New Delhi: The acting chairman of the National Statistical Commission—the apex body on statistical matters—on Thursday raised objections to the NITI Aayog getting involved in the release of the back-series GDP (gross domestic product) data.

A political slugfest followed the release of the data on Wednesday after the statistics ministry revised GDP figures downward for the period ruled by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.

NSC chairman P.C. Mohanan said the NITI Aayog seems to have raided through the “round table" and that the release of the data by the NITI Aayog is not the usual procedure. “The CSO (Central Statistics Office) has not followed the usual procedure of release. It is slightly unusual for me," he added. Mohanan, a member of the NSC, is serving as its chairman after Radha Binod Barman retired on 31 July.

Mohanan said the data was not brought to the NSC for its approval as this is not mandatory. “It is normally not required because once the methodology is approved by the commission, the CSO is required to follow the methodology," he added.

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According to the back-series data, the Indian economy grew at an average of 6.67% in the nine years ended 31 March 2014 when the UPA was in power, slower than the 7.35% achieved in the four years ended 31 March 2018, with Narendra Modi as the prime minister. It also shows that the highest growth rate the Indian economy has so far achieved is 8.5% in 2010-11, against the 10.3% estimated using the older base.

R. Radhakrishna, who served as the chairman of the NSC between 2009 and 2012 said the NITI Aayog should have commented on the data, if necessary, after it was released by the CSO rather than getting itself involved in the release. “Statistics is a public good, it is not a product of any government," he said.

Pronab Sen, another former chairman of the NSC (2013-16) said the involvement of NITI Aayog in the release of the data has unnecessarily politicized it. “The moment the political system takes the lead, you then start suspecting the rationale behind the data. It damages the reputation of the CSO," he added.

Sen said the earlier practice was that the PM, finance minister and deputy chairman of Planning Commission would get the data two hours before the press release and that none of them would have a say in the data.

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