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Plan to supersede NSC with PM-led council shelved

Why create a structure that will be difficult to maintain? the official said.

, ET Bureau|
Jun 19, 2019, 07.51 AM IST
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A former NSC member said a PM-headed panel would have interfered with the Independence of the commission.
NEW DELHI: The government has shelved a proposal to set up an independent statistical authority, National Statistical Development Council (NSDC), to be headed by the prime minister.

NSDC was proposed to be above the National Statistical Commission (NSC), which is now the apex advisory body on statistical matters. The ministry of statistics and programme implementation (Mo-SPI) plans to defer setting up the council in the upcoming draft National Policy on Official Statistics. It was planned to guide NSC on related policy matters.

“We are redrafting the policy to incorporate changes based on the comments given on the draft. One such recommendation was to remove duplication and do away with the idea of the council,” said an official in the know of the development.

The development comes at a time of raging controversy over the autonomy of India’s statistical system.

NSDC was proposed to handle Centre-state relations in areas of official statistics and represented by the chief ministers of six states to be nominated by the Centre. The Niti Aayog vice-chairman, cabinet secretary, Reserve Bank of India governor and the chairperson and members of the NSC were to be the members.

The suggested permanent invitees included secretaries to the ministry of home affairs and economic affairs, chief statistician of India, chief statistical auditor, University Grants Commission chairperson, director-general of Central Statistics Office, director general of National Sample Survey Office and the director of Indian Statistical Institute.

The NSC Secretariat was to serve the council. “Why is another authority required over NSC? Why create a structure that will be difficult to maintain?” the official said.

A former NSC member said the idea of a PM-headed council would have interfered with the independent working of the commission. “NSC should be accountable to Parliament through the ministry of parliamentary affairs, and not the MoSPI. In fact, there should be an Act to ring fence official statistics from executive interference,” the person said.

The MoSPI also wants to make the chief statistician a permanent member of the NSC through the redrafted policy. “Now, the chief statistician is not a member of the NSC,” the official said, adding that the policy will address that issue. It will also detail proper coordination between NSC and National Statistical Office, and the proposed bill to give strength to NSC. “We will simplify the interconnections,” the official said.
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