India’s Socio-Economic Data Base
India has a large and diverse economic and social database which, although it compares well with the information available in other developing countries, is characterized by a number of inadequacies.
To start with, there are problems of coverage: the population covered by a particular data-set is often not comprehensive enough, or efforts to merge information from different sources are rendered impossible due to overlapping populations and variations in definition. Second, there are difficulties with the quality of data. Reporting shortfalls, improper questionnaire design, inadequate concepts and faulty methodologies undermine the reliability of particular information-sets. Third, variations in coverage, introduction of new variables and changes in definition result in problems of inter-temporal comparability. Fourth, there is a lack of timeliness: delays occur right from the stage of collection of statistics to their processing and publication. Finally, there is the problem of accessibility, in terms of both the ease of access to data, and the form in which they can be accessed. To address these and related problems of access to current and historical information, the Indian Council of Social Science Research organized a seminar on the ‘Current Status of Socio-Economic Data’ at the Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi, during 30 June to 1 July 1997. Review papers were commissioned from experts in different areas, to discuss the principal sources of data, the level of aggregation/disaggregation of published tabulations, the time-period and form in which the data are available, the extent of computerization of the collected data, and conditions of access to data-sets. This volume brings together the papers presented at the seminar, after they were revised based on comments made by discussants. They seek to: (i) document as comprehensively as possible the sources and availability of information on different sectors and socio-economic variables; (ii) assess the quality and reliability of the data as well as their comparability across data-sets and over time; (iii) report on the form in which data are available and the ease with which they can be put into computer-readable formats.