India’s Unreliable Statistics

Where’s Waldo? Photo by Ranjith Shenoyr

Indian statistics are under fire. Really, what can you say about India with any accuracy. It’s a billion people, 400+ languages, countless dialects, innumerable races, [adjective here] races, many, many, uh, things. You can’t even appeal to the gods for help cause there’s 330 million of them.

Now the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is saying that government stats are unreliable and they can’t work with them. Here are some examples of dodgy figures.


in February 2010, the advance estimate for GDP growth for 2009-10 was pegged at 6.8%. Three months later, this was revised to 7.7% while in February 2011, the quick estimates pegged it at 9.1%-a change of over 40% within a year (ibid).

Given a figure of $1.216 trillion in 2008, those are pretty big differences. That’s a difference of about $28 billion dollars if my own dodgy calculations are right (1.298 trillion at the low end, 1.326 at the high). That’s only $8 billion more than America’s air conditioning bill for Afghanistan and Iraq, but still a lot.


India’s employment data is especially dodgy. According to the NSSO, over half of the population is self-employed, but that’s often a fancy word for unemployed. They definitely earn less money. By their stats, only 15% of Indians have what I’d consider a job. That self-employment figure, however, enables them to show both less jobs and less unemployment.

RBI Governor Duvvuri Subbarao said, “The recently put out data on employment throw up a paradox as they simultaneously indicate fewer jobs created in the five-year period to 2010 along with a decline in the long-term unemployment rate.” (Express Buzz)


Inflation figures for January and February of 2011 were revised from 8.2 per cent and 8.3 per cent to 9.5 per cent—a difference of 120 basis points, unheard of elsewhere. (ibid)

It’s like the Indian government is herding cats and that statistics department is trying to count them. It’s not easy, but it’s also essential. Why? Well, so I can I can learn how to make infographics, but also because the Indian government needs to plan policy, Indian businesses need to business and foreign investors need to invest. There’s big money involved now, and big gaps in the numbers.

Further Reading: The Hindu – Official statistics need to be reliable

RSS feed | Trackback URI

1 Comment »

2011-07-12 03:15:42

These days we hear a lot of unreliable stats from every corner.. not just from India!!

Name (required)
E-mail (required - never shown publicly)
Your Comment (smaller size | larger size)
You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

email indi AT

Recent Comments

Anti Christian Christmas (2)

Jack Point: I found this video very disturbing. v=EUHCQyxK3ps&a mp;feature=yout http://dbsjeyar hives/27450

Jack Point: “these acts go under the radar because they’re on what my friend Dinidu calls ‘minorities within minorities’. The attacks are no less awful, however, and it’s sad the mainstream Muslims and Christians are not speaking out,”...

What A Colombo Revolution Might Look Like (Thailand) (5)

sharanga: Good constructive criticism.

sharanga: >the electorate is too ill-informed to decide This is almost always true in any country. It’s one of the greatest faults of democracy. The electorate is ill-informed and as public choice theorists put it, systematica...

Faz: What a ridiculous post Indi. I don’t even know where to begin with this

The Southern Expressway Bus (11)

Jack Point: Wy can’ these MORONS publish the damned timetable? Is that such a hard thing to do ? We have to go round in circles looking for info, no one knows exactly. Every website says contact 1919 but those idiots are only available...

The Cantaloupe Crash (10)

Iqbal: 5.5 million is a lot of money. Sounds about right. OMG 7 million for a wedding? Who organised it Cantaloupe? Did the poruwa crash doen around you? Either way you got ripped off machan. You ain’t no math wiz for sure. More like dim wit.

Iqbal: Indi, I think the official revenue figure was more like Rs 55 million for this Cantaloupe event. Which gives the directors pretty much what you say. I pity the fools that paid such an amount to have their NYE ruined.

Math Whiz: So there were 3500 tickets right? Normal Tickets were Rs. 10,000/- and VIP Tickets were Rs. 13,000/-. Just for the sake of argument let us go with the higher number of Rs. 13,000/- per ticket: 3500 X 13000 = Rs. 45,500,000/- There are 4...

Ali Baba And The NSA (1)

sack: I think you are forgetting the fact that most of the NSA type work (NSA is one among many) is done by private companies. In theory you can say that NSA employees are employees of the government who is doing a duty rather like soldiers. But...

What A Colombo Revolution Might Look Like (Thailand)

There’s a section of Sri Lanka – call them UNPers, elites, ESE, Ceylonese, whatever – that really really dislike Mahinda Rajapaksa and everything he represents. They’d like to see him thrown out of power at the least and tried as a war criminal at the most. This amorphous population, however, cannot beat him in elections and many don’t even vote. They do have disproportionate international connections so are featured a lot in international coverage of Sri Lanka, but they’re not especially influential within. I generalize because I’m talking broadly about a community I am or moreso was a part of.

Ali Baba And The NSA

There’s been a lot of talk about Edward Snowden and the NSA, specifically whether he should be hanged by his neck till dead or treated as a whistleblower. I lean towards the whistleblower side, largely because it’s really hard to take the side of a monolith like the NSA over one human being. There are a few points which have been bugging me.

Anti Christian Christmas

Shamefully, places of worship were attacked over the holidays – both Christian and Muslim. In this case the attacks seem to have been Muslims attacking Sufis (a sect) and claimed Buddhists attacking evangelical Christians. Both of these acts go under the radar because they’re on what my friend Dinidu calls ‘minorities within minorities’. The attacks are no less awful, however, and it’s sad the mainstream Muslims and Christians are not speaking out, let alone Buddhists.

The Cantaloupe Crash

Cantaloupe is an events management team that grew out of the old Colombo Nightlife crew, AFAIK. I’ve met a few of the directors and they’re nice enough, though those sort of events and nightclubs (Amuseum) are not my scene at all. They are, however, a scene which a lot of people seem to enjoy. Underneath that lifestyle, however, there’s always an undercurrent of violence and danger. This New Year’s Eve nobody shot off guns (which happens in Colombo), but an entire stage did collapse, injuring hundreds. There are limited ways to respond to such disasters, but not being prepared, not getting the injured to hospital as a priority and continuing the party have not represented Cantaloupe or the Hilton well.