Yashwant Sinha says Centre trying to interfere in working of statistics dept
New Delhi, Dec 13: Amid a raging row over the revised economic growth numbers, former Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha on Thursday accused the NDA dispensation of trying to interfere with the system of collecting statistics, saying no previous government had ever done it.
Interacting with reporters at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of South Asia here, Sinha alleged that at times, statistics which "did not show the current government in a better light compared to previous ones, were withdrawn".
"It is for the first time that we are witnessing a situation... though the government of the day is very fond of making history. But, for the first time in our system, a person like me, does not trust the statistics which the government puts up. It has never happened before," he said.
The former BJP leader, who has been a vocal critic of the current Bharatiya Janata Party leadership and the government, said, worst things might had happened in the past.
"But no government has ever tried to interfere with the system of collecting statistics, its collation and distribution ever before," Sinha said.
The Congress had recently accused the Modi government of manipulating GDP data of previous years, describing it as a desperate attempt to undermine India's growth story over the last 15 years.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had rejected the charge and defended the revision in India's GDP growth rate during the previous UPA era, saying it was done by a "highly credible" organisation, the Central Statistics Office, which maintains an "arm's length distance" from the finance ministry. The NDA government introduced some changes with regard to base year after coming to power in 2014, Sinha said.
"Then, the formula for collection of statistics, that also underwent a change... this led to an increase of 150-200 basis points in growth figures," the veteran leader said.
A committee was appointed under a very well-known economist, to work out the parallel figures of earlier years, he said.
"He (economist) did that study and came up with some figures, which did not show this government in a better light that the previous governments. Those statistics were quickly withdrawn. And, then a government think-tank, which has nothing to do with collection of statistics, said the earlier figures were wrong and what it shared later were the correct statistics in which achievements of the present government are better than the previous governments," the former Union minister said.
Sinha said the parliamentary standing committee on finance had asked for figures from the Agriculture Ministry on the impact of demonetisation on agriculture. "They sent a report which again did not project the government in a very good light on the issue, so those were also withdrawn. Subsequent figures were completely at variance with the earlier figures and reflected a 'positive' side to it," Sinha alleged.
"No one can claim to capture the statistics of the population, given it is a large, developing country. But, no government in the past has ever attempted to interfere with the work of department of statistic," the former finance minister alleged.
Asked about the RBI issue, he said it should not have happened the manner in which it did to a situation where its governor had to resign.
"A new governor has been quickly appointed and has quickly taken charge, I hope it would stand by its autonomy that is due of the central bank, and function in a manner that will strengthen the faith of the people in this venerable institution," he said.