Prof. T.C.A. Anant Chief Statistician of India and Secretary, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation writes:
I am writing in connection with The Hindu’s editorial titled “Vanishing poverty trick” (July 25, 2013), where you refer to the decision to conduct the 68th Round National Sample Survey (NSS) on Household Consumer Expenditure as atypical if not abnormal, and to go on to state: “So in a sudden show of concern for more regular statistical information, the government decided on undertaking a large sample survey after just two years.” This entire argument is factually incorrect. The subject coverage of the 68th round was decided by the National Statistical Commission in its 33rd meeting held during May 19-21, 2010. A comprehensive discussion of this decision and the reasons underlying it are articulated in the Annual Report of the National Statistical Commission for the year 2010-11 in paragraphs 4.6 onwards. This report is available on our website and has been laid before Parliament. Thus, these facts were in the public domain. It should also be noted that this was done well before the results of the 66th round in 2009-10 were available.
The subject coverage of the NSS is a matter of great significance and is taken up after substantial deliberation and discussion. It does not befit a daily of your standard to make casual statements without ascertaining the factual background. I would therefore, request that a suitable clarification is carried in your newspaper.
The Editor replies:
That the decision to undertake a large-sample survey of consumption expenditure after two years, as opposed to the long-term practice of undertaking it once in five years, “is atypical, if not abnormal,” is self-evident. Whether the National Statistical Commission (which is government appointed) recommended the move or not is irrelevant. Moreover, the NSC was clear that this needed to be done because 2009-10 was a “non-normal year,” presumably because it was a bad agricultural year. The NSC may have used the base year issue to justify its decision. But the fact remains that a bad year is also likely to be one when poverty and employment may not be as good as the government would like it to be. This has indeed happened in the past, but the results were accepted by the government. The editorial suggests there could be political reasons why that was not the case this time. An editorial comment has to take all possible explanations for official decisions into account, and not just those provided by the decision-makers themselves.