Data and its Discontents:

An independent statistical system is as vital for democracy as a free press or an independent judiciary. The Indian statistical system had an enviable reputation of being a world class statistical system that was acknowledged by practitioners, academic, and institutions of the developed world. However, similar to the subversion of many of the institutions vital for the functioning of democracy, even this has been under attack in recent years.
Official statistics also played an important role in generating academic debates on crucial issues. They also played an important role of being an unbiased chronicler of India’s growth story. The weakening of the statistical system is as much a concern for the academic community as it is for the functioning of the democracy.


Himanshu is Associate Professor in Economics at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University. He is also visiting fellow at Centre de Sciences Humaines, New Delhi. He has held visiting fellowships at London School of Economics, (British Academy Senior Visiting Fellow and C R Parekh Fellow), UNU-WIDER (Finland) and GREQAM (France). His primary area of research is development economics with focus on issues related to poverty, inequality, employment, food security, rural development and agrarian change. His current research interests revolve around poverty and inequality in India, structural change and changing pattern of employment and livelihood in rural India.

He has been involved with various government committees including Expert Group on Measurement of Poverty (Tendulkar committee), National Statistical Commission, Reserve Bank of India, National Human Rights Commission, Ministry of Rural Development and Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation.

His recent publications include “How Lives Change: Palanpur, India and Development Economics” with Nicholas Stern and Peter Lanjouw, published by Oxford University Press, London (2018). The book is based on the longest longitudinal survey of a village Palanpur, a village in western Uttar Pradesh which has been surveyed intensively seven times starting from the first survey in 1957-58. He has been the principal investigator for the sixth and seventh round of Palanpur surveys along with Nicholas Stern and Peter Lanjouw.

Himanshu is a regular contributor to various media publications including television. He writes a fortnightly column on issues related to development in MINT newspaper. He has received the Sanjay Thakur Young Economist Award of the Indian Society of Labour Economics and Personnalité d’ Avenir of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Himanshu received his PhD in Economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University.

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