The results of the all-India survey on Household Consumption Expenditure for 2017-18, kept in abeyance by the Narendra Modi government due to alleged inconsistencies in its findings, may get published with some tweaks soon.
The National Statistical Commission (NSC), the autonomous body constituted by the Centre to develop policies, priorities and standards in statistical matters, has directed the statistics ministry to look at additional sources of data to cross-verify the apparent inconsistencies in consumer spending patterns to see if the refined and re-verified data can be published.
The ministry is expected to carry out this exercise in the next two months. The NSC discussed the matter threadbare at a day-long meeting on December 4, said sources.
A senior government functionary said the commission has asked the ministry to verify the data collected through consumer survey by cross-matching with the supply-side data. The ministry will also look into the possible impact of the social security programmes active in regions where the survey was conducted.
"If a state like Tamil Nadu is providing lunch for Rs 5, it could reflect in lower consumer spending on rice in that region. Such supply-side data should be studied to understand data quality and consistency issues. Similarly, if consumption in a village for a commodity has gone down, it should reflect in lower sales in that particular region," the official said.
"We will hopefully publish the report. The next survey we are going to begin in July, so we have to use this kind of technique also. At this point, we are not talking about changing the base year. We will do this exercise for two months, and after that, we are hoping to be able to say something more concrete," he added.
On November 15, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation said the results of the consumer expenditure survey for 2017-18 will not be released due to data inconsistencies.
Critics saw this as an attempt to suppress inconvenient data, as the survey suggested consumer expenditure declining significantly. Since the survey covered the period when the government sucked out liquidity from the market by demonetising high-currency notes, it was alleged that consumers' ability was curtailed severely due to the government demonetisation decision.
Over 200 economics and public-spirited citizens had written an open letter also to pressurise the government to publish the survey results. The NSC's decision to re-validate the data using additional sources is expected to end the controversy over data suppression if the original findings get published, with additional explanations or new conclusions.