• Statement on release of NSSO consumption survey data

    November 22, 2019

    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.           Alpa Shah, London School of Economics

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

    14.           Amit Basole, Azim Premji University

    15.           Amit Bhaduri, Emeritus Professor, JNU

    16.           Amitabha Bhattacharya

    17.           Amiti Sen, Journalist

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

    19.           Anamitra Roychowdhury, JNU

    20.           Andres Lazzarini, Goldsmiths University, London

    21.           Anita Dixit, Pratichi Institute

    22.           Anjana Thampi, IWWAGE, New Delhi

    23.           Anup Sinha Retired Professor of Economics IIM Calcutta

    24.           Anwar Shaikh, New School for Social Research

    25.           Arindam Banerjee, AUD, Delhi

    26.           Arjun Jayadev, Azim Premji University

    27.           Arthur MacEwan, University of Massachusetts Boston

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

    29.           Ashwini Deshpande, Ashoka University

    30.           Astha Ahuja, University of Delhi

    31.           Atul Sood, JNU

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

    33.           Atulan Guha, IIM, Kashipur

    34.           Ayushya Kaul, Jamia Millia Islamia

    35.           Avinash Kumar, JNU

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

    37.           Barbara Harriss-White, Emeritus Professor, Oxford University, and Emeritus Fellow of Wolfson College, OxfordBen Fine, SOAS

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

    39.           Bharat Ramaswami, ISI Delhi

    40.           Bibhas Saha, Durham University

    41.           Bindu Oberoi, University of Delhi

    42.           Biswajit Dhar, JNU

    43.           Byju, V, Thiruvananthapuram

    44.           C P Chandrasekhar, Retired Professor, JNU

    45.           C Saratchand, University of Delhi

    46.           Carlo Cafiero, Senior Statistician, FAO

    47.           Chalapati Rao KS, ISID, Delhi

    48.           Chirashree Das Gupta, JNU

    49.           Chris Baker, Editor, Siam Society

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

    51.           D Narasimha Reddy, University of Hyderabad

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

    53.           Daniela Gabor, University of West England, Bristol

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

    55.           Debabrata Pal, JNU

    56.           Debraj Ray, New York University

    57.           Deepak K Mishra, JNU

    58.           Dev Nathan, Institute for Human Development

    59.           Devaki Jain, ISST, New Delhi

    60.           Devika Dutt, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

    61.           Dilip Mookherjee, Boston University

    62.           Dinesh Abrol, ISID, Delhi

    63.           Dipa Sinha, AUD

    64.           Dipankor Coondoo, Retired Professor, ISI

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

    66.           E Bijoykumar Singh, Manipur University

    67.           Emanuele Citera, The New School For Social Research

    68.           Farzana Afridi, ISI, Delhi

    69.           Gaurav Khanna, University of California, San Diego

    70.           Giovanni Andrea Cornia, University of Florence

    71.           Hanjabam Isworchandra Sharma, Manipur University

    72.           Haroon Akram-Lodhi, Trent University, Canada

    73.           Hema Swaminathan, IIM Bangalore

    74.           Himanshu, JNU

    75.           Indra Nath Mukherji, JNU

    76.           Indraneel Dasgupta, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata

    77.           Indranil Chowdhury, University of Delhi

    78.           Indranil Mukhopadhyay, OP Jindal University

    79.           Iqbal Singh, Akal University, Bathinda

    80.           Ishan Anand, Ambedkar University, Delhi

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

    82.           Jan Breman, University of Amsterdam

    83.           Jan Kregel, Levy Institute

    84.           Jayan Jose Thomas, Economist, New Delhi

    85.           Jayati Ghosh, JNU

    86.           Jens Lerche, SOAS

    87.           Jesim Pais, SSER

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

    89.           Jose Antonio Ocampo, Columbia University

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

    91.           Kalyani Menon-Sen, Feminist Learning Partnerships

    92.           Kathleen McAfee, San Francisco State University

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

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

    95.           K Nagaraj, Retired Professor, MIDS

    96.           K P Kannan, Retired Professor, CDS

    97.           K V Ramaswamy, IGIDR

    98.           Kumarjit Mandal, University of Calcutta

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

    100.      Lawrence King, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

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

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

    103.      M S Sriram, Indian Institute of Management Bangalore

    104.      M Vijayabaskar, MIDS

    105.      Maitreesh Ghatak, LSE

    106.      Mahalaya Chatterjee, Calcutta University

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

    108.      Mandira Sarma, JNU

    109.      Martin Ravallion, Georgetown University

    110.      Mary E John, CWDS

    111.      Mira Shiva, Public Health Physician

    112.      Mridul Eapen, Member, Kerala State Planning Board

    113.      Mritiunjoy Mohanty, IIM, Kolkata

    114.      Mustafa Özer, Anadolu University

    115.      Mwangi wa Githinji – University of Massachusetts, Amherst

    116.      Nalini Nayak, SEWA, Kerala

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

    118.      Narender Thakur, University of Delhi

    119.      Nisha Biswas, Scientist

    120.      Nishith Prakash, University of Connecticut

    121.      Nitin Sethi, Independent journalist

    122.      Oliver Braunschweig, The New School for Social Research

    123.      Padmini Swaminathan, independent researcher, Chennai

    124.      Parthapratim Pal, IIM Calcutta

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

    126.      Prabhat Patnaik, Emeritus Professor, JNU

    127.      Pranab Bardhan, University of California, Berkeley

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

    129.      Praveen Jha, JNU

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

    131.      R Nagaraj, IGIDR

    132.      R Ramakumar, TISS

    133.      R V Ramana Murthy, University of Hyderabad

    134.      Ragupathy, Goldsmiths University, London

    135.      Rahul Roy, ISI, Delhi

    136.      Rajah Rasiah, University of Malaya

    137.      Rajesh Madan, Noida

    138.      Rajeswari Sengupta, IGIDR

    139.      Rajesh Bhattacharya, IIM, Kolkata

    140.      Rajiv Jha, University of Delhi

    141.      Rakesh Ranjan, University of Delhi

    142.      Ramaa Vasudevan, Colorado State University

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

    144.      Ranjan Ray, Monash University

    145.      Ranjini Basu, Focus on the Global South

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

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

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

    149.      Rohit Azad, JNU

    150.      Romar Correa, University of Mumbai

    151.      Rosa Abraham, Azim Premji University

    152.      Runa Sarkar, IIM Calcutta

    153.      S Krithi, TISS, Hyderabad

    154.      Sagari R Ramdas, Food Sovereignty Alliance

    155.      Saikat Sinha Roy, Jadavpur University

    156.      Samarjit Das, ISI, Kolkata

    157.      Sanjay Reddy, The New School for Social Research

    158.      Santosh Das, ISID, New Delhi

    159.      Sarmistha Pal, Surrey Business School

    160.      Satish Deshpande, Delhi University

    161.      Satyaki Roy, ISID, Delhi

    162.      Saumyajit Bhattacharya, Delhi University

    163.      Seema Kulkarni, SOPPECOM, Pune

    164.      Servaas Storm, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands

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

    166.      Shantanu De Roy, TERI University

    167.      Shiney Chakraborty, ISST, New Delhi

    168.      Shipra Nigam, Consultant Economist, New Delhi

    169.      Shouvik Chakraborty, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

    170.      Shyjan Davis, University of Calicut

    171.      Siwan Anderson, Vancouver School of Economics, University of British Col

    umbia, Vancouver

    172.      Smita Gupta, Economist

    173.      Snehashish Bhattacharya, SAU

    174.      Sona Mitra, IWWAGE, New Delhi

    175.      Stefano Zambelli, Provincial University of Trento















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