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Modi Govt Ordered NSSO Merger With Central Statistics Office On The Day Of Elections Results

"The autonomy of NSSO will go away,” said Pronab Sen, the Country Director for the India Programme of the International Growth Centre.

In what is being seen as a dent on the autonomy of the Indian statistical system, the previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in an order dated May 23, had decided to merge the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) with the Central Statistics Office (CSO). The order cleared the formation of an umbrella body named the National Statistical Office (NSO).

Aanchal Magazine reporting for the Indian Express wrote that the Secretary of Statistics and Programme Implementation will head the proposed NSO. No mention was made of the National Statistical Commission (NSC), however, a body that had been the overseeing body for all expansive statistical work in the country.

The order is unclear on several things. For one, it does not equate the Secretary (Statistics and Programme Implementation) with the Chief Statistician of India, which per the report, was done in the earlier resolution notified by MoSPI on June 1, 2005.

Thursday’s order also stated that the “statistics wing, comprising the NSO, with constituents as CSO and NSSO, to be an integral part of the main Ministry, with CSO and NSO to be merged into NSO”. It also just informed that the NSO would be headed by the Secretary (S&PI), with various divisions reporting to the Secretary through the Director Generals.

Pronab Sen, the Country Director for the India Programme of the International Growth Centre, speaking to Express expressed concerns over the existential crisis that the NSSO faces if it is merged with CSO.

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He said, “The character of NSSO will change by merging it with CSO and will bring it out of NSC’s control. Earlier, NSSO was an attached office of Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) which gave it a legally distinct identity from the ministry. NSC used to oversee all technical aspects of the statistical work — which survey needs to be done, when and how it needs to be done. With the merger of NSSO and CSO, the autonomy of NSSO will go away and the NSC’s control over NSSO will not be there.”

The former chief statistician reportedly added that this restructuring seemed to be a reaction to the resignations tendered by the member and acting Chairman of the NSC earlier this year.

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Back in January two independent members of the National Statistical Commission, PC Mohanan and JV Meenakshi, had resigned over a disagreement with the Centre on issues such as delay in publishing employment-unemployment survey report for 2016-17, despite the commission’s approval. The government had later termed the survey report as merely a draft report, while critics said that it was set aside because it did not speak well of the government providing jobs.

The MoSPI reportedly said that the order for restructuring the Indian official statistics system has been issued “in order to streamline and strengthen the present nodal functions” of the ministry and “to bring in more synergy by integrating its administrative functions within the ministry.”

Per the recent order, there will be three Director Generals — DG (Statistics), DG (Coordination, Administration and Policy) and DG (National Sample Survey) — reporting to the Secretary, as against DG (Economic Statistics), DG (Social Statistics) and DG (Surveys) earlier.

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