Union Minister for Labour and Employment Santosh Kumar Gangwar on Monday told the Lok Sabha that the periodic labour force survey report prepared by the National Sample Survey Office has been approved by the National Statistical Commission.

The report has not yet been made public, which had led to the resignation of two independent members of the commission in January. Days after they resigned, Business Standard accessed the report and published details about it – including the finding that unemployment rose to a 45-year high of 6.1% in 2017-’18.

The NITI Aayog then claimed that the report was not final, and the data was still under process.

“For the year 2017-’18 [July 2017 to June 2018], NSSO has completed survey and submitted draft report to National Statistical Commission, who has approved the same,” Gangwar said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha. “NSSO is currently processing the quarterly data for the period July 2017 to December 2018.”

PC Mohanan, who had resigned as chairman of the commission in protest, said on Tuesday that efforts were made to suggest that the report was only a “draft” and that the final approval was still to be given by the government.

“Surprisingly, it was the NITI Aayog, and not the Chief Statistician whose job it is to uphold the integrity of the official statistics, that took the initiative to raise technical doubts on the report and the survey methodology,” he wrote in The Indian Express. “A similar involvement of the NITI Aayog in the release of the GDP back series had also raised questions.”

Mohanan said his resignation, along with another non-official member JV Meenakshi, was the last act in a “long story of disregard” of the NSC’s recommendations that “reduced its effectiveness”.

The NSSO report

The survey is the first on employment by a government agency since demonetisation. The Periodic Labour Force Survey is also the first annual household survey of the National Sample Survey Office. Its data was collected between July 2017 and June 2018.

Documents reviewed by the Business Standard showed that unemployment rate of 6.1% in 2017-’18 was the highest since 1972-’73, 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.