Monitoring and Evaluation in Practice & Reporting &; The Statistical System in India and an Introduction to Various Official and Other Databases

Session Report
Bhanvi Bansal

An online International Summer School Program on “Data, Monitoring and Evaluation” is a two-month immersive online hands-on certificate training course organised by IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi. The session was on “Monitoring and Evaluation in Practice &; Reporting &; The Statistical System in India and an Introduction to Various Official and Other Databases”  by Dr Arjun Kumar, Director at IMPRI and Bhanvi, Researcher at IMPRI. Inaugurating the session Fiza Mahajan, a researcher at IMPRI, welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the eminent panellists. 

Statistical data in India

The session was initiated by Bhanvi by giving a brief overview of statistical data in India and then it was carried forward by Dr Arjun Kumar who shared information about various estimates regarding the official and non-official data, issues & challenges, and the way forward. She discussed how official economic statistics in India had undergone a lot of evolution and had experienced modifications since its inception, and there had been numerous growth and structural changes since independence be it terms of contribution by varied sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, and service sector. 

Emphasising on the need of the main objective of the session was on understanding various data sources, collection techniques and websites for the chief three sectors of our economy i.e. are primary, secondary and tertiary and parallelly she drew a brief overview on organised and unorganised sectors as well.

She further mentioned about the techniques that would be used to analyse the recent datasets and surveys with respect to changing plans and vision along with scrutinising the credibility and utility of available data with respect to the structural changes that our system had witnessed over the last few years. She also explained how policymakers are coming out with innovative techniques in order to maintain pace with the changing and evolving trends in order to enable smooth evidence-based policymaking.

Datasets and Relevant Sources

Discussing further about the official statistical data that are used in social sector such as National Family Health Survey (NFHS), NSS, Sample Registration System (SRS), Specialised Surveys (Longitudinal Ageing Study in India – LASI, others), Educational data sources such as NSS, All India Survey on Higher and some other sources on Sanitation, Housing, etc – NSS, Census, program data, others. Then she discussed the timeline of evolution of statistical data that had emerged over the period of time.

Taking the session forward Dr Arjun Kumar discussed various recent datasets available along with statistical data and how to get access to them as well as other surveys such as (Lokniti-CSDS, etc). He discussed about other prominent non-official data sources such as Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), India Human Development Survey (IHDS), Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), People’s Research on India’s Consumer Economy & India’s Citizen, Environment (PRICE) – ICE360 Survey along with sources of Official Data from Government system of scrutiny,  Annual Report of Ministry, Program data and dashboard, Press Information Bureau (PIB), CAG Report,  Parliamentary Committee Report, and NITI Aayog.

Challenges faced

He also mentioned various issues and challenges in terms of statistical data with regards to time, credibility and reliability. Moreover, there are discrepancies in macroeconomic data – GDP, banking, national accounts as well as lack of public availability of data and highlighted the issues related to methodological and estimation issues. Discussing further he touched upon various sources of agriculture and allied activities, industry as well as service sectors.

There were certain issues as well that he touched upon such as difficulty in collection of digital censuses for population and international and foreign data. Taking the illustration for Covid 19, he mentioned about the hardships that were faced while collecting statistical data for health matters in terms of testing and vaccination as there were fake records and underreporting of cases that hampered the actual monitoring of cases in India and if correct data records were there then proper scanning and controlling methods could be ensured.

Concluding the session, he mentioned about the way forward as to what all steps can be taken to ensure accurate and timely data along with its credibility. He suggested some of the methods such as empowering the local bodies, data collection techniques should focus on inclusivity in terms of targeting and implementation, frequency of surveys and census should be increased so that studies can be done according to time trends and appropriate and accurate results could be drawn. He also stressed upon the need for effective utilisation of data and existing datasets with proper knowledge and education so that correct conclusions can be interpreted and can be used in further studies and analyses.

The session concluded by an interactive question and answer session which facilitated a more nuanced understanding of the topics covered and cultivated a critical understanding among the participants about the statistical data understanding techniques. Concluding the session, Fiza Mahajan, researcher at IMPRI thanks the panellists for insightful sessions and the participants for raising pertinent questions throughout the program.

Acknowledgement: Bhanvi Bansal is a research intern at IMPRI.

Read more session reports on web policy learning events conducted by IMPRI:

Introduction and Critical Reflections on Forensic Health and Data

Analysis of State Budget and Public Finance Data

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