in the NSS provides the States with the best representative sample of their States’ population and a band of well-trained field staff. If a State Government needs any simple type of data, over and above those already included in the NSS schedules of a round, it can easily and quickly collect them by canvassing a simple additional schedule containing them for the same selected sample.
    • 14.6.18 The second is the wealth of quantitative information that the NSS provides. The DES should perceive the immense utility of these data much beyond the production of a set of tables decided upon by the NSSO. In effect, the DES possesses a data-bank containing sets of voluminous data generated by several rounds of the NSS on many social, economic and demographic variables for large representative samples of a State’s households. It is possible to tabulate on demand data on those variables, which are relevant to a particular problem of decision-making, in any manner required. Computerisation will greatly help this process of full exploitation of the potential utility of NSS data.
  • Strengthening of Sample Survey Capability in DESs.
    • 14.6.19 Before their participation on a matching sample basis in the NSS, the DESs of the major States had their own sample survey organisations to conduct surveys of specific interest to them. Subsequently, the States’ own survey organisations languished and could not be developed. Since the NSSs cannot meet all the data needs of the States, complete dependence on the NSS is a handicap from which the States now suffer. It is, therefore, important that the States’ DESs should build their own sample survey capabilities and organisations.
  • Computerisation.
    • 14.6.20 Undoubtedly, the major step that the DESs have to take is the reduction in time lag between collection of data and their tabulation and release. This requires that the time taken for processing the data should be drastically reduced. Voluminous tabulation plans decided upon in advance are one of the reasons for processing delays. With computerisation and proper software design it is possible to easily tabulate data in any manner required on demand at a later date. In the future plans for statistical development, the DESs should give priority to computerisation and creation of necessary in-house software capability.
  • Development of Analytical Capabilities.
    • 14.6.21 To make use of data for the resolution of a particular problem of decision-making will undoubtedly require the development of analytical statistical expertise. The focus will be on generation, from available data, of statistical “information” relevant to a particular problem, and this will require familiarity with and ingenious use of modern statistical methods and operation research techniques. The DES will have to create a small data-analysis unit of “problem solvers”, and man it by one or two statisticians competent in these techniques. In the suggested organisation of the National Statistical Office (NSO), it is proposed that a consultancy wing may be created. The DESs will be able to call upon the statisticians working in this wing, when required. To nurture growth of analytical capabilities for problem solving in all State DESs, it will help if they share their experiences. For this, it would be beneficial if the Conference of Central and State Statisticians devote a technical session for this purpose.
  • Supportive Institutional Structure.
    • Directorate of Economics and Statistics.
      • 14.6.22 Consistent with the expectations that statistics and the director of the DES should be of help to Government in decision-making, certain institutional changes are necessary. The State Government should ensure a working environment in which it is possible to work with professional integrity. The institutional arrangements suggested below derive their rationale from the goal of creating an environment in which a statistical system can provide the best statistical service to the Government and the people.
    • Independence of DES.
      • 14.6.23 A statistical office, as Messrs. Bowley and Robertson averred nearly 70 years ago, should be as nearly independent of department control as administrative requirements permit. If Government statistics are to be seen to be objective and free from the influence of any implementing department, the DES should be independent from the control of any Government department in the matter of its substantive work. For this reason, considering the role that the director of DES is expected to play in the decision-making process of the Government, the Commission is of the view that the DES should be transformed into a separate Department of Statistics with the director of DES as its Secretary to the Government. This will also be consistent with the relative status of the director of DES vis-à-vis the Director General of CSO.
    • A Professional as Director of DES.
      • 14.6.24 For the director of a DES to perform the role expected of him satisfactorily, a professional statistician or a professional economist with considerable experience in the field of empirical analysis, should be appointed, in order to provide the requisite guidance and leadership to the State Statistical System.
    • Director as Adviser to Government.
      • 14.6.25 If the director is to perform his role satisfactorily, the State Government on its part should involve him in the decision-making process. This can be done by making him a member of, or a permanent invitee to, committees and groups, formally or informally formed, dealing with plans, programmes and decisions in substantive fields: agriculture, rural development, irrigation, industry, education and the like. (This should be distinguished from the statistics of these subjects.) State Governments should formally order or establish by convention an arrangement by which the director should be free to participate in such groups and the departments should be free to take the benefit of his help.
    • Role of DES vis-à-vis Statistical Divisions of Other Departments.
      • 14.6.26 To be effective in the larger role envisaged for its director, the functions of the DES must encompass the overseeing of the operations of the entire State’s Statistical System. Presently, its function is that of “coordination” for which, in some States, the DES is identified as a “nodal agency”. Both are rather vague terms and are not of much help in translating them into the operation of the State Statistical System. The role of the DES should be larger and more specific than the two. The DES should be assigned the function of technical coordination for taking a holistic view of the State Statistical System. It should be formally charged with the responsibility of taking an annual technical review of the statistical activities of all Government departments and should submit a report to the Government with its suggestions on the development of statistics in different fields. The DESs should also be asked to make a report to the Government of its comments on and suggestions for these activities. The DESs should also be authorised to convene a biennial conference to take a review of the State Statistical System and its activities. Also, the ministries of the Government of India, which define the statistical work of State Government departments, should give up their compartmentalised approach and recognise that the DES has a leadership role in all fields of statistics at the State level, and should consult the DES in statistical matters relating to those fields. The improvement in lateral coordination at the Centre, implicit in the Commission’s recommendations for the top structure of the Indian Statistical System, will also help in the improvement of lateral coordination at the State and between the Central ministries and the DESs.
    • Common Statistical Cadre.
      • 14.6.27 Since statistics is a discipline common to all fields, there is an advantage in having a common cadre of statisticians to which all statistical posts in the State’s department should belong. There is a further advantage in the common cadre being under the control of the DES, the largest statistical office in the State. On account of this arrangement, a statistician can get the rewarding experience of working in different fields, and that experience is useful to any department where he is posted. Belonging to a common cadre is also reassuring to the statistician. Due to the very nature of his work, a statistician working in a substantive department is exposed to the risk of being influenced or pressurised by the senior officers of the departments where he is posted. This creates a conflict between loyalty to the statistical discipline and that to the department’s interest. As he has a sense of belonging to a larger parent department or service from which he is seconded, he is able to successfully resist such influences of the department that jeopardise his professional integrity. Finally, since the statistical divisions in most departments are too small for career prospects of persons if the departments recruit them independently, posting an officer from a common service or cadre obviates the difficulty of departments in recruiting and retaining good statistical personnel in their statistical divisions.
      • 14.6.28 The next step should be to form a State Statistical Service and statistical posts in all departments, including the DES, should be manned by officers and staff belonging to this service. This will make possible the organisation of a true all-India Indian Statistical Service, so that officers of the States’ Statistical Service can be inducted into it, the officers from this service then can be posted in States, those from the States can be posted in Central organisations, and both Indian Statistical System and State Statistical System will benefit from the exchange of experience that will follow.
    • Statistical Divisions in Departments.
      • 14.6.29 The role of a statistical division in a department should be the same as that of the role of DES in the Government. The statisticians heading the division should be involved in the decision-making process of the department in the same manner as suggested for the DES. For facilitating this, the statistical cells should be headed by at least a Group A officer. More importantly, whatever his status relative to that of the second top-level officers of the department, the head of the cell should work directly under the head of the department.
    • Block Statistical Organisation.
      • 14.6.30 The block statistical organisation (BSO) was created nearly fifty years ago for statistics of the community development programme. It was one of the finest organisational arrangements that established statistical units under the supervision of the DESs on the lowest possible rung of the administrative ladder. Since then, after reorganisation under various forms of democratic decentralisation, the organisation in some cases has been transferred to the “local sector”. The survey taken by the Commission of the State DESs shows the present situation.

        Major States*

        Other States All
        Total number of State DESs reporting 10 11 21
        Number of States that      

        Had block statistical organisation in the past

        9 7 16

        Have block statistical organisation now

        9 6 15
        Have Block Statistical Assistants on DES cadre 5 6 11
        Have DES as their controlling authority 3 6 9
        *States with a population of one crore or more
      • 14.6.31 Thus, in many major States, the block statistical assistants (BSAs) are on the local cadre, and in most of them, their work programme is not decided by the DESs. Their work has not remained statistical and the purpose of creating that organisation is not always served in all the States. There had been many administrative difficulties in re-establishing the link between the DSOs of the DESs and the BSAs.
      • 14.6.32 Now, with the 73rd and 74th amendment to the Constitution, there is an opportunity to bring the BSO appropriately within the fold of the State Statistical System. The manner in which this can be done might vary from State to State. But the minimum that requires to be done is to make the DSO the technical head (not the administrative head necessarily) of the BSAs in the district. This will ensure a greater degree of their participation in the statistical work. In deciding upon their work, the DESs should see that the BSAs’ work primarily involves local statistics and is relevant for local area planning. The Commission has made recommendations on the development of local areas statistics (see paragraph 9.2.22). The BSO should be made the instruments of this development.
      • 14.6.33 The other manner to bring the BSO in the State Statistical System is to transfer it completely to the State sector. This change will bring life to the languishing BSO and would be generally welcomed by the BSAs whose present career prospects are too discouraging for them to work satisfactorily.
  • Recommendations.
    • 14.6.34 The Commission therefore recommends:
      • The breakdown of the Administrative Statistical System needs the immediate attention of the highest authorities of State Governments. They are urged to take steps to reduce the burden of the additional work given to lowest-level Government functionaries such as patwaris and primary teachers so that they can effectively carry out statistical functions assigned to them.
      • The authorities should also instruct the offices implementing different Acts and Rules to be vigilant that all relevant units file with them regularly the statutory statistical returns required by the Acts and Rules, and take necessary action under the Acts against the defaulting units.
      • The State Directorates of Economics and Statistics (DESs) should develop capabilities to tabulate data on demand and to analyse data from different sources. For this they should organise all the data that the State’s statistical system possesses in an appropriate manner.
      • The State Governments should accord priority to computerisation of administrative offices that generate administrative statistics.
      • The DESs should fully exploit the potential of their participation in the National Sample Survey (NSS) programme by using the survey data as a data bank and by utilising the survey mechanism for ad hoc collection of additional simple data required by the Government.
      • The State Governments should support the DESs in the creation of sample survey capabilities by creating sample survey divisions in them.
      • The State Governments should make the necessary resources available to the DESs for computerisation and development of necessary software to make the DESs self sufficient in this respect. This will help them to undertake tabulation of NSS data, which they are collecting in their matching samples.
      • The DESs should develop the necessary analytical capabilities to carry out data-analysis relevant to the problems of decision-making of the Government.
      • For strengthening the effectiveness of the statistical system of the Government, the State Governments should create a separate Department of Statistics by elevating the existing DES to the level of a Department and the Director of the existing DESs to the level of Secretary to the Government. The Department of Statistics should have complete freedom in statistical work. The head of the Department of Statistics should be a professional statistician or a professional economist with experience in large-scale data collection and empirical analysis of data.
      • The State Governments should closely involve the Director of DESs in its decision-making processes by making him a member of or an invitee to committees and groups dealing with plans and programmes in substantive fields.
      • The State Governments should strengthen the role of the DESs as coordinators of their statistical activities by empowering them to take a technical review of the statistical activities of all departments every year. The DESs should also be asked to make a report to the Government of its comments on and suggestions for these activities. The DESs should also be authorised to convene a biennial conference to review the State Statistical System and its activities.
      • The State Governments should take steps to create a common statistical cadre and State Statistical Service for manning statistical posts in all departments.
      • The heads of the department of the State Governments should closely involve their departmental statisticians in their decision-making process. To give institutional support to his role, the departmental statisticians should be placed directly under the head of the department.
      • In view of the renewed importance of the Block Statistical Organisation in the context of local area planning, the State Governments should bring it directly within the fold of the States’ Statistical System by either transferring the organisation to their Directorates of Economics and Statistics, or by making it responsible for its statistical work to the Directorate and bringing it under the Directorate’s technical supervision through the district statistical organisation.
      • The State Governments may consider setting up commissions or committees to advise them on the manner of implementation of these recommendations and on other issues relating to States’ Statistical System.
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