February 28, 2012

Rural Consumer Price Index-Data Collection through Post Office

The postman in rural areas across the country has his hands full. Apart from his regular job, he now has to go out three to four times a week to collect data from retail outlets which is then used to calculate the rural consumer price inflation. Faced with an acute manpower shortage, the ministry of statistics and programme implementation tied up with the department of posts to get over the problem of collecting such massive amount of data from rural areas across the country. "When we were discussing about the comprehensive CPI data we were looking for a department which had reach across the country. We zeroed in on the postal network," said Pronob Sen, adviser in the Planning Commission and former chief statistician of the country.

It was a perfect opportunity for the postal department, which readily accepted the offer. Rising competition and new technology has posed serious challenges for the department of posts. It is working on several ideas to maximize revenues and use its vast network to help other government departments. "We were looking at new avenues for raising our revenue and we entered into a memorandum of agreement with the ministry of statistics and progamme implementation," said Sachin Pilot, minister of state for communications and information technology.

He said the rural CPI data is being collected by 1,181 rural post offices. About 1,800 employees undertake the exercise for 3 to 4 hours a week. The statistics ministry paid the department of posts Rs 6.32 crore in 2010-11 and is to pay Rs 7.66 crore in 2011-12. "We just collect the data, the CPI is calculated by the statistics ministry on department of posts and National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) inputs," Pilot said. Price data is collected from selected towns by the Field Operations Division of NSSO and from selected villages by the department of posts. This data is then fed into web portals being maintained by the National Informatics Centre.

Postal employees identified for the mission were put through intensive training sessions. "They were taught how to collect the data, the questions to be asked and how to put the data in the portal," Sen said, adding most employees had education up to Class 8. "There were initial hiccups for about 3-4 months but then it settled down. They collect data and then feed it into the computers available in the post office. The data is carefully examined before it is used," said Sen, adding that the department of posts compensates the employees for collecting data.

Source: The Economic Times



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