Bureaucrat Kshatrapati Shivaji takes up India’s top statistical post

But he has only been given additional charge, and govt has not appointed a full-time chief statistician yet

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Kshatrapati Shivaji | Statistics

The government of India has appointed Kshatrapati Shivaji, a 1986-batch Maharashtra cadre IAS officer, as the secretary in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) from September 1. The secretary at this ministry is, by design, known as the chief statistician of India.

But he has only been given additional charge to head India’s statistical system, and the government has not appointed a full-time chief statistician yet. Shivaji will continue to lead the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions as his main charge until his superannuation at the end of March 2021.

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet approved the assignment on August 31.

The interesting bit is that the cabinet post for this ministry is held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is the second instance in which a secretary at this ministry will overlook India’s statistical system. In 2018, when T C A Anant quit as the then chief statistician, the Modi government had given the top job for government statistics to the then secretary in this very ministry, K V Eapen.

The official heading MoSPI is responsible for monthly publication of industrial production, consumer inflation, annual survey of industries, economic censuses, and quinquennial surveys on employment and consumption expenditure among other statistical reports. All of these reports go into the preparation of national income accounts, which is the basis for the formulation of gross domestic product in the economy.

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His assumption of additional charge comes when GDP estimation in particular, and data credibility in general, have been a topic of intense debate under the Modi government.

Shivaji was executive director at the Asian Development Bank for three years till January 2020. He has spent most of his career in Maharashtra, with the finance, industries, and commerce departments in the state. He is an Indian Institute of Delhi alumnus.

The government has not yet appointed a full-time person to fill in India’s top statistician post, which was vacated due to the superannuation of Pravin Srivastava, who held the post since October 2018.

Srivastava’s short stint has a fair share of controversies, as it was under him that the government decided to junk the crucial consumer expenditure survey without releasing it. In addition, several economists raised questions on the back-series of national accounts, which were released under his tenure.

Pronab Sen was appointed the first chief statistician of India in 2007, who was succeeded by TCA Anant in 2010, who continued till 2018. For about eight months since Anant left the post and Srivastava assumed full charge, India did not have a full-time chief statistician. This is the second instance since the post was created.