Economists, academics demand release of NSSO consumer spending data | Full statement

“It should be noted that consumption surveys are known to give results that diverge from macroeconomic estimates of the National Accounts.”

Updated - December 03, 2019 07:40 pm IST

Published - November 21, 2019 04:20 pm IST

Over 200 economists, academics and journalists on November 21 issued a statement demanding the release of NSSO consumption survey data. The government had on November 15 put the report on hold citing data quality issues, after a media report said consumer spending had slowed down for the first time in more than 40 years.

Here is the full statement:

Statement on release of NSSO consumption survey data

We the undersigned demand that the Government of India releases the report and data of all NSSO Surveys that have been completed and approved by the NSSO’s internal systems, including the results of the 75th round Survey of Consumer Expenditure, 2017-18.

A media leak published in Business Standard has revealed that the 2017-18 Consumer Expenditure Survey shows a sharp decline in average consumption. It has been suggested that the survey results are not being released because they support other evidence that the economy is experiencing a downturn. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has now announced that the results of the survey will not be released at all, because they show a higher divergence with the "administrative data" than for earlier surveys.


It should be noted that consumption surveys are known to give results that diverge from macroeconomic estimates of the National Accounts. Also, National Accounts estimates are based not only on administrative data but on a combination of sources including NSSO and other surveys. Several committees have looked into these discrepancies. While further work can be done to identify sources of and reduce these discrepancies, the common understanding has been that the flaws lie as much in the methods deployed for arriving at macroeconomic estimates as they do in surveys.

Consumption surveys are crucial for monitoring trends in poverty and inequality, and are also of critical value for national income accounting, and for updating macro-economic data such as price indices. They can provide an important check on administrative and macroeconomic data, which is important both for policy makers and the general public. The fact that data on supply of goods and household consumption are diverging points to the need for questioning supply side data (which are being widely questioned within and outside India) as much as it points to the continuing need for improving survey methods.

It is of fundamental importance for the nation that statistical institutions are kept independent of political interference, and are allowed to release all data independently. The record of the present government on this score has been very poor. Until recently, India has good cause to be proud of its statistical system, and the sample surveys conducted by the NSSO have served as a shining example and a model to the rest of the world. While there has been much discussion and debate about the methodology of the surveys, these have been scientific and technical in nature, devoted to trying to improve the system to enable better measures of crucial indicators.

However, this government has chosen to attack the credibility of this pre-eminent statistical institution simply because the results of the surveys do not accord with its own narrative about the economy, without providing any adequate reasons, and by misrepresenting essential features of the surveys. It has repeatedly shown its disinclination to make public any information that may show its own performance in a poor light. Last year, before the parliamentary elections, the results of the Periodic Labour Force Survey were not allowed to be released until the Parliamentary Elections were over, despite the resignation of two members of the National Statistical

Commission, and a leak in the media. Subsequently, results of other surveys including the 75th round (Consumer Expenditure), 76th round (Drinking water, Sanitation, Hygiene, and Housing Conditions) and more recent quarterly data of the PLFS surveys, have not been released.

This suppression of essential data is terrible for accountability and for ensuring that citizens have the benefit of official data collection that is paid for with their taxes. It is also counterproductive for the government, which may be kept in the dark about actual trends in the economy and therefore not be able to devise appropriate policies. Undermining the objectivity and credibility of an independent statistical system is fundamentally against the national interest.

In the interest of transparency and accountability, all data must be released without delay and irrespective of what the results are. The government may wish to defend itself against interpretations of the statistics that it disagrees with. But this is best done through technical papers and seminars. To prevent release of data that are adverse, and diverge from its own understanding, is neither transparent nor technically sound.

Indeed, in order to produce transparent and robust information on distribution, it is also important for the government to grant researchers access to (anonymous) tax microfiles.

We therefore demand that the government should immediately release the report and unit-level data of the 75th Consumer Expenditure Survey. The government should also commit to release all other survey data after the usual processes to check for possible errors have been concluded.


1. A Vaidyanathan, Former Member, Planning Commission

2. A K Shiva Kumar, Ashoka University

3. A V Jose, Visiting Fellow, CDS, Thiruvananthapuram

4. Abhijit Sen, former Member, Planning Commission

5. Abhirup Sarkar, ISI Kolkata

6. Achin Chakraborty, IDS, Kolkata

7. Aditya Bhattacharjea, Delhi School of Economics

8. Aijaz Ahmad, University of California, Irvine

9. Ajit Zacharias, Levy Institute, Bard College, New York

10. Alejo Julca, Independent researcher

11. Alex M. Thomas, Azim Premji University

12. Alicia Puyana, Flacso, Mexico City

13. Alpa Shah, London School of Economics

14. Aman Bardia, New School for Social Research, New York.

15. Amit Basole, Azim Premji University

16. Amit Bhaduri, Emeritus Professor, JNU

17. Amitabha Bhattacharya

18. Amiti Sen, Journalist

19. Amiya Bagchi, Emeritus Professor, Institute of Development Studies Kolkata

20. Anamitra Roychowdhury, JNU

21. Andres Lazzarini, Goldsmiths University, London

22. Angus Deaton, Princeton University

23. Anita Dixit, Pratichi Institute

24. Anjana Thampi, IWWAGE, New Delhi

25. Anup Sinha Retired Professor of Economics IIM Calcutta

26. Anwar Shaikh, New School for Social Research

27. Arindam Banerjee, AUD, Delhi

28. Arjun Jayadev, Azim Premji University

29. Arthur MacEwan, University of Massachusetts Boston

30. Ashok Kotwal, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver

31. Ashwini Deshpande, Ashoka University

32. Astha Ahuja, University of Delhi

33. Atul Sood, JNU

34. Atul Sarma, Visiting Professor, ISID, New Delhi

35. Atulan Guha, IIM, Kashipur

36. Ayushya Kaul, Jamia Millia Islamia

37. Avinash Kumar, JNU

38. Awanish Kumar, St. Xavier's College, Mumbai

39. B Srujana, Tricontinental Institute for Social Research

40. Barbara Harriss-White, Emeritus Professor, Oxford University, and Emeritus Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford

41. Ben Fine, SOAS

42. Bhanoji Rao, Governing Board Member, GITAM and IFHE Universities

43. Bharat Ramaswami, ISI Delhi

44. Bibhas Saha, Durham University

45. Bindu Oberoi, University of Delhi

46. Biswajit Dhar, JNU

47. Byju, V, Thiruvananthapuram

48. C P Chandrasekhar, Retired Professor, JNU

49. C Saratchand, University of Delhi

50. Carlo Cafiero, Senior Statistician, FAO

51. Chalapati Rao KS, ISID, Delhi

52. Chirashree Das Gupta, JNU

53. Chris Baker, Editor, Siam Society

54. Chrostophe Jeffrelot, Sciences Po and King’s College London

55. D Narasimha Reddy, University of Hyderabad

56. D Narayana, Former Director, Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation

57. Daniela Gabor, University of West England, Bristol

58. David Kotz, Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

59. Debabrata Pal, JNU

60. Debraj Ray, New York University

61. Deepak K Mishra, JNU

62. Dev Nathan, Institute for Human Development

63. Devaki Jain, ISST, New Delhi

64. Devika Dutt, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

65. Dilip Mookherjee, Boston University

66. Dinesh Abrol, ISID, Delhi

67. Dipa Sinha, AUD

68. Dipankor Coondoo, Retired Professor, ISI

69. Dipankar Dey, Dept of Business Management, Calcutta University

70. E. Ahmet Tonak, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

71. E Bijoykumar Singh, Manipur University

72. Emanuele Citera, The New School For Social Research

73. Farzana Afridi, ISI, Delhi

74. Francesco Saraceno, Sciences Po

75. Gaurav Khanna, University of California, San Diego

76. Giovanni Andrea Cornia, University of Florence

77. Hanjabam Isworchandra Sharma, Manipur University

78. Haroon Akram-Lodhi, Trent University, Canada

79. Hema Swaminathan, IIM Bangalore

80. Himanshu, JNU

81. Indra Nath Mukherji, JNU

82. Indraneel Dasgupta, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata

83. Indranil Chowdhury, University of Delhi

84. Indranil Mukhopadhyay, OP Jindal University

85. Ingrid Kvangraven, York University

86. Iqbal Singh, Akal University, Bathinda

87. Ishan Anand, Ambedkar University, Delhi

88. Ishita Mukhopadhyay, University of Calcutta

89. J. Mohan Rao, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

90. Jan Breman, University of Amsterdam

91. Jan Kregel, Levy Institute

92. Jason Hickel, Goldsmith College, London

93. Jayan Jose Thomas, Economist, New Delhi

94. Jayati Ghosh, JNU

95. Jens Lerche, SOAS

96. Jesim Pais, SSER

97. John Harriss, Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver

98. Jose Antonio Ocampo, Columbia University

99. Joydeep Baruah, OKD Institute of Social Change and Development, Guwahati

100. Kalyani Menon-Sen, Feminist Learning Partnerships

101. Kathleen McAfee, San Francisco State University

102. K J Joseph, Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation

103. K N Harilal, Member, Kerala State Planning Board

104. K Nagaraj, Retired Professor, MIDS

105. K P Kannan, Retired Professor, CDS

106. K V Ramaswamy, IGIDR

107. Kumarjit Mandal, University of Calcutta

108. Kunibert Raffer, retired Associate Professor, University of Vienna

109. Lawrence King, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

110. Lucas Chancel, Co-Director, World Inequality Lab

111. M S Bhatta, Retired Professor, Jamia Millia Islamia

112. M S Sriram, Indian Institute of Management Bangalore

113. M Vijayabaskar, MIDS

114. Maitreesh Ghatak, LSE

115. Mahalaya Chatterjee, Calcutta University

116. Malabika Majumdar, Retd. Professor, University of Delhi

117. Mandira Sarma, JNU

118. Martin Ravallion, Georgetown University

119. Mary E John, CWDS

120. Mira Shiva, Public Health Physician

121. Mridul Eapen, Member, Kerala State Planning Board

122. Mritiunjoy Mohanty, IIM, Kolkata

123. Mustafa Özer, Anadolu University

124. Mwangi wa Githinji – University of Massachusetts, Amherst

125. Nalini Nayak, SEWA, Kerala

126. Naveed Ahmad, Department of higher education Jammu and Kashmir (cluster University Srinagar)

127. Narender Thakur, University of Delhi

128. Nisha Biswas, Scientist

129. Nishith Prakash, University of Connecticut

130. Nitin Sethi, Independent journalist

131. Oliver Braunschweig, The New School for Social Research

132. Padmini Swaminathan, independent researcher, Chennai

133. Parthapratim Pal, IIM Calcutta

134. Pasuk Phongpaichit, Professor, Faculty of Economics, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok

135. Prabhat Patnaik, Emeritus Professor, JNU

136. Pranab Bardhan, University of California, Berkeley

137. Pranab Kanti Basu, Retired Professor, Visva Bharati University

138. Praveen Jha, JNU

139. Priya Mukherjee, William & Mary, Virginia

140. Pulin B Nayak, Retired Professor of Economics, Delhi School of Economics

141. R Nagaraj, IGIDR

142. R Ramakumar, TISS

143. R V Ramana Murthy, University of Hyderabad

144. Ragupathy, Goldsmiths University, London

145. Rahul Roy, ISI, Delhi

146. Rajah Rasiah, University of Malaya

147. Rajesh Madan, Noida

148. Rajeswari Sengupta, IGIDR

149. Rajesh Bhattacharya, IIM, Kolkata

150. Rajiv Jha, University of Delhi

151. Rakesh Ranjan, University of Delhi

152. Ramaa Vasudevan, Colorado State University

153. Rammanohar Reddy, Editor, The India Forum, and Visiting Professor, Goa University

154. Ranjan Ray, Monash University

155. Ranjini Basu, Focus on the Global South

156. Ratan Khasnabis, Adamas University, and Retired Professor, Calcutta University

157. Ravindran Govindan, Laurie Baker Center for Habitat Studies, Trivandrum

158. Ritu Dewan, Director (retd), Dept of Economics, University of Mumbai

159. Rohit Azad, JNU

160. Romar Correa, University of Mumbai

161. Rosa Abraham, Azim Premji University

162. Runa Sarkar, IIM Calcutta

163. S Krithi, TISS, Hyderabad

164. Sagari R Ramdas, Food Sovereignty Alliance

165. Saikat Sinha Roy, Jadavpur University

166. Samarjit Das, ISI, Kolkata

167. Sanjay Reddy, The New School for Social Research

168. Santosh Das, ISID, New Delhi

169. Saradindu Bhaduri, JNU

170. Sarmistha Pal, Surrey Business School

171. Satish Deshpande, Delhi University

172. Satyaki Roy, ISID, Delhi

173. Saumyajit Bhattacharya, Delhi University

174. Seema Kulkarni, SOPPECOM, Pune

175. Servaas Storm, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands

176. Shambhu Ghatak, Senior Associate Fellow, Inclusive Media for Change

177. Shantanu De Roy, TERI University

178. Shiney Chakraborty, ISST, New Delhi

179. Shipra Nigam, Consultant Economist, New Delhi

180. Shouvik Chakraborty, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

181. Shyjan Davis, University of Calicut

182. Siwan Anderson, Vancouver School of Economics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

183. Smita Gupta, Economist

184. Smitha Francis, ISID, New Delhi

185. Snehashish Bhattacharya, SAU

186. Sona Mitra, IWWAGE, New Delhi

187. Stefano Zambelli, Provincial University of Trento

188. Suchetana Chattopadhyay, Jadavpur University.

189. Subin Dennis, Tricontinental Institute for Social Research

190. Sudhir Kumar Suthar, JNU

191. Sudip Chaudhuri, IIM, Kolkata

192. Sudipta Bhattacharyya, Visva Bharati

193. Sujata Patel, NIS, Shimla

194. Sukanta Bhattacharya, University of Calcutta

195. Sushil Khanna, IIM, Kolkata

196. Sripad Motiram, University of Massachusetts Boston

197. Sunanda Sen, Retired Professor, JNU

198. Surajit Das, JNU

199. Surajit Mazumdar, JNU

200. Suresh Aggarwal, Former Professor, Department of Business Economics, University of Delhi

201. Suranjan Gupta, New Delhi

202. T Sabri Öncü, Former Head of Research, CAFRAL

203. Takahiro Sato, Kobe University

204. Taposik Banerjee, Ambedkar University, Delhi

205. Thomas Piketty, Paris School of Economics

206. Upasak Das, University of Pennsylvania

207. Utsa Patnaik, Emerita Professor, JNU

208. Uttam Bhattacharya, Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata

209. Vamsi Vakulabharanam, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

210. Velupillai Kumaraswamy, former Professor, University of Trento and New School University

211. Venkatesh B Athreya, Professor of Economics (Retired), Bharathidasan University

212. Vikas Rawal, JNU

213. Yogendra Yadav, Swaraj India, and former member, UGC

214. Yoshifumi Usami, University of Tokyo

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