2.2 Administration of the Indian Statistical System

  • 2.2.1 At the moment, as the system operates, there is no effective coordination either horizontally among the different departments at the Centre or vertically between the Centre and the States. The responsibilities for the horizontal and vertical coordination and maintenance of statistical standards rest with the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. However, it is found that this Ministry is not in a position to ensure that the Ministries and all State Governments adhere to certain commonly-accepted procedures. The task has become more difficult as the post of the Director General of the Central Statistical Organization remains unoccupied so far. The lack of an effective and adequately empowered coordination mechanism is a major weakness in the system. Besides, there is no statistics policy-making body or authority for evolving a national statistical strategy.
  • 2.2.2 For reform of administration of the Indian Statistical System by upgrading its infrastructure and thereby enhancing the credibility of official statistics, the Commission is of the view that an independent statistical authority free from political interference having power to set priorities with respect to Core Statistics is needed to ensure quality standards of statistical processes. Such an authority will also improve the coordination among different agencies collecting data. Though the National Advisory Board on Statistics was constituted with this objective, its impact has been minimal. In view of this, the Commission has recommended the creation of a permanent and statutory apex body – National Commission on Statistics (NCS) – through an Act of Parliament, independent of the Government in respect of policy-making, coordination and maintaining quality standards of Core Statistics. The NCS will have a Chairman and four Expert Members all of whom would be eminent statisticians or social scientists and they will act on the advice of a number of technical committees on various subject areas.
  • 2.2.3 The presence of an administrative machinery within the Government is necessary to implement and sustain the policies evolved by the proposed NCS. The Commission has, therefore, proposed a restructuring of the existing Statistics Wing of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation into a full-fledged Department of the Ministry to be known hereafter as the National Statistical Organization (NSO). The head of the NSO will be the National Statistician and will be the Secretary to the Government of India. He or she will also be the Secretary to the National Commission on Statistics. The NSO will comprise three offices and a wing namely, the Central Statistical Office, National Sample Survey Office, Data Storage and Dissemination Office and Consultancy Wing in order to implement and maintain statistical standards as laid down by the NCS besides carrying out various other functions such as the compilation of National Accounts, apart from facilitating national and international coordination, publication of Core Statistics, the conduct of methodological research and studies, as well as arranging the training of statistical personnel and maintenance of a ‘warehouse’ for Core Statistics.
  • 2.2.4 There is an increasing demand for professional statistical activities within the Government. The Commission has, therefore, recommended the creation of a body – the Consultancy Wing – under the National Statistical Organization to utilize the expertise available within the Government in the setting up of a commercial wing for professional statistical activities
  • 2.2.5 A lack of coordination among the different ministries and departments of the Central Government leads ultimately to poor and unproductive statistical advice to the concerned administrative ministries and departments. To remedy this situation, the Commission recommends the appointment of statistical advisers in important ministries and departments in order to make available sound statistical inputs and advice for the purposes of policy formulation and decision-making under the technical guidance of the National Statistician.
  • 2.2.6 Some of the State Directorates of Economics and Statistics do not play a nodal role in the coordination of statistical activities within the State and lack survey sampling and data processing capabilities. To improve the coordination within the State statistical systems, the State Directorates of Economics and Statistics must be made responsible for technical coordination with all State Departments in respect of the content, methodology and dissemination of statistics. The Conference of Central and State Statistical Organizations is another instrument, which would provide a forum for regular interaction among the Central and State statisticians. In some of the States, as the statistical cadres are generally fragmented, the constitution of an organised State Statistical Cadre is urgently required. For strengthening the statistical system in the States, the Commission has recommended a Centrally-sponsored scheme with the specific objectives of developing survey and data-processing capabilities in the States.
  • 2.2.7 As quality issues hinge on the professional capabilities of the officers and staff engaged in producing national statistics, an important objective of the Indian Statistical System is to promote professionalism in the Indian Statistical Service. Statistical activities being skill oriented an adequate focus on human resource development is therefore necessary to sustain any reforms in the system. At the moment, there is no mechanism either for providing appropriate training to the official statisticians or for promoting specialization among the officers of the Indian Statistical Service (ISS). The Commission, therefore, recommends the provision of appropriate training facilities for improving the skills of the ISS officers. Further, the career of an officer should be so planned that he or she can specialize in some specific areas, gradually narrowing down the areas of specialization over the years. There is also a need for harmonisation between the choice of individual specialization and the goals of the Organization and for orienting the transfer and training policies consistent with the goals of specialization. Moreover, the Commission has noted that there is stagnation in the career prospects of ISS officers due to bleak promotional avenues, which has adversely affected the system. The Commission has, therefore, recommended a one-time measure of promoting the stagnant ISS officers so as to inspire them to enhance their output.
  • 2.2.8The system lacks legal backing for the statistical activities. The present Collection of Statistics Act, 1953 is weak. In addition to ensuring the reliability of statistics and the efficiency of operations, a strong Act, in accordance with the federal structure of the country, should also take into account the informants’ rights to privacy. Recognising the role of Information Technology for processing, transmission and dissemination of data, the Commission has recommended the establishment of strong communication links between the NSO and all other related statistical offices including the States’ statistical offices through one or more Internet service providers or virtual private network.
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