STREANH in numbers -James Wilson
Setting the record straight on the Narendra Modi establishment’s pervasive data-twisting
Post truth. This seems to be the only surviving truth in today’s India, a country overrun with bare-faced lies, falsehood, deceit and invented truths — statistics. Note the brazen manner in which the chief of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, Bibek Debroy, declared recently that a new national sample survey will be conducted by the government to show there is substantial job creation, thereby countering the latest report by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO).
Debroy’s comment comes close on the heels of a countrywide debate on data meddling by the Narendra Modi government, set off by the resignations at the National Statistical Commission (NSC) — NSC chief P.C. Mohanan and independent member J. Meenakshi quit over the delay in release of the NSSO’s periodic labour force survey.
The findings of the NSSO survey report, which is now in the public domain, reveal that the 2017-18 unemployment rate at 6.1 per cent is at a 45-year high. For a government which came to power on the back of a promise to create two crore jobs, that is a lot of egg on its face. It is also evidence of how demonetisation and a poorly-executed goods and services tax (GST) wrecked the economy and created large-scale unemployment.
Once the survey report got out, the government’s mandarins scrambled to explain away the findings. More blogger than minister, Arun Jaitley brushed it aside as a draft report, ignoring the fact that the NSC had approved it in December 2018. NITI-Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant and vice-chairman Rajiv Kumar struggled to pull off a satisfactory damage control. And then there was Debroy with his own promise of a fresh job report — a chilling and open admission that the government would window-dress national employment data and that it didn’t care what the public made of such manipulations.
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