NITI Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar (left) and NITI Aayog chief executive officer Amitabh Kant. (Source: PTI)

NITI Aayog Jumps To Defend Modi’s Jobs Record As Debate Rages

The NITI Aayog defended Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s record of creating jobs even as a controversy rages after two members of statistical panel quit and a leaked draft report showed unemployment rose to a four-decade high after the note ban.

It’s a draft and has not been finalised by the government, Rajiv Kumar, vice chairman of NITI Aayog, said at a press conference today. The government decided to hold the report as it doesn’t have data for the comparable period and is still being processed, he said.

The clarification came after the Business Standard newspaper reported citing the National Sample Survey Organisation's report that joblessness was at its highest in 45 years in 2017-18. The planning think tank’s defence may not suffice to calm the debate about the credibility of India’s data. More so when it came on the day the government revised GDP growth for 2016-17, the year of demonetisation, upwards by 100 basis points to 7.2 percent. Earlier, it had revised down the UPA-era growth numbers.

Also read: Resignations At Statistical Commission Disturbing, Says Former Minister YK Alagh

There is a large element of skepticism as data coming outside of the Reserve Bank of India have been susceptible to significant revisions, according to Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at CARE Ratings. But something like a 1 percentage point change in GDP growth maybe does raise concerns because that even the international community is looking at it, he said. “We have been held in good standing when it came to data on the real sector. Today, I think there will be lots of doubt in the fact that the entire narrative is changing every time they are coming out with a new edition.”

(In) The revised NSSO survey which might come out we may just see that the unemployment rate has come down sharply, because the economy grew at a much faster pace that what was projected earlier.
Madan Sabnavis, Chief Economist, CARE Ratings

The controversy had resurfaced after the National Statistical Commission’s Acting Chairman PC Mohanan and member JV Meenakshi, a professor at Delhi School of Economics, quit citing, among other things, the government’s decision to withhold the NSSO’s report on employment for 2017-18, according to another Business Standard report.

Niti Aayog’s Kumar, however, said the data collected in the Periodic Labour Force Survey for June 2017-July 2018 needs to be compared on a quarterly basis, and the numbers for July-December 2018 are still being processed, he said.

He rejected the findings of the NSSO report citing that India has witnessed an 11-12 percent nominal economic growth, which could not have been possible without employment being generated. The entire labour force data will be released in March, he told reporters.

Amitabh Kant, NITI Aayog’s chief executive officer, while addressing the press conference said India doesn’t lack jobs but lacks good quality jobs. The economy is creating enough jobs for the new entrants but people are exiting low-productivity agricultural jobs, he said, citing examples of Ola and Uber Technologies drivers without clarifying an overlap among the drivers who have registered for both the ride-hailing services.

Sabnavis said in case the NITI Aayog or the NSSO come up with a different set of data, it would be necessary to let everyone know why the earlier survey was wrong. “Once you say that the NSSO has not done the right job right now that’s the reason why the report was not made public, then that’s a fair enough argument.”