Train Wreck After Car Crash: NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Gets Laughed At During Jobs Data Presser
Rajiv Kumar's failure to answer reporters' basic questions did more damage to the Narendra Modi government's image.
After the Business Standard scoop on the unreleased NSSO report which show that unemployment in India rose to a 45-year high in 2017-2018, NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar was promptly given the task of damage control by the Narendra Modi-led government.
However, in the press conference, Kumar failed to answer reporters’ basic questions and said “I don’t know” enough times for one to wonder why he was picked for the job in the first place. At one point, Kumar even got openly laughed at by the room full of reporters.
Reporter: Does the government know what the rate of unemployment was for 2017-2018?
Rajiv Kumar: How we do tell you this?
Reporter: Because you have the report!
Kumar presented the government’s defence by saying — the leaked report is a draft, and the government has not approved it. However, he forgot that the National Statistical Commission is an independent body, and the credibility of the Commission’s data rests, among other things, on the fact that the government *does not interfere* with its reports.
Reporter: Sir, the National Statistical Commission is saying we have already approved this. Who else will approve it?
Rajiv Kumar: I suppose the cabinet will approve it….. I don’t know.
Reporter: Sir, doesn’t the National Statistical Commission have the final say over NSSO methodologies and reports that they put up?
Rajiv Kumar: My honest answer is, I don’t know.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, left red-faced after two NSC members quit citing the deliberate delay in publishing jobs data, had barely recovered before the the leaked NSSO report exposed the enormously high unemployment rate of 6.1 per cent. No one thought it was possible, but somehow, the NITI Aayog press conference managed to pull down the government’s credibility on official statistics even further.