The National Statistical Commission has decided not to make a survey on consumer spending public, which shows a fall for the first time in over 40 years in 2017-’18, Business Standard reported on Tuesday. The commission’s decision not to publish the survey comes two months after its chairperson, Bimal Kumar Roy said the survey would be released.

Asked why the commission decided not to publish the survey, Roy said: “I did try. I made a proposal [in an NSC meeting on January 15] to release the survey but I didn’t find support. I did put in the proposal as chairperson but it didn’t get through. I cannot say anything more now.”

Chief Statistician Pravin Srivastava objected to the release of the survey, the newspaper reported citing an unidentified official. The minutes of the meeting did not record the views of the person who dissented. “This raises eyebrows on the manner in which the discussions were conducted within the NSC,” the official said.

A report in November had said that consumer spending fell 3.7% between 2011-’12 and 2017-’18, the first such fall in 40 years, indicating a rise in the level of poverty. Following this, the National Statistical Commission decided not to publish the survey.

“Considering the analysis and views of members, it was agreed that the household consumer expenditure survey data are not sensitive enough to capture the significant changes in consumption behaviour, especially those goods and services delivered through social welfare programmes,” the minutes of the meeting, which the Business Standard had accessed, claimed. Instead, the commission recommended carrying out fresh surveys for 2020-’21 and 2021-’22.

The Indian economy has been sliding over the past two years. India’s Gross Domestic Product growth rate slipped to 4.5% in the second quarter of 2019-’20, the lowest in six years. The government has forecast a growth rate of 5% for the financial years. The fall in the growth rate is primarily due to a decline in consumer demand. Meanwhile, retail inflation rose to a near-six-year high of 7.59% in January this year.

Earlier, the government had refused to release a survey by the National Sample Survey Organisation before the Lok Sabha elections last year, which showed that unemployment in 2017-’18 rose to a 45-year high of 6.1%. The survey was released following the polls, and the government promptly disowned it.