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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Data Beyond Surveys


Source: Indian Express


  • Prelims: Census, The Census Act, 1948, NPR, National Register of Citizens (NRC) etc
  • Mains GS Paper I and II: Government policies and interventions for development of various sectors and issues arising out of them etc



  • There is a continuing theme emerging from the Council which suggests that several indicators used by NSS as well as international agencies like the WHO fail to capture the actual progress and lament the degradation of the official statistical system.



National Statistical Office(NSO) :

  • The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) is a ministry of Government of India Concerned with coverage and quality aspects of statistics released.
  • The surveys conducted by the Ministry are based on scientific sampling methods.
  • The Ministry has two wings
    • Statistics
    • Programme Implementation.
  • The Statistics Wing called the National Statistical Office (NSO) consists of the Central Statistical Office (CSO), the Computer center and the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO).
  • In 2019, the government merged the NSSO with the Central Statistics Office (CSO) to form the National Statistical Office (NSO).



  • The census provides information on size, distribution and socio-economic, demographic and other characteristics of the country’s population.
  • The Census was first started under British Viceroy Lord Mayo in 1872.
  • It helped in framing new policies, government programs to uplift areas of improvement in the community.
  • The first synchronous census in India was held in 1881.
  • Every ten years: Since then, censuses have been undertaken uninterruptedly once every ten years.


Who conducts the census?

  • The responsibility of conducting the decennial Census rests with the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.


The Census is one of the most credible sources of information on the following:

  • Economic Activity.
  • Literacy and Education.
  • Housing & Household Amenities.
  • Urbanization, Fertility, and Mortality.
  • Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.


What are the issues and solutions in NSO?

  • we should recognise that there is a problem in the statistical system that needs to be fixed.
    • Defending the statistical system is no solution at all.
  • The National Statistical Office (NSO) has been collecting data primarily through administrative and sample surveys, both of which have their own strengths and challenges.
    • The data collection from administrative sources is economical and less time-consuming,
      • It has several challenges in terms of representativeness.
    • The update of the Census frame used for most surveys needs to be digitized dynamically and made accessible to improve the quality of surveys and reduce bias in the estimates.
      • Geospatial technologies and crowd-sourced data platforms now permit such dynamic updation.
    • The national statistical system needs to expand and diversify its resource base of data.
    • It should include new and emerging sources like Big Data leverage processing through machine learning and artificial intelligence.
    • The UN Statistics Division guidelines for using Big Data for official purposes.
      • The NSO needs to work closely with multilateral and regional agencies for enhancing the capacity of the statistical system for the use of such data available from alternative sources.
    • The strength of the national system is integrally dependent on the strength of the state statistical systems.
    • The Dholakia Committee Report 2020 on sub-national accounts: It could pave the way for state governments in pursuing and adopting a bottom-up approach
      • thereby strengthening the data collection capacities of the state governments.
      • Issue: Several states are yet to initiate building institutional frameworks at the state and district levels.
    • The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) launched the India Statistical Strengthening Project(financial support from the World Bank) for enhancing the capacities of state statistical systems for data collection.
      • Parallel efforts are needed to enhance and institutionalize inter-agency coordination covering both national and sub-national statistical systems.
    • Rural-urban divide-Rural and urban sub-groups appearing
      • It needs a holistic approach to capture the interaction terms.
      • Madhya Pradesh has established a permanent state statistical commission for improving and integrating the statistical data flow systems.
      • Development of district domestic products using GSTN and revenue data as well as a state statistical business register has already commenced
      • It could pave the way for improving the statistical system in other states as well.


Steps by The Ministry of Earth Sciences:

  • It established the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting in 1988
  • It used India’s first supercomputer to develop and evolve advanced numerical models for weather forecasting.
  • The commitment to the upgradation of observation systems has made the biggest contribution in enhancing predictability
    • An improvement in the capacity of human resources for complex data collection and the development of IT infrastructure.


Instances where technological advances are leveraged to improve service delivery:

  • Direct taxes
  • GSTN
  • railway reservations
  • banking and financial sector
  • UPI
  • portal aggregators
  • online shopping etc


Way Forward

  • The underlying tenet of any official statistical system/product are the resources (physical, human, financial and technology) available to the system.
  • Economic growth occurs when there is a sustained expansion in the production possibility frontier and this happens by:
    • developing better technologies
    • improve the quality of labour through education, on-the-job training, work experience and exposure to best practices
    • acquire more machines/technology (capital) to help produce more.
  • There needs to be sustained growth in the resources available to the national statistical system for it to improve and this needs to be seen as an investment to ensure that India achieves the target of becoming a $5 trillion economy.
  • The National Policy on Official Statistics, announced in the Budget 2020 needs to be finalized quickly along with appropriate institutional support and resources.
    • This will ensure that we are able to track India’s progress on the Sustainable Development Goals using a bottom-up approach and also ensure that no one is left behind.
  • The fast-tracking reforms and investment in the national statistical system in a mission mode is the need of the hour and cannot be delayed if India wants to once again play an active role in the international statistical fraternity.



Discuss the main objectives of Population Education and point out the measures to achieve them in India in detail.(UPSC 2021) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)