Release of 75th Round NSSO Consumer Expenditure Survey Data

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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.


Signed

  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 Txation
  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. Gautam Gupta, Former Professor, Jadavpur University
  77. Giovanni Andrea Cornia, University of Florence
  78. Hanjabam Isworchandra Sharma, Manipur University
  79. Haroon Akram-Lodhi, Trent University, Canada
  80. Hema Swaminathan, IIM Bangalore
  81. Himanshu, JNU
  82. Indra Nath Mukherji, JNU
  83. Indraneel Dasgupta, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata
  84. Indranil Chowdhury, University of Delhi
  85. Indranil Mukhopadhyay, OP Jindal University
  86. Ingrid Kvangraven, York University
  87. Iqbal Singh, Akal University, Bathinda
  88. Ishan Anand, Ambedkar University, Delhi
  89. Ishita Mukhopadhyay, University of Calcutta
  90. J. Mohan Rao, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
  91. Jan Breman, University of Amsterdam
  92. Jan Kregel, Levy Institute
  93. Jason Hickel, Goldsmith College, London
  94. Jayan Jose Thomas, Economist, New Delhi
  95. Jayati Ghosh, JNU
  96. Jens Lerche, SOAS
  97. Jesim Pais, SSER
  98. John Harriss, Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver
  99. Jose Antonio Ocampo, Columbia University
  100. Joydeep Baruah, OKD Institute of Social Change and Development, Guwahati
  101. Kalyani Menon-Sen, Feminist Learning Partnerships
  102. Kathleen McAfee, San Francisco State University
  103. K J Joseph, Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation
  104. K N Harilal, Member, Kerala State Planning Board
  105. K Nagaraj, Retired Professor, MIDS
  106. K P Kannan, Retired Professor, CDS
  107. K V Ramaswamy, IGIDR
  108. Kumarjit Mandal, University of Calcutta
  109. Kunibert Raffer, retired Associate Professor, University of Vienna
  110. Lawrence King, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  111. Lucas Chancel, Co-Director, World Inequality Lab
  112. M S Bhatta, Retired Professor, Jamia Millia Islamia
  113. M S Sriram, Indian Institute of Management Bangalore
  114. M Vijayabaskar, MIDS
  115. Maitreesh Ghatak, LSE
  116. Mahalaya Chatterjee, Calcutta University
  117. Malabika Majumdar, Retd. Professor, University of Delhi
  118. Mandira Sarma, JNU
  119. Martin Ravallion, Georgetown University
  120. Mary E John, CWDS
  121. Mira Shiva, Public Health Physician
  122. Mridul Eapen, Member, Kerala State Planning Board
  123. Mritiunjoy Mohanty, IIM, Kolkata
  124. Mustafa Özer, Anadolu University
  125. Mwangi wa Githinji – University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  126. Nalini Nayak, SEWA, Kerala
  127. Naveed Ahmad, Department of higher education Jammu and Kashmir (cluster University Srinagar)
  128. Narender Thakur, University of Delhi
  129. Nisha Biswas, Scientist
  130. Nishith Prakash, University of Connecticut
  131. Nitin Sethi, Independent journalist
  132. Oliver Braunschweig, The New School for Social Research
  133. Padmini Swaminathan, independent researcher, Chennai
  134. Parthapratim Pal, IIM Calcutta
  135. Pasuk Phongpaichit, Professor, Faculty of Economics, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok
  136. Peter Lanjouw, Development Economics Research Group, World Bank
  137. Prabhat Patnaik, Emeritus Professor, JNU
  138. Pranab Bardhan, University of California, Berkeley
  139. Pranab Kanti Basu, Retired Professor, Visva Bharati University
  140. Praveen Jha, JNU
  141. Priya Mukherjee, William & Mary, Virginia
  142. Pulin B Nayak, Retired Professor of Economics, Delhi School of Economics
  143. R Nagaraj, IGIDR
  144. R Ramakumar, TISS
  145. R V Ramana Murthy, University of Hyderabad
  146. Ragupathy, Goldsmiths University, London
  147. Rahul Roy, ISI, Delhi
  148. Rajah Rasiah, University of Malaya
  149. Rajesh Madan, Noida
  150. Rajeswari Sengupta, IGIDR
  151. Rajesh Bhattacharya, IIM, Kolkata
  152. Rajiv Jha, University of Delhi
  153. Rakesh Ranjan, University of Delhi
  154. Ramaa Vasudevan, Colorado State University
  155. Rammanohar Reddy, Editor, The India Forum, and Visiting Professor, Goa University
  156. Ranjan Ray, Monash University
  157. Ranjini Basu, Focus on the Global South
  158. Ratan Khasnabis,  Adamas University, and Retired Professor, Calcutta University
  159. Ravindran Govindan, Laurie Baker Center for Habitat Studies, Trivandrum
  160. Ritu Dewan, Director (retd), Dept of Economics, University of Mumbai
  161. Rohini Hensman, writer and independent scholar
  162. Rohit Azad, JNU
  163. Romar Correa, University of Mumbai
  164. Rosa Abraham, Azim Premji University
  165. Runa Sarkar, IIM Calcutta
  166. S Krithi, TISS, Hyderabad
  167. Sagari R Ramdas, Food Sovereignty Alliance
  168. Saikat Sinha Roy, Jadavpur University
  169. Samarjit Das, ISI, Kolkata
  170. Sanjay Reddy, The New School for Social Research
  171. Santosh Das, ISID, New Delhi
  172. Saradindu Bhaduri, JNU
  173. Sarmistha Pal, Surrey Business School
  174. Satish Deshpande, Delhi University
  175. Satyaki Roy, ISID, Delhi
  176. Saumyajit Bhattacharya, Delhi University
  177. Seema Kulkarni, SOPPECOM, Pune
  178. Servaas Storm, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands
  179. Shambhu Ghatak, Senior Associate Fellow, Inclusive Media for Change
  180. Shantanu De Roy, TERI University
  181. Shiney Chakraborty, ISST, New Delhi
  182. Shipra Nigam, Consultant Economist, New Delhi
  183. Shouvik Chakraborty, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  184. Shyjan Davis, University of Calicut
  185. Siwan Anderson, Vancouver School of Economics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver
  186. Smita Gupta, Economist
  187. Smitha Francis, ISID, New Delhi
  188. Snehashish Bhattacharya, SAU
  189. Sona Mitra, IWWAGE, New Delhi
  190. Stefano Zambelli, Provincial University of Trento
  191. Suchetana Chattopadhyay, Jadavpur University.
  192. Subin Dennis, Tricontinental Institute for Social Research
  193. Sudha Narayanan, IGIDR
  194. Sudhir Kumar Suthar, JNU
  195. Sudip Chaudhuri, IIM, Kolkata
  196. Sudipta Bhattacharyya, Visva Bharati
  197. Sujata Patel, NIS, Shimla
  198. Sukanta Bhattacharya, University of Calcutta
  199. Sushil Khanna, IIM, Kolkata
  200. Sripad Motiram, University of Massachusetts Boston
  201. Sunanda Sen, Retired Professor, JNU
  202. Surajit Das, JNU
  203. Surajit Mazumdar, JNU
  204. Suresh Aggarwal, Former Professor, Department of Business Economics, University of Delhi
  205. Suranjan Gupta, New Delhi
  206. T Sabri Öncü, Former Head of Research, CAFRAL
  207. Takahiro Sato, Kobe University
  208. Taposik Banerjee, Ambedkar University, Delhi
  209. Thomas Piketty, Paris School of Economics
  210. Upasak Das, University of Pennsylvania
  211. Utsa Patnaik, Emerita Professor, JNU
  212. Uttam Bhattacharya, Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata
  213. Vamsi Vakulabharanam, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  214. Velupillai Kumaraswamy, former Professor, University of Trento and New School University
  215. Venkatesh B Athreya, Professor of Economics (Retired), Bharathidasan University
  216. Vikas Rawal, JNU
  217. Yogendra Yadav, Swaraj India, and former member, UGC
  218. Yoshifumi Usami, University of Tokyo