Leaked data reveals spending slump, forces India to shelve report

MUMBAI: India said Friday that it would not release a controversial report on shrinking consumer demand after a leading business daily leaked data showing that per capita spending had slumped for the first time in four decades.

The report is bad news for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has struggled to revive India’s stuttering economy.

Consumer demand in India’s villages fell 8.8% between July 2017 and June 2018, compared with 2011-12, the Business Standard reported, using unpublished National Statistical Office (NSO) data.

Two-thirds of India’s 1.3 billion population lives in rural areas, making it a key economic driver. But spending on food, education and clothing declined, with demand for essential items such as cereals plunging 20%, the newspaper said.

Although urban consumption rose by 2%, overall per capita monthly spending in the country slipped 3.7 % – the first time it has fallen since 1972-73, the business daily said.

The report was scheduled for release in June but was delayed because of its “adverse” findings, the Business Standard said, citing sources familiar with the matter.

The ministry of statistics slammed the claims, saying that the government had decided not to release the report following the recommendations of an expert committee.

“Concerns were also raised about the ability/sensitivity of the survey instrument to capture consumption of social services by households especially on health and education,” a ministry statement said.

“In view of the data quality issues, the ministry has decided not to release” the report, it said.