NEW DELHI: Former National Statistical Commission chief PC Mohanan has said he resigned from his post as the Modi government did not release the National Sample Survey Office's report on unemployment data in the country.
Mohanan said to NDTV, "The report that we approved on December 5 as per the release calendar was not getting released. So this was the last straw."
He also criticized the NDA government for calling it a draft report. "Once the report is approved by the commission, it is known as the final report. You cannot say it has to be approved by the government. When you use the word "approve", that raises questions of credibility," he said.
Mohanan contradicted NITI Aayog Vice Chairperson Rajiv Kumar's statement that he and his colleague J Meenakshi resigned due to personal reasons.
"In my letter, I made it very clear I have specific instances and we thought our continuing in the commission was not serving any purpose because the commission was not very effective. The government should take note of the issues and improve the system," he said.
He also added that despite informing the Centre about the delay in the report's release, he got no response.
"I did not get any official response. I did contact the chief statistician and also met him. Both of us -- Meenakshi and I -- met him on January 23. We flew from Kerala to Delhi only for this purpose. We didn't get any specific reason for the delay. They also said there's some need to check the data properly but that was not satisfactory for us. And the fact all along has been that the NSSO reports have been released within a few days."
Mohanan also batted for the Statistics Commission's sanctity and said that the NITI Aayog should not get involved in the publication of government's official statistics.
"It is a very important issue for the commission that autonomy of the stats system is maintained and that alone can bring credibility to our statistics. Credibility is very important. NITI Aayog getting involved is not a very desirable thing," Mr Mohanan said.
What does the original draft report say?
As per media reports on 31st January 2019, the NSSO survey said that India's unemployment rate rose to 6.1 per cent during 2017-18, a 45-year high.
The assessment also said that the unemployment rate stood at 7.8 per cent and 5.3 per cent respectively in urban and rural areas.
The survey, as reported by Business Standard, tracks India's employment scenario since November 2016, when PM Narendra Modi introduced demonetisation. It also said that despite the country's economy expanding at an annual rate of over 7 per cent, the uneven growth has resulted in a dearth of jobs.
To back up the study, independent think-tank Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy said that the country has lost as many as 11 million jobs in 2018.
How the Niti Aayog and government reacted
The Niti Aayog immediately convened a press conference where Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar said the report cited by the media has not been finalised and was a draft report.
Kumar also said that the Modi government would release its employment report by March 2019 after collating quarter-on-quarter data.
He also debunked jobless growth claims and asked how could a country's economy grow at an average of 7 per cent without employment.
The think-tank's CEO Amitabh Kant, while backing Kumar during the conference, said India is creating adequate jobs, but "probably not the high-quality ones".
Earlier this month, PM Modi's Economic Advisory Council chief Bibek Debroy said that the Centre would conduct a new national sample survey on employment to show substantial job creation.
"We will have a new round of the NSS which will soon be announced and I am sure the survey will show that there has been substantial employment and substantial job creation," he said while pointing out that the country does not have any robust job creation data after 2011-12.
Minister for Statistics Sadananda Gowda told the Lok Sabha during the interim budget session that the NSSO is still processing quarterly data from July-December 2018.
Terming the media reports fake, the Minister also said the final data is always brought out by the government and the National Statistics Commission (NSC) only guides it in conducting the survey.
(With inputs from Agencies)