To assess the country’s economic performance, economists and statisticians had to depend on data which was dated. But now, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) has taken upon itself to make available the latest data and come out with the economic census every three years.

Pravin Srivastava, Secretary MoSPI, and Chief Statistician of India (CSI), said: “We are pursuing a strategy to move all data-capturing activities on a digital mode/platform. This facilitates faster collection and capturing of information and improved quality with in-built validation checks.”

Seventh economic census

The move has been initiated with the work on the seventh economic census. “The data being collected in the economic census undergoes three levels of scrutiny, all of which is through the mobile application developed exclusively for the economic census,” he told BusinessLine.

It is a periodic exercise conducted by the MoSPI to collect disaggregated information on various operational and structural aspects of all economic establishments in the country. It is meant to provide insights into geographical spread of economic activities, ownership pattern, persons engaged, and sources of finance of the establishments engaged in economic activities across the country.

The previous censuses have been conducted in paper schedules through enumerators engaged by State governments. In the latest census, data will be collected, validated and disseminated through advanced IT usage, which is expected to reduce the lag in finalisation of results, as well as improve accuracy and coverage of the data.

MoSPI, flagged off the exercise in 16 States/UTs in July and August. The remaining States/UTs will be covered in a phased manner in September. It proposes to close the entire process by December.

The data-release at the national level will take about three months time from the end of the field work.

For data authenticity, Srivastava said: “The scrutiny is being done by a joint team of officers of the respective State governments and the National Statistical Office. Since the field work is going on simultaneously throughout the country, MoSPI has partnered with the Common Service Centre network for undertaking the field work and for the technology interventions.”

Intensive training and capacity building is taking place prior to the start of the census in any area, which facilitates improved data quality, he said, adding: “A command centre is being established in MoSPI that will continuously monitor the field work and data quality.”

The entire fund for the economic census activity is being borne by MoSPI. The census is aimed at getting a better picture of the economic agents in the economy from the establishment perspective and to create the framework for a National Statistical Business Register (NSBR), said Srivastava.

The Indian economy has a significant share of the informal sector which, by its very nature, is dynamic in their economic activity, employment size and also the location of operations. “The economic census is planned to be conducted every three years to capture these changes in the economic activity of establishments and promote improved policy initiatives. This will also facilitate improved sample surveys of establishments by the Central and State governments,” he added.

Once successfully implemented, the NSBR will make the entire process even easier, as MoSPI proposes to sync it with the ministries such as Corporate Affairs and Finance (GSTN) which have data banks.

It is also collecting geo-tags that would help assess the kind of business activities that are more popular in one particular region or area or district.

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