The NITI Aayog on Thursday said that an official report according to which unemployment rate in India was at a 45-year-high of 6.1% in 2017-’18 was not final, and the data related to it was still under process.

The government agency was reacting to a news report in the Business Standard newspaper published earlier in the day that was based on a report by the National Sample Survey Office’s Periodic Labour Force Survey. It quoted job data from 2017-’18, which was the first full financial year after the government demonetised high-value currency notes in November 2016.

NITI Aayog Vice Chairperson Rajiv Kumar said the country could not have experienced a growth of 7% if unemployment had been on the rise. “The confusion is being created by those using a job report which has been leaked, and it has not been finalised,” he added.

The new survey used a computer-assisted personal interviewee method to collect data this time, said Kumar. “It is not right to compare the two data sets, this data is not verified,” he added. “It is not correct to use this report as final.”

Two independent members of the National Statistical Commission had resigned this week after the government allegedly failed to publish the report, which was prepared last month.

Documents reviewed by the Business Standard showed that unemployment rate was at its highest since the 1972-’73 period, from when the employment data is comparable. In comparison, the unemployment rate stood at 2.2% in 2011-’12, during the United Progressive Alliance’s second term, according to the survey.

NITI Aayog Chief Executive Officer Amitabh Kant reiterated Kumar’s comment, saying it was incorrect to compare the latest NSSO data with that from 2011-’12 as the methodology and sample size used were different. “It used to be a five-year study, now we do it every quarter,” he added. “We will go by the report that is finalised.”

Kant said he believed the country was not creating enough quality jobs. “My view is that we are creating jobs for new entrants, but we are probably not creating high-quality jobs, people are moving away from low-quality jobs in the agricultural sector, which we need to address,” the NITI Aayog chief added. “We have still managed to create 7.5 million to eight million jobs.”

Immediately after the news report was published, Congress President Rahul Gandhi mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying the “leaked job creation report card reveals a national disaster”.

In response, the Bharatiya Janata Party alleged that the Business Standard report was fake news, and said Rahul Gandhi had inherited fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s “shortsightedness”. The ruling party claimed that data from the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation showed an increase in jobs in the last 15 months.

‘We should go with verifiable data,’ says Mohandas Pai

Chairman of Manipal Global Education Mohandas Pai expressed scepticism about the Business Standard report. “It is just a leak,” he told ANI. “We don’t know how much to rely on it. This might be true, might not be true. Even it if it is true, it is just based on a survey. So we should go with the available and verifiable data.”

He claimed that almost three to four crore jobs were created in the last four-and-a-half-years. “We have verifiable data of Provident Fund accounts of almost 9 lakh companies,” Pai said. “We have data of cars sold in past years which are being used for various cab services like Ola and Uber. We have nine crore trucks on roads and every year there is an addition to it.”

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) demanded that the government release all data related to unemployment immediately and discuss it in Parliament, PTI reported. “This suppression of data is a clear admission on the part of the Modi government that its policies have resulted in greater misery for our people,” the CPI(M) Politburo said in a statement. “India’s youth which is our asset is now being wasted. It also exposes the utter failure of the BJP-led government to deliver on its promise of providing two crore jobs every year, that is, ten crore new jobs during the last five years.”