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

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India’s Exclusionary Road to Inclusive Development

A historical look at India’s consumer expenditure survey reveals a rather sombre picture of development.

'Provincialising' Vegetarianism

Large-scale survey data are used to question the most public claims about food habits in India. It is found that the extent of overall vegetarianism is much less—and the extent of overall beef-eating much more—than suggested by common claims and stereotypes. The generalised characterisations of “India” are deepened by showing the immense variation of food habits across scale, space, group, class, and gender. Additionally, it is argued that the existence of considerable intra-group variation in almost every social group (caste, religious) makes essentialised group identities based on food practices deeply problematic. Finally, in a social climate where claims about food practices rationalise violence, cultural–political pressures shape reported and actual food habits. Indian food habits do not fit into neatly identifiable boxes.

Data Anomalies in NSSO–EUS Figures, 2011–12

The major rounds of Employment–Unemployment Surveys conducted by the National Sample Survey Office every five years provide a continuous, robust, and reliable source of employment statistics in India. However, a closer analysis of the unit-level figures for the latest round of eus reveals disparities in the details of the industry–occupation information.

India's 'Poverty of Numbers'

The number of "poor" derived by applying price adjustment to an old consumption basket, which is largely what official poverty measures have done, are very different from estimates based on actual consumption baskets that have changed over time. For instance, the share of cereals in household expenditure halved between 1993-94 and 2011-12 in rural areas. In the light of this, we ask if all expenditure would be on food, what percentage of the population would be unable to meet the prescribed calorie requirement? Adding a "minimum" level of expenditure on clothing-bedding-footwear, fuel and light, and conveyance to the "derived" sum of food expenditure provides a second counterfactual. Similarly, the cumulative addition of expenditure on other consumer goods and services provides further counterfactual scenarios.

De-ploughing the “Rural"

Why does data about increasing rural consumption shock us? Urban imagination sees the rural as a static, timeless domain where people are bare-minimalists lacking in ambition, agency or entrepreneurship. However, even if agriculture is declining, the rural isn’t. The rural is getting reconstituted amidst this confusion with ambivalent trends.

Importance of Landowning Non-cultivating Households

There is an increasing importance of landowning households that do not cultivate and a significant presence of urban households owning rural land, which constrains the growth of the agrarian economy, as such households have low incentives to invest in agriculture, and tend to use land for residential purposes, reducing the cropped area. Agricultural labour households tend to lease in land and become cultivators.

Doubling Farmers' Incomes by 2022

How realistic is the objective of the Government of India to double the income of farmers by 2022? Is there a precedent? From estimates of change in income of agricultural households over the period 2003-13, this article suggests what needs to be done to achieve a doubling of real incomes. A focus on income from cultivation alone will be inadequate. Policy aimed at increasing net income from animal farming will be key.

Agrarian Question in India

Using the latest National Sample Survey Office data on land distribution and use, questions of agrarian change in India are revisited. With reducing landholding size in general, the increasing unviability of such small plots, and increasing numbers of "effectively" landless households, the larger questions of employment and sectoral shifts are flagged. There is still no clear transition away from agriculture.

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.

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