9.1.1 A sound system of Social Sector Statistics is vital to the effective development of social policy, to informed decision-making on policy issues and for evaluation of the impact of social and economic polices. Inadequacy in the system of collection and compilation of Social Statistics generated to aid the planners and policy makers can therefore constitute a major impediment to effective social development of the country. The importance of the linkages between policy development and Social Statistics points to the need for greater national priority to be given to Social Statistics. This calls for better partnership between the statisticians, the National Statistical Office and the policy makers to ensure that statistical objectives and priorities are focused on providing the data foundations necessary for effective social policy development.
9.1.2 Socio-economic Statistics thus form an important component in the development of the country and 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. Timely collection of appropriate, adequate and reliable data on the above dimensions and proper use of this in planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and redesign of various developmental programmes is absolutely essential if the country has to progress more rapidly and join the ranks of the developed countries in the near future.
9.1.3 It is a matter of great concern that India is ranked as 115 in the index of Human Development among the 162 countries studied by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in their Report published in 2001, while Sri Lanka and China rank as 81 and 87 respectively. The Commission felt that if proper redesigning of the various education, public health, population stabilisation, rural development and poverty alleviation programmes are made on the basis of actually prevailing conditions in different areas and monitored properly the country can leap frog and substantially improve its ranking in the HDI. The recent improvements in the literacy levels of the population reported in the Census 2001 wherein the literacy rates of the population aged 7 and above increased from 52.2 per cent in 1991 to 65.4 per cent in 2001 augur well for development in the Social Sector.
9.1.4 The National Statistical Commission identified certain broad areas of Socio-economic Statistics namely, Population and Basic Statistics at the local levels, Health and Family Welfare Statistics, Labour and Employment Statistics, Education Statistics, Gender Statistics and Environment Statistics. Aspects related to Consumption Surveys and Levels of Living were examined and the issues that needed future consideration have also been presented. In India, the concerned ministries and departments of the Union Government are engaged in the collection, compilation and dissemination of Socio-economic Statistics through the corresponding departments in the State Governments in prescribed formats. Many of the data series are a by-product of the general administration of the States based on the records of the concerned offices, as also a product of the administration of particular Acts of the Government and Rules framed under them. This system generates data on a wide range of subjects in the Social Sector.
9.1.5 The Commission found that the major deficiencies in these areas are attributable largely to the collapse of the Administrative Statistical System. Routine data collection on schools, students enrolled, hospitals, medical and paramedical personnel, births and deaths occurring in the population, labour and employment, etc. have been neglected as the value of timely and reliable data for effective policy formulation and programme implementation has not been appreciated. The Commission has noted with concern the delay in bringing out periodical statistical reports and publications by various ministries and departments in the Social Sector. From the Population Census, Education, Health or Labour Statistics, delays predominate with a time lag ranging from 5 to 10 years in some cases, defeating the very purpose of the exercise. As a result, the data has no more than a historical value. This situation needs immediate correction and accordingly, the Commission recommends that all the concerned ministries and departments at the Centre and in the States should take firm steps to clear the backlog of publications in a time bound manner so that in the matter of data collection, compilation and publication the most recent information is available.
9.1.6 Increasing requirement and demand is surfacing for decentralised databases on population size along with its characteristics for purposes of micro level planning in various development programmes initiated following the democratic decentralisation process set in motion by the 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments that gave greater responsibilities and powers to the panchayats and nagar palikas. Therefore, the thrust of the recommendations is on improving the existing mechanism of administrative data collection with the trust and responsibility largely placed in the concerned agencies to compile needed data at as disaggregated a level as possible.
9.1.7 The Commission was of the view that the recent advances in communication technology in the compilation, storage, retrieval, transmission and analysis of statistical data should be fully exploited for the proper understanding of conditions in the above mentioned areas at the local level and the programmes of social, health, education and development should be appropriately designed, implemented and monitored. The National Statistical System should assist the various developmental agencies in this challenging Task. The Commission recommended the necessity for a Statistical Assistant provided with a networked personal computer (PC) in each block headquarter (tehsil or thana). This Statistical Assistant should be trained in data entry, simple database systems, tabulation and data transmission to higher authorities in appropriately summarised pre-designed format.
9.1.8 While reviewing the functions of the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) with reference to different sectors of the economy, the High Level Evaluation Committee (1983) under the Chairmanship of Professor A.M. Khusro, brought to light important data gaps in Social Sector Statistics and made recommendations to improve the database required for Social Sector planning and for assessing the impact of social and welfare measures launched by the Government. The recent Workshop on Modernisation of the Statistical System in India (1998) considered various issues in the development of Social Sector databases and identified measures required to improve the system. The Commission also benefited from the interactions with the representatives of the Central ministries and departments and of the State Governments in the Conference of the Central and State Statistical Organisations (October, 2000) and from the views expressed in the meeting of the Commission with the Chief Secretaries of the States on 20 June 2001.
9.1.9 The National Statistical Commission feels that a vigilant data collection, compilation and dissemination mechanism would ensure timely interventions and introducing corrective measures to tackle social problems requiring the immediate attention of policy makers. In this connection it is pertinent to mention that the recently, released provisional results of Census 2001 have revealed that the population has grown at a faster rate than estimated and the sex ratio in the age group 0-6 years has declined alarmingly during the last decade from 945 to 927. Had the Civil Registration System in the country been efficient in covering all births and deaths and bringing out data in time, it would have been possible to introduce necessary preventive measures in time. The Commission in the course of its working has duly considered the findings and recommendations of the various Committees constituted and studies conducted in the past as also the views and suggestions of ministries at the Centre and of the States. The Commission has, in the light of prevailing status of Social Sector Statistics, attempted a fresh analysis of the system focusing its attention on identification of deficiencies and the remedial measures needed to overcome them.
9.1.10 Under Socio-economic Statistics various subject areas as indicated above have been examined in detail. As elsewhere, the approach generally followed is to first review the current status in respect of each of these areas, then to highlight the major deficiencies and finally, to make recommendations for improvement. As much of the responsibility for producing timely, credible and adequate statistics lies with the administrative system both at the Centre and in the States, the powers and responsibilities vested in it for their timely collection, analysis and dissemination should be used towards achievement of this end.