ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Indian Statistical System at the Crossroads

The modernisation project was apparently the ultimate objective of the flurry of initiatives of the Department of Statistics (DoS). The paper in this part analyses the contents of the project and the philosophy, strategies and approach that shaped it, and brings out its serious implications for the Indian statistical system (ISS). The project is formulated with the short-term objective of meeting the requirements of Special Data Dissemination Standards (SDDS) of the IMF and for monitoring poverty. By design it does not address the problems and development of the ISS. Instead, it established the NSSs as an alternative system to ISS, and aims for a massive expansion of the NSSO and modernise its operations. The project covers only marginally the modernisation of other sub-systems, and where it does so it does not address the vital problem of collection of data and their quality. It requires the government of India to adopt measures that will centralise the statistical system of the country. The paper shows that the project, driven not by national needs but by international demands for data, and based on unjustified NSSO expansion, will lead to the neglect of ISS. The paper ends with broad suggestions for reformulation of the project, and a call to state governments to set their statistical house in order and to beware of the emerging tendencies to centralise the ISS.

Indian Statistical System at Crossroads

The paper in this part is devoted to discussion and analysis of the Report of National Sample Survey (NSS) Review Committee, which provided the foundation for the formulation of the modernisation project. Given the small size of the committee, the large number of its terms of reference, and the short time given to it, the committee did a remarkable job. However, it did not provide the rationale for most of its large number of recommendations. The paper mainly discusses the recommendations that involve systemic and policy issues, such as the one on the status, role, and composition of the governing council of the NSSO. In particular, it extensively analyses the committee's recommendation for the massive expansion of the NSSs to meet the new data needs of the Special Data Dissemination Standards (SDDS) of the IMF and for monitoring the rapid socio-economic changes due to the new economic policy. The paper shows that for different reasons the expansion is not justified and will have deleterious effect on the ISS.

Indian Statistical System at the Crossroads

The Indian statistical system (ISS) developed essentially as an administrative statistical system decentralised over the states. Since statistics are generated as by-products of administration, the system is the most economical and suitable for our vast country. However, over the last decade, the system of administrative statistics has been deteriorating at its very first stage of data collection due to ebbing efficiency of government administration at all levels, and has almost collapsed in certain important sectors. Since, for the most part, the state governments are responsible for the system, the remedy for its failure lies in exhorting and assisting the state governments to stem its deterioration and bring it back on tracks. The department of statistics (DoS) of government of India, however, viewed the situation differently, and under the pressure of meeting the requirements of Special Data Dissemination Standards (SDDS) of the IMF, engaged itself in a flurry of initiatives since 1998. The DoS perceived the lack of coordination and of modernisation as the major causes of the system's failures. It, therefore, attempted to create an institution endowed with regulatory powers in the field of statistics, and formulate, with World Bank assistance, a project to modernise the ISS. This paper, organised in three parts, attempts to analyse these initiatives, and to highlight their grave implications for the ISS. In this part, the paper gives the background of the development of the ISS, describes the problems it faces at present, and the approach to their resolution suggested by the National Statistical Commission. It discusses the vital issue of desirability of the decentralised structure of the ISS, and points to the adoption of certain modernisation measures that reinforce the emerging tendency to centralisation. Beginning the discussion of its main theme, the paper then critically examines the formal assessment of deficiencies of the ISS made by DoS's secretary, which formed the starting point of DoS's initiatives, and analyses the DoS's proposal for creation of the Statistical Authority in India.

Finance Commissions: Perilous Proxies and Dangerous Dummies

Finance Commissions have progressively let sophisticated mathematical and statistical methods determine their recommendations. This approach was not free of deficiencies of varying kind and seriousness, but worse, it brought in its wake two elements inimical to the participative process of revenue sharing: obscurity, bordering on opacity, of the rationale of recommendations, and lack of accountability for their deficiencies. This critical review of past Commissions' work attempts to remind the new Commission of this reality and alert the state governments to it.

Regional Imbalances in Indian Economy

S M Vidwans I APPRECIATE the very fact that Sarker responded (EPW, October 5, 1996) to my paper and unlike others,1 was prepared to engage himself in a discussion of my comments on his. article (EPW, March 12, 1994). Also, I must thank him for correcting my understanding about the dendogram.

Regional Imbalances in Indian Economy-Caught in Computerised Confusion

Caught in Computerised Confusion S M Vidwans Subjecting as many indicators of development as possible to multi-variate statistical analysis, researchers define, measure and analyse development to validate economic theories or pronounce policy prescriptions of great import, even though, disturbingly often, the statistical techniques they employ are incapable of supporting the type of conclusions they rush to reach. The present critique attempts to bare such serious infirmities of analysis commonly suffered by many a research endeavour in this field.

Redefining Irrigation Potential-Don t Damn the CV Alone

Redefining Irrigation Potential Don't Damn the CV Alone S M Vidwans MY critique (EPW, December 4, 1993) of the paper 'Redefining Gujarat's Irrigation Potential' (EPW. June 26, 1993) by D H Parikh, A J Vera and Y K Alagh (PVA for short) showed that PVA's paper failed in its objective of establishing variability of rainfall as the reason for redefining (i e, down-rating) Gujarat's irrigation potential. But, as the critique pointed out, rainfall variation obviously affects irrigation potential in terms of the volume of water stored in the reservoir the very reason why the dependability factor comes into play. If dependability is 75 per cent, in that much per cent of years over a long period full potential will be realised and in 25 per cent less than full. One can therefore think about an average potential that will be obtained over a long period, an average or (I) full potential in 75 per cent of years, and (2) less than full potential less by varying amounts in the remaining 25 per cent. The difference between the full and the average potential gives the extent of down-rating of the former that will be required because of rainfall variation. Thus, the maximum, though unlikely, extent of down-rating will be 25 per cent when dependability is 75 per cent, and 50 per cent when the latter is 50 per cent. It is therefore a truism that full irrigation potential requires to be down- rated on account of rainfall variation; it is surely not a discovery. The only point of interest perhaps is the extent of down-rating and its relationship with rainfall characteristics. Possibly a minor point, it becomes statistically interesting to pursue because PVA raised it and handled it rather unsuccessfully. That is the limited objective of this follow-up paper.

Redefining Irrigation Potential-An Exercise in Clay Modelling

Redefining Irrigation Potential An Exercise in Clay Modelling S M Vidwans IN their paper, 'Redefining Gujarat's Irrigation Potential' (EPW, June 26, 1993), D H Parikh, A J Vora, and Y K Alagh (PVA for short hereafter) rush to do several things at one go. They claim to establish "a complete statistical model'' relating rainfall with the frequency with which the reservoir of a dam fills up to half its full capacity or less. With it, they further claim to ''prove... that major and medium irrigation potential... is determined by the variation of rainfall in the command (sic)" (emphasis added). They deduce from this that the estimates of irrigation potential in Gujarat should be 'seriously' down-rated and ask the reader to note that their paper is also a powerful argument for inter-basin transfer of water or regional grids. Finally, they pronounce that the case for SSP is strong. As a side-swipe, they call irrigation engineers "technical problem solvers" who are "not very concerned with irrigation statistics". One is indeed likely to be swept away by this effusion of confidence inspired by just a two-variable regression equation with a puny enough R2.

Statistical Mirage of Poverty Alleviation

Statistical Mirage of Poverty Alleviation IN their paper 'Rural Poverty in the Semi- Arid Tropics of India' (EPW, March 20-27) R P Singh and P B R Hazell (SH for short) seek to provide "sound empirical evidence on who the poor are, how they can be easily identified, the determinants of their poverty and the likely effectiveness of alternative interventions". In their opinion, this evidence is required for the "efficient design of the targeted assistance schemes" such as the IRDP and the EGS. Making a multivariate analysis of data collected by ICRISAT, they demonstrate that certain policy interventions would be effective in reducing poverty

Levels of Development and Migration

Levels of Development and Migration S M Vidwans IN their paper (EPW, January 7) 'Levels of Development and Migration: Case of South Konkan' K Sita and K Seeta Prabhu (KSP for short) set out to (a) identify intra-regional variations in levels of development in South Konkan; (b) identify major areas of out-migration; and (c) find out whether there is a relationship between the level of development and migration. Thinking that they have suc- ceeded in the pursuit of these objectives, they conclude the paper with a clear vision that " .. the development of South Konkan does not rest with any readymade single solution such as the west coast railway. It has to be viewed in the totality of the physical and human environment of the region and the strong economic pull of metropolitan Bombay.'' The statistics used and the statistical analysis done by them are supposed to have provided them with the bases to achieve their three objectives and draw their final conclusions. l shall attempt 16 show in what follows that KSP's statistical exercise does neither.

Check Well before Use

October 18, 1986 for various provisions" was Rs 1,331.40 crore against Rs 1,246.9 crore in the previous year. Deviating slightly from the Bank's own method of presentation, one gets the following picture in round figures (all in Rs crore): income 1,381; expenditure 411; balance 970; contributions to 'funds' 760; net balance 210, to be transferred to the Central government. The "fund contributions" include Rs 350 crore to the National Rural Credit (Long-Term Opeations) Fund; National Rural Credit Stabilisation Fund Rs 10 crore and the National Industrial Credit (Long- Term Operations) Fund Rs 400 crore. The total in the preceding year was Rs 675 crore.

A Method of Classifying Regions from Multivariate Data

December 17,1983 whereas the aus paddy does. This is true not so much with respect to the latest exotic varieties as to the range of varieties of improved seeds derived from traditional ones.
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