States holding up results of Economic Census: Centre

The Hindu, August 08, 2022

Parliament panel raps Ministry of Statistics for the delay

The Centre has blamed the States for a prolonged delay in releasing the findings of the Seventh Economic Census, a critical compendium of formal and informal non-farm enterprises operating across the country, in a submission to the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance.

The committee, chaired by BJP MP Jayant Sinha, has rapped the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation for the second time in five months over ‘a growing delay’ in releasing the findings of Economic Census (EC), carried out between 2019 and 2021, rendering some of the data ‘outdated’.

Responding to a recommendation made by the committee in March to ‘release the EC without any further delay lest the data becomes infructuous’, the Ministry has attributed its inaction to the lack of requisite nods from States and Union Territories (UTs) for the provisional results.

Conducted every five years, the EC, which also captures the employment creation by each firm, their ownership pattern and sources of finance at a granular level, was last carried out in 2013-14.

Field work for the Seventh EC, which had deployed IT-enabled tools for the first time to facilitate real-time data analytics, had begun in July 2019. The availability of digitised data, as opposed to paper-based canvassing in earlier ECs, was expected to lead to quick finalisation and dissemination of results.

“The approval of provisional results of 7 th EC at State level is the mandate of State Level Coordination Committee constituted under the chairpersonship of the Chief Secretary of State/UTs,” the Ministry informed the committee as per its report tabled last week.

While the Ministry said it was making ‘concerted efforts’ to coordinate with State governments to convene these meetings early and pave the way for the results to be released, it concluded by stating: “However, approvals of the States/UTs are not forthcoming.”

The Parliamentary panel has responded sternly to what it termed a ‘routine reply’ and hauled up the Statistics Ministry for having ‘now sought to shift the onus on the States and UTs’ for holding up the provisional results of the census.

“The Ministry has to squarely assume responsibility in this regard, as it is being conducted by them as a central sector scheme. It is high time that the Ministry should expedite the process of enumeration and produce reliable data publicly,” the panel commented.

The committee has also asked the Ministry to identify States that are lagging behind in granting approvals for the data so that corrective steps can be taken to resolve the difficulties faced by them.

The latest EC is expected to capture the changes in India’s economic landscape since the implementation of policy shifts such as demonetisation, the Goods and Services Tax and paring of corporate taxes.

Although enumeration for the 7 th EC was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and other disruptions, data collection was completed by March 2021, except in West Bengal and a few parts of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The government had planned to use the 7 th EC data to create a Statistical Business Register or SBR that can be tapped to obtain critical inputs on business demography for policy interventions by government agencies at the Central and State levels.

“The EC database may also provide insights into evolving nature of entrepreneurship; corresponding skilling requirement and employment potential, etc. Future economic censuses are expected to update the SBR…” the Ministry had told the Parliamentary panel earlier this year.

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