14.1.1 The foundation of the statistical system in India was laid down by the British administration. The Provincial Governments were required to publish the relevant statistics in their annual administration reports. They, in turn, depended upon the district offices. These statistics covered a wide range of subjects. The forms for this information were later made uniform, and the first Statistical Abstract of British India (1840-1865) was based on such information provided by the Provinces. One of the notable contributions was the publication, in the first half of the nineteenth century, of District Gazetteers. Several Commissions and Committees appointed by the Government of India for studies of specific fields also recommended that the Provinces should create institutions to collect statistics in the relevant fields. Thus, 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 should the Provinces be self-sufficient in the field of statistics, but also that there should be a large Central Organisation. Later, the Famine Enquiry Commission (1945) suggested the appointment of qualified Statistical Officers at Provincial Headquarters to assist the Director of Agriculture.
14.1.2 Statistics in India thus developed in the Provinces expanding in scope to cover the fields of agriculture, industries, civil supplies (during the World War II), education, forestry, labour, cooperation, health and vital statistics. The organisational arrangement for collecting and publishing statistics, logically consistent with the organisation of Government administration and with the consequent delegated responsibilities and functions, has remained the same up to the present.
14.1.3 The first significant development in the pre-independence era was the constitution of a Statistical Committee (1862) for the preparation of forms to collect statistical information on different subject areas. This led to the publication entitled Statistical Abstract of British India in 1868. This publication was based on the returns of the local administrations and contained useful statistical information for all the British Provinces, and became an annual feature till 1923.
14.1.4 Following the recommendations of the Indian Famine Commission, Agriculture Departments were opened in 1881 in various provinces inter alia for collection of Agricultural Statistics, while the work of coordination in the collection of Agricultural Statistics by the Provinces was vested in the Department of Agriculture. The first publication on the subject, Agricultural Statistics of British India, was brought out in 1886.
14.1.5 A Statistical Branch was established in 1862 in the then Finance Department of the Government 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 well-defined wings namely, Commercial Intelligence and Statistics putting both under an organisation entitled Department of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics headed by the Director General. The Director General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics until 1914 was responsible for the compilation and publication of almost all the principal statistical information on demography, crop production and prices, rainfall, industrial production, education, health and hygiene, mining, roads and communications, and other subject matters. In April 1914, a separate Directorate of Statistics came into being. Subsequently, the Directorate of Statistics and the Commercial Intelligence Department were merged into a single organisation, which was renamed as the Directorate of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics in January 1925.
14.1.6 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. For this purpose, a Census Commissioner was appointed by the Government before each census assisted by Provincial Superintendents and District Census Officers. Only in 1948 following a Census Act, a permanent Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner was created.
14.1.7 In 1925, the Economic Enquiry Committee was set-up to enquire into ‘the question of adequacy of the statistical data available and the 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 the adviser to the Government 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.
14.1.8 The development of statistics as an essential part of Government administration compartmentalised the content of statistics in many sectors and fields according to the various Government departments, which dealt with them individually. However, the administrators were fully aware that if all these statistics were viewed as a single body of information, they would create greater and better knowledge about the conditions of life of the Indian people than what they could convey when viewed in isolation. The Indian Economic Enquiry Committee (1925) recommended the establishment of a Central Statistical Bureau, along with similar Provincial Statistical Bureaux, whose “aim was to provide a common purpose and a central thinking office on the subject of Statistics”. It also recommended legislation to place the whole Statistical Organisation on a legal basis and thus to ensure or facilitate the collection of current economic data from individuals and firms. The Government of India did not accept these recommendations.
14.1.9 The Committee appointed by the Government 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 recommendation about the organisation 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 Organisation, 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 Government was the first to set up a Department of Economics and Statistics in 1942. The Government of Bombay followed by the establishment of its Bureau of Economics and Statistics in 1946. Only after India became independent did the Government of India establish a Central Statistical Unit (1949), which was later (1951) converted into the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) and the Department of Statistics, which constitute presently the Statistics Wing of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
14.1.10 The outbreak of the War in 1939 gave a fillip to the development of statistics to meet the requirements of the Government. In 1945, the Government of India set up an Inter-Departmental Committee with the Economic Adviser to the Government of India as Chairman to consider the statistical material available and to make recommendations for filling up of the gaps, and for improvement in the existing organisations. Among the organisational recommendations was a scheme coupled with the formation of a Central Statistical Office for coordination, the institution of a statistical cadre, establishment of Statistical Bureaus at the Headquarters of State Governments and the preparation of overall statistics for the entire country.
14.1.11 Professor P.C. Mahalanobis, who is regarded as a pioneer in both theoretical and professional statistics, was appointed as the first statistical adviser to the Cabinet, Government of India in January 1949. He was the architect of the statistical system of independent India. Professor P. V. Sukhatme, as Statistical Adviser to the Ministry of Agriculture, was responsible for the development of Agricultural Statistics.
14.1.12 The coming of the era of developmental planning in India, gave significant impetus to the development of statistics. Important phases of this development are enumerated below:
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). The main responsibility assigned to the CSO was to bring about coordination of statistical activities among various statistical agencies in the Central Government and of Statistical Bureaus of State Governments, which was set up for similar coordination of activities of statistical agencies at the State level.
A National Income Committee was appointed in 1949 to work out a system for reliable estimation of national income.
The National Sample Survey (NSS) came into being in 1950 to collect information through sample surveys on a variety of socio-economic aspects.
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.
In 1957, the subject of Industrial Statistics was transferred from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to the CSO.
In April 1961, the Department of Statistics was set up in the Cabinet Secretariat and the CSO became a part of it.
In 1972, a Computer Centre in the then Department of Statistics was set up.
In 1973, the Department of Statistics became a part of the Ministry of Planning.
In February 1999, the Department of Statistics and the Department of Programme Implementation were merged and named as the Department of Statistics and Programme Implementation under Ministry of Planning and Programme Implementation.
In October 1999, the Department of Statistics and Programme Implementation was declared as the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoS&PI).
14.1.13 The Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) was registered on 28 April 1932 at Calcutta as a non-profit-distributing learned society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, with Professor P.C. Mahalanobis as its founder Director. This was set up to carry out research, teaching, training and project activities, and it gradually became an important part of the statistical system of India, through its pioneering work on large-scale sample surveys, design of agricultural experiments, statistical quality control, planning for national development and use of electronic computers in statistical work. By an Act of Parliament, the Institute was declared as an "Institute of National Importance" in 1959 and the right to hold examinations and award degrees and diplomas in Statistics was conferred on it.