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GDP data revision: NITI Aayog’s role raises eyebrows; some feel it was best avoided

With eyebrows being raised over the involvement of the NITI Aayog in releasing revised GDP data for the UPA era, some in the government feel the controversy could have been totally avoided by keeping the think tank out of the announcement.

The NITI Aayog had Wednesday hosted a news conference by its Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar and Chief Statistician Pravin Srivastava to announce the so-called back-series data.

The new numbers show India’s economic growth rate averaged 6.7 per cent during the Congress-led UPA regime as compared to 7.3 per cent under the present government. Previous numbers had put the average growth rate during the 10-year UPA rule at 7.75 per cent.

While the government has maintained that the Central Statistical Office – the agency responsible for the number crunching – is an independent agency, a joint press conference by Kumar and Srivastava raised eyebrows, including by former finance minister P Chidambaram.

A top source in the government said the controversy could have been avoided by keeping out the NITI Aayog from the announcement press conference.

He believed that the NITI Aayog had no role in calculating the GDP numbers, which was the job of CSO. The announcement too should have been left to the CSO alone.

Chidambaram called the revision a “hatchet job” by the NITI Aayog, while former chief statistician Pronab Sen questioned the involvement of the Aayog.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on his part defended the revision saying the CSO was a “highly credible organisation” that “maintains an arm’s length distance from finance ministry”.

To those criticising the numbers, he said, “I don’t think any service is being rendered by people who choose to discredit a highly credible organisation like the CSO because its data is based on facts and the revised formulations which is a continuous exercise because every time you try and improve upon the formulations to make them more representative of the real state of economy”.

Opposition Congress, however, found the revision odd.

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