Expressing concern over discrepancies in official data for key sectors like healthcare and education, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday called for a revamp of the national statistical system and upgrading its infrastructure.
"Due to over-dependence on the administrative set up and traditional records, the (statistical) system has not been able to keep pace with changing times," Manmohan Singh said in his address at a platinum jubilee function of the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), one of India's premier economic research organisations.
"Liberalisation has also ushered in significant structural changes in the economy - changes that need to be captured by the statistical system. Unfortunately, despite impressive and commendable progress since Independence there are growing concerns about the reliability, timeliness and accuracy of our statistical data," he said.
Pointing to conflicting data related to agriculture and industry among other sectors, he said: "Overcoming these deficiencies will call for reforms in the administration of the Indian Statistical System and upgrading its infrastructure."
"The National Statistics Commission, under the chairmanship of Dr C Rangarajan, which went into these issues pointed to the imperative need to improve credibility, timeliness and adequacy of our data system.
"It made a number of recommendations including reform of the structure of the Indian Statistical System and upgrading its infrastructure to ensure autonomy, improvement in the collection of datas, exploration of alternative techniques for collection of datas, identification of new data series that may need to be generated in keeping with the changing economy and evolving appropriate methodologies for collecting new data in relation to new data needs."
The prime minister added that the government had set up a nodal body, the National Statistical Commission headed by eminent economist Suresh Tendulkar, to oversee all core official statistical activities and the body had assumed charge in July.
Recalling the history of the legendary institution, Manmohan Singh, who once taught economics, said the ISI has to play a greater role in strengthening the statistical system of the country.
He said that in recent years the institute's involvement in the planning process and for strengthening the statistical system of the country has been on the wane and this needs to be corrected and reversed.
Manmohan Singh was awarded honorary DSc degree by the ISI.
Thanking the institute for the honour, he announced that June 29, the birthday of India's pioneer economist-statistician and ISI founder Prasanto Chandra Mahalanobis, will be observed as National Statistical Day from 2007.