National Statistics Day 2020 and statistical system in India

Dr N Sharat Singh *

The 29th June 2020 is the 14th National Statistics Day of India. It is celebrated throughout the country under the guidelines of Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) in recognition of great contributions made by Prof. P. C. Mahalanobis (1893-1972) in Economic Planning and Statistical Development in Post Independent Era, coinciding with his birth anniversary.

Its objective is to sensitize the public about how statistics help in shaping and framing developmental policies. The theme for this year is “SDG-3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well being for all at all ages” and hence many institutions are organizing seminar/ conference/ online quiz on this day mainly on the topics – Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Reports; Covid-19 impacts on healthcare sectors; gender equality and social justice etc. The statistical system/ official statistics in India may be viewed in three generations viz., pre-independence, post-independence, and present system.

Pre-Independence: The statistical system was first laid down by the then British Administration by publishing first Statistical Abstract of British India (1840-1865), based on information provided by the Provinces as notable contributions of District Gazetteers in the first half of the nineteenth century.

The first significant development in the pre independence era was the constitution of a Statistical Committee (1862) for preparation of forms to collect statistical information on different subject areas. It led to the publication of Statistical Abstract of British India in 1868. It was based on the returns of local administrations and contained useful statistical information for all British Provinces, and became an annual feature till 1923.

The first complete Population Census was conducted in 1881 on a uniform basis throughout the country. Since then the census is being conducted regularly after every ten years appointing a Census Commissioner by the Govt. before each census assisted by Provincial Superintendents and District Census Officers. The first publication of Agricultural Statistics of British India was also brought out in 1886.

A Statistical Branch was established in 1862 in the then Finance Department of the Govt. of India. In 1895, the Statistical Branch was converted into a full-fledged Statistical Bureau embracing subsequently, within its function the task of dissemination of commercial intelligence in 1905.

Functions and activities of the Bureau were carried out through two wings – Commercial Intelligence and Statistics putting both under an organization, Department of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics headed by the Director-General.

The Director-General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics until 1914 was responsible for compilation and publication of principal statistical information on Demography, Crop Production and Prices, Rainfall, Industrial Production, Education, Health and Hygiene, Mining, Roads and Communications, and others. In April 1914, a separate Directorate of Statistics came into existence. The Directorate of Statistics and the Commercial Intelligence Department were also merged into Directorate of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics in January 1925.

Several Commissions and Committees appointed by the Govt. of India for studies of specific fields also recommended that the Provinces should create institutions to collect statistics in relevant fields. The Indian Industrial Commission (1916-1918) recommended that a Department of Industries should be created in the Provinces, with representatives throughout the Province to collect information on industries.

Later the Royal Commission on Agriculture in India (1924-1925) pointed out that not only Provinces be self-sufficient in the field of statistics, but also that there should be a large Central Organization. The Famine Enquiry Commission (1945) also suggested the appointment of qualified Statistical Officers at Provincial Headquarters to assist the Director of Agriculture.

In 1925, the Economic Enquiry Committee was set-up to enquire into ‘the question of the adequacy of statistical data available, desirability and possibility of supplementing it, and of undertaking an economic enquiry’. The Committee recommended that the Central and Provincial Governments should come under the supervision of one central authority that would act as an adviser to the Govt. in all statistical matters.

The Committee supported the placing of the entire statistical organisation on a statutory basis by enacting a Census and Statistics Act. The Committee appointed by the Govt. of India in 1934 under Messrs Bowley and Robertson, for facilitating a further study of economic problems in India was required by one of its terms of reference, to make a recommendation about the organization of a Central Statistical Department.

The two experts were clear that there should be in each major Province a whole time Statistician who would cooperate with the Central Director of Statistics and who would be as nearly independent of departmental control as administrative requirements permitted. The creation of the Central Economic Intelligence Organization, under the Economic Adviser, and the emergence of the Department of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics were the results of these recommendations.

Similar developments followed in the Provinces and the United Provinces Govt. was the first to set up a Department of Economics and Statistics in 1942. The Govt. of Bombay followed by the establishment of its Bureau of Economics and Statistics in 1946.

Post-Independence: In 1939, the outbreak of the II World War gave a fillip to the development of statistics to meet the requirements of the Govt. In 1945, the Govt. of India set up an Inter - Departmental Committee with the Economic Adviser to the Govt. of India as Chairman to consider statistical data available and to make recommendations for filling up of organizational gaps.

Among the organizational recommendations, a scheme was coupled with the formation of a Central Statistical Office for coordination, the Institution of a Statistical Cadre, the establishment of Statistical Bureaus at the Headquarters of State Governments and preparation of overall statistics for the country.

At this critical juncture, Prof. P.C. Mahalanobis was appointed as First Statistical Adviser to the Cabinet, Govt. of India in January 1949. He was known to be the architect of the Statistical System of Independent India. Meanwhile, Prof. P.V. Sukhatme, as Statistical Adviser to the then Ministry of Agriculture was also responsible for the development of Agricultural Statistics. Thus, the Era of developmental planning in India becomes with the following phases:

- A nucleus Statistical Unit was set up at the Centre in the Cabinet Secretariat in 1949. This Unit was developed later on in 1951 into the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO). It was brought about coordination of statistical activities among various statistical agencies in the Central Govt. and of Statistical Bureaus of State Governments which was set up for similar coordination of activities of statistical agencies at the State level.

o A National Income Committee was appointed in 1949 to work out a system for reliable estimation of national income.
o The National Sample Survey (NSS) came into existence in 1950 to collect information through sample surveys on a variety of socio economic aspects.
o In 1954, the National Income Unit was transferred from the Ministry of Finance to the CSO and a new Unit for Planning Statistics was set up.
o In 1957, the subject of Industrial Statistics was transferred from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to the CSO.
o In April 1961, the Department of Statistics was set up in the Cabinet Secretariat and the CSO became a part of it.
o In 1972, a Computer Centre in the then Department of Statistics was also set up.
o In 1973, the Department of Statistics became a part of the Ministry of Planning.
o In February 1999, the Department of Statistics and the Department of Programme Implementation were merged as the Department of Statistics and Programme Implementation under the Ministry of Planning and Programme Implementation.
o In October 1999, the Department of Statistics and Programme Implementation was declared as the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI).

Present Statistical System: As the country has a federal structure of Govt., the division of responsibility for administration between the Union Govt. and the State Govt. is based on three fold classification of all subjects namely, Union List, State List, and Concurrent List. The subject Statistics is in the last one which represents the areas where both the Union and State Govt. can operate.

The Indian Statistical System is largely decentralized with elements of central supervision. All-India largescale statistical operations – Population Census, Economic Census, Agricultural Census and Livestock Census, and nation-wide Sample Surveys, including the Annual Survey of Industries and the Socio - Economic Surveys, as well as compilation of Macro-Economic Aggregates like National Accounts, All-India Price Indices and Industrial Production, are mainly Central activities with substantial involvement of State agencies in data collection.

The State Governments and statistical organizations of the States also collect and generate data on several parameters. The Central Govt. acts as the coordinating agency for the presentation of statistics on an all-India basis even in fields where the States have the primary authority and responsibility for the collection of statistics. The MOSPI is the nodal agency for all statistical activities at the all India level.

The State Directorates of Economics and Statistics (DESs) carry out the responsibility of coordination of all statistical activities at the State level and keeping liaison with the MOSPI for coordination at all-India level, and for maintaining norms and standards in the field of official statistics.

The Directorates of Economics and Statistics (DESs) in the States /UTs act as the nodal agencies for the coordination of all statistical activities in the States/UTs. While most of the States /UTs have been formally declared by the State Governments as the Nodal Agencies on all statistical activities, a few though not yet formally declared, act as coordinating agency on statistical matters in the State/UT.

Most of the States /UTs have District Statistical Offices (DSOs) which act as the field offices of the DESs for collection/compilation of statistical data in the districts. The DESs perform almost the same functions in the States / UTs as the National Statistical Organization (NSO) at the Centre viz. bringing out some key statistics, coordination with the Central and State statistical agencies, dissemination of statistics, etc.

In Manipur also, we have a Directorate of Economics and Statistics at Lamphelpat, Imphal functioning well because of social development in various parameters.

It publishes a good number of publications like
o Manipur at a Glance;
o Population of Manipur (Social Statistical Indicator);
o Statistical Abstract of Manipur;
o Economic Survey Manipur;
o State Domestic Product of Manipur;
o A Picture of Manipur Budget;
o Gender Statistics, Manipur;
o Report on Crop Estimation Survey;
o Economic Census;
o Price statistics, Manipur etc.

Utilizing these sources, we have benefited a lot of statistical data in framing and planning of policies. Understanding these data requirements, let us conduct research works to achieve global sustainable development goals (SDGs). In case of research projects, individuals may avail financial assistance from MOSPI under Plan Scheme Capacity Development with a quantum up to Rs. 15 lakhs.

The professional/ research institutions engaged in the field of Official Statistics with qualified statisticians, economists and social scientists belonging to institutions receiving grants from UGC/ ISI/ CSIR and registered societies/ Trusts are eligible for assistance. The project format is available at and the proposal may be submitted through

Viewing the present unrest situation in Manipurin many issues like boundary, homeland, indigenous population etc., we may observe the words of P. C. Mahalanobis that – In India we have clear evidence that administrative statistics had reached a high state of organization before 300 B.C.

In the Arthasastra of Kautilya … the duties of the Gopa, the village accountant, … “by setting up boundaries to villages, by numbering plots of grounds as cultivated, uncultivated, plains, wet lands, gardens, vegetable gardens, fences (váta), forests altars, temples of gods, irrigation works, cremation grounds, feeding houses (sattra), places where water is freely supplied to travellers (prapá), places of pilgrimage, pasture grounds and roads, and thereby fixing the boundaries of various villages, of fields, of forests, and of roads, he shall register gifts, sales, charities, and remission of taxes regarding fields.”

* Dr N Sharat Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The author is a faculty member of the Statistics Department, D. M. College of Science, Imphal
and can be reached at sharatstats65(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on July 01 2020 .

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