THE COLLECTION OF STATISTICS ACT, 2008

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The Collection of Statistics Act 2008 got the Presidential assent on the January 7th, 2009 and was brought into force on June 11th, 2010. This Act was enacted by repealing the Customs of Statistics Act, 1953. The Collection of Statistics Rules was notified on 16th May, 2011.

The main purpose of the act is to collect statistics on economic, demographic, social, scientific and environmental aspects from everybody including industrial and commercial concerns, individuals and households. The responsibility of collecting statistics has been given to the Central and State Governments, Union Territory Administrations, and the local governments such as Panchayats and Municipalities. They should appoint statistics officers, either for each subject of data collection or for each geographical unit. The Act includes different methods of data collection, such as, oral interviews and filing of returns electronically. It consists of 6 Chapters and 34 Sections and extends to whole of India, except Jammu and Kashmir.

The Act also takes measures to avoid duplication of surveys as it leads to both, wastage of resources on survey work and may give rise to conflicting statistics. Central Government has the power to make strict rules so as to avoid duplication. According to the Rules made under this Act, a nodal officer should be appointed at the Centre and at every State or Union Territory. They are designated to advice the concerned line Ministries on the steps that could be taken to avoid duplication.

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This information that has been collected from various sources shall only be used for the purposes of the statistics or for prosecution under the Act. In other words, this information cannot be used as evidence for prosecution of any other law. Confidentiality of the information collected is of utmost importance and also appropriate safeguards when data collection is outsourced. Disclosing any information collected without withholding the identity of the person is also not permitted under the Act. Individuals who refuse to furnish and provide the information asked shall be given a penalty of a maximum of 1000 rupees in the case of individuals and 5000 rupees in the case of companies. But this doesn’t mean that if a person pays the fine he needn’t furnish the information. If a person continues to neglect the rules and doesn’t cooperate with the officers, then for each day that this continues, that person will be fined with 1000 rupees each, for an individual and 5000 rupees, for a company. For offences like furnishing false information and other serious offences, punishments become severe like simple imprisonment of up to six months or fine or both. A summary trial would be conducted for the purpose of prosecution for offences.

Under the Indian Constitution, duties are divided into three categories, the Union List, the State List and the Concurrent List. It is in the Concurrent List that statistics and surveys are enumerated. The Union and State Governments can operate on the duties classified under this list. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoS&PI) has established the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) which works as the nodal department for the strategic development of the statistical methods and systems in the country. It also tries to bring co-ordination in statistical activities among statistical agencies in the Government and State Directorates of Economics and Statistics. Department of Statistics was created at the centre in 1961 and its prim organs are the Central Statistical Organisation, the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), the Computer Centre and the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI). At state level, the Statistical systems are almost the same as that at the centre. The different departments, like Agriculture or Health, will have a section for statistics. The Directorate of Economics and Statistics is at the apex level, and is authorized to coordinate the statistical activities of the state. The National Sample Survey Organisation is being used to estimate the poverty levels in the country.

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Collecting Statistics is an important function of every government. It helps the government understand the living conditions of the people. It helps assess the success and reach of the different policies adopted by the government. It helps the government make new, more efficient policies, etc. It is through statistics that the government understands the needs of its people. Hence it is important to have a proper and efficient Data Collection system in every country.