2.7.1 The Socio-economic Statistics include a vast array of information on health and disease, literacy and education, standard of living and poverty, labour force and employment, status of women and gender empowerment, population parameters relevant to fertility, mortality and migration, ecology and environmental protection. A sound system for collection of Social Sector Statistics is vital for the effective development of social policy, for informed decision making on policy issues and for evaluation of the impact of social and economic polices. An inadequate system of collection and compilation of Social Statistics constitutes a major impediment to effective social development of the country. Reliable data on the above dimensions and use of these in planning, implementation, monitoring and redesigning of various developmental programmes is absolutely essential, if the country has to develop more rapidly than in the past.
2.7.2 The Commission took note of the problems on various aspects included in the Socio-economic Sector Statistics and assessed the current status of these for the country in the areas of education, health and family welfare, manpower and employment, environment, population characteristics and gender with regard to reliability, timeliness and adequacy of data available in these areas and have made specific recommendations for improving the system.
2.7.3 The Commission is of the view that in each of these areas, there are major deficiencies of data, which can be largely attributed to the near collapse of the Administrative Statistical System. The deficiencies common to all the sectors include: poor quality of data collected by the statistical system, inordinate delays, lack of effective checks, incomplete coverage, inconsistent data, poor implementation of provisions of Acts, low priority and general apathy to statistical activities, inadequate infrastructure & staff for statistical work, and lack of computerisation & its use in data compilation, processing and dissemination of data produced by different agencies. As a result, routine data on schools, students enrolled, hospitals, medical and para-medical personnel, births and deaths occurring in the population are just not collected due to a lack of proper emphasis on these items of information and the administrative back up for a compilation and analysis of the required data.
2.7.4 In the area of Population Statistics, the Population Census is one of the most comprehensive sources of information on the size, distribution, living conditions and demographic characteristics of the population. Even though the provisional population totals on limited data are released within a month of the completion of fieldwork, a considerable delay in the processing and release of detailed final results still persists, which undermines the immense utility of this gigantic exercise. The results released early are considered as provisional figures. Therefore, it is essential to have an advance calendar for the entire census operations so that all reports are released and disseminated within a time frame of three years. Another aspect, which requires immediate attention, is to reverse the sequence of data release by producing the data with a bottom up approach.
2.7.5 The Commission also highlighted the need to integrate databases relating to the administrative units of the country, while attempts could be made to develop uniform and unique area codes for districts, blocks and villages at the national level. This exercise has been attempted in the recent Census. These codes should also include geo-codes, which should be sufficient to locate them in a map.
2.7.6 The recent democratic decentralisation process initiated by the 73rd and 74th Amendments giving greater responsibilities and powers to the Panchayats and Nagar Palikas as the third tier of governance offers a new window of opportunity for local planning, effective implementation and monitoring of various social and economic development programmes in the country at the local levels. The National Statistical System should assist the various developmental agencies in this challenging requirement and it is therefore important to establish a system of data collection from the block level onwards and also their dissemination to the local bodies on one hand and further flow upwards to the district and above levels. To facilitate this, a statistical functionary is necessary, who would be the outermost peripheral link at taluka headquarters with a networked computer for data entry, maintenance of block-level databases, simple tabulations and speedy data transmission to higher authorities in an appropriately summarised pre-designed format.
2.7.7 In the area of Health and Family Welfare Statistics, the three Departments of Health, Family Welfare and Indian System of Medicines and Homeopathy of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare have a separate system of data collection in their respective areas, while the Registrar General of India is responsible for collection and dissemination of vital statistics through its system of registration of vital events. The Commission has recognised that an efficient Health Management Information System (HMIS) is a prerequisite for studying the problems of health and diseases, effective administration of health services and evaluation of effectiveness and efficiency of various health programmes. It is, therefore, essential that a comprehensive assessment of the HMIS as it operates, be undertaken by setting up of a Committee and examining in detail the data requirements of the States and the Centre. Similarly, detailed data on morbidity and mortality that form the core of data requirements for any health planning strategy are lacking and periodical morbidity surveys must be conducted to meet the data requirements of public health planners and epidemiologists. The computerisation of hospital records both in the public and private sector is needed for generation of the requisite data on health conditions. Further, recognising the increasing participation of private sector in providing health care services both in the rural and urban areas, the integration of the information from this sector with that of the Government sector is urgently needed. It is also necessary to regulate the private health sector to ensure quality of services to the public and therefore the Centre should formulate a regulatory model Act including provisions for submission of periodical statistical returns.
2.7.8 The country has a well-established system of civil registration through an elaborate machinery right up to the district level and below for registration of vital events under the Registration of Births and Deaths Act. The Civil Registration System, has the potential to generate vital rates for district level and below and form the basis for planning health and family welfare programmes at the local level as required in the 73rd and 74th Amendments. The system is however deficient and suffers from poor coverage and quality in registration. In the country as a whole the registration coverage is only 53 per cent for births and only 48 per cent for deaths and the problem is more acute in the rural areas and in a few States. There are many administrative and management factors responsible for this poor registration. The Commission is of the view that the responsibility for registration of births and deaths should be vested with Panchayats and Nagar Palikas in a phased manner starting with the States where Panchayati Raj institutions are well in place. The system should be a proactive one by increased involvement of local-level Government functionaries and the local bodies. The computerisation of the system of Civil Registration would also solve the problem of compilation of information that has to flow regularly into the statistical system. Other essential items are generation of public awareness on the need of registration of births, deaths and marriages and encouragement for production of birth, death and marriage certificates for various educational, employment and administrative purposes.
2.7.9 The need for information on the fast-changing composition of the labour market has been growing for appropriate assessment of demand and supply of labour in different sectors of the economy. Labour and Employment Statistics are generated largely through the implementation of various labour laws and Regulations by the States and Centre. For the unorganised sector, the National Sample Survey Organisation and Central Statistical Organisation are collecting and disseminating labour and employment-related data by conducting periodic sample surveys. The Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India is also publishing data decennially on workers and those seeking work through its census operations. The data collected by Ministry of Labour through States suffer from very poor response in submission of returns, delays in filing the returns, poor quality, under coverage and time lag in publication of results. The large number of returns to be submitted by the primary units add to the reluctance of the unit owners for a prompt response. The poor implementation of the penal provisions of the Acts for non-submission of returns by the implementing agencies has been another area of concern. The problems are largely administrative in nature and the agencies concerned should give adequate priority to the statistical aspects in the implementation of the Acts. Further, simplification and rationalisation of various returns is also required apart from use of Information Technology in the compilation and processing of data by the States. The role of employment exchanges in the changing jobs scenario needs to be assessed and redefined as a placement agency and source of labour-market information. The Ministry of Labour should also develop a database by integrating the information available from different sources in this sector.
2.7.10 Education being key to the process of human development in the country, statistics on education becomes crucial in the formulation of development policies. Ministry of Human Resource Development is the main agency for producing statistics on school education, which are collected through the States. The All India Educational Survey conducted by the NCERT is another important source of statistics on school education in the country. In its review of the educational statistics system, the Commission took note of the deficiencies of quality, reliability, time lag and weak infrastructure in the collection and dissemination of education data. The system can be improved by strengthening the practice of record keeping, vigilant data scrutiny and verification and computerisation of district-level information. Quite a few data gaps exist in relation to educational planning, and these should be collected and published by the agencies concerned. In the area of technical and higher education the problems are still more acute as the agencies involved are collecting data for specific purposes without any coordination with the Ministry of Human Resource Development. In this area, the regulating bodies such as University Grants Commission, All-India Council of Technical Education, the Department of Agricultural Research and Education, National Council of Teacher Education and Department of Health through the Medical and Dental Councils should be responsible for collecting and disseminating the requisite data. Further, the infrastructure for collection and dissemination of education statistics needs to be strengthened at the Centre and the States by providing adequate statistical manpower and other facilities of computer hardware and software.
2.7.11 The improvement in gender statistics can be achieved by ensuring that statistics related to individuals are collected, compiled, analysed and presented by sex and age so as to reflect issues related to women and men in society. A gender perspective is needed in all traditional statistical fields. This implies that gender statistics cannot be produced and improved in isolation. Such work must be integrated with the development of the overall data collection system. Improvement of content, methods, classifications and measurements should be made part of the ongoing efforts to improve the sources of statistics, namely, censuses, surveys and administrative systems. The Department of Women and Child Development should play a proactive role and strengthen its statistical set up. Indicators of gender disparity in various aspects of education, health and employment are required to be brought out. The CSO should develop a standard methodology for the purpose of generating these indices to reflect the status of women in the country.
2.7.12 The need for conservation of environment and the related concept of sustainable development has attracted the attention of the entire world and is becoming a guiding principle of developmental planning. Environment Statistics is in its nascent stage in the country and as such there is a need to build up an efficient system for the collection of Environment Statistics and developing environmental indicators based on the international framework provided by the United Nations Statistics Division. The CSO has already taken initiatives in this direction; however, Ministry of Environment and Forests should take the primary responsibility for collection and dissemination of Environment Statistics and the CSO should continue to play the coordinating role. Another related issue is that of Natural Resource Accounting to gauge genuine economic performance and growth, taking the environmental factors into consideration. The System of National Accounts, 1993 has suggested the development of satellite accounts under a standard framework and the CSO should be responsible for the development of suitable methodologies and work in close coordination with all the concerned agencies for collecting the varied nature of environmental data.