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Statistics a branch of Mathematics concerned with collecting, classifying and interpreting a group of facts according to their relative number and determining certain values that represent characteristics of the group. The word statistics comes from the Latin word status or the Italian word statista or the German word statistik, each of which means a political state. In 1749, German Professor Gottfried Ackenwall (1719-1772) defined Statistics as 'the political science of several countries'. In 1770 another definition of statistics was found in the famous book Elements of Universal Erudition by Baron JF Von Bieldfeld, translated by W Hooper MD (Vol, 1770). Here statistics is defined as 'the science that teaches what is the political arrangement of all modern states of the known world'.

Statistics in Bengal dates back to an ancient period. In this region, an efficient system of collecting official and administrative statistics existed even more than 2000 years ago, in particular, during the reign of Chandra Gupta Maurya (324-300 BC). From Kautilya's Arthashastra it is known that even before 300 BC a very good system of collecting vital statistics and registration of birth and death was in practice. During the Mughal period, statistics were collected and used for administrative purposes. The main documents related to statistical information are Tuzuk-e-Baburi and Ain-i-Akbari. During Akbar's reign (1556-1605), Raja Todarmal, the then land and revenue minister, maintained good records of land and agricultural statistics. Ain-i-Akbari written by Abul Fazl in 1596 is considered to be one of the very informative and standard documents of Emperor Akbar's period.

After the Mughal period, the British captured this region. Raiyotwari System was introduced in this part of the world during 18th century by the east india company to collect land revenue, till the existence of zamindari system. In 1863 an official of the company Sir william wilson hunter presented his scheme of a systematic gazetteer of Bengal and Assam provinces. Since 1867 he collected detail information and data on 59 districts of the above two provinces in statistical forms under six heads: topographical, ethnical, agricultural, industrial, administrative and medical. In 1871 he became the Director General of Statistics in the Department of Agriculture, Revenue and Commerce. In 1877 he presented his monograph on A Statistical Account of Bengal. The first issue of the Imperial Gazetteer was brought out in 1881.

Several government departments followed suit and brought out their respective statistical reports. In 1880, the Finance Department brought out Finance and Revenue Accounts and the Home Department brought out Statistics of British India for 1874-1875 for the judicial and administrative departments subordinate to the Home Office.

The first census over the subcontinent including Bengal was conducted in 1881. Since then decennial census has been a regular feature over this region. In order to collect and compile enormous data at the state level, a statistical Bureau was established in 1895 at Kolkata as head office. The office of the Director General of Statistics was created in 1895 and this post was re-designated as Director General of Commercial Intelligence in 1906, and this department used to compile and publish statistics relating to agriculture, foreign, coastal and inland trade, prices etc. In 1910, three persons, Messrs Datta, Shirras and Gupta conducted a survey into prices and submitted a report in 1913. The tables, which were released in 1914, were a valuable contribution to the history of statistics and its early progress in colonial India.

Statistics got recognition as an independent discipline from the first quarter of the twentieth century. The growth of statistics was very slow in the Indian subcontinent including Bengal. In early 1930 Professor pc mahalanabish together with Professor PN Banerjee and Professor NR Sen, both of Calcutta University, convened a meeting to draw up proposal to set up an association for the advanced study of statistics. At that meeting it was unanimously resolved to set up the Indian Statistical Institute with Professor RN Mukherjee as president and Professor Mahalanabish as honorary secretary. The Indian Statistical Institute was registered as a non-government, non-profit distributing learning Society on 28 April 1931. Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) established in 1931 at Kolkata was the important landmark in the history of the development of statistics not only in Bengal but also in the whole of Indian subcontinent. It tried to facilitate research and training in statistics and conduct large sample surveys in a more organised manner. The institute began to publish a journal Sankhya from 1933. In the course of a few years, Professor Mahalanabish felt the need for starting a full-fledged course in statistics in the institutions of higher learning in the country. He succeeded in persuading the authorities at the University of Calcutta to start a post-graduate department of Statistics in 1941. Presidency College followed suit by having a separate department of Statistics three years later for teaching Honours course in the subject. Many regard it as being the first of its kind in Asia.

Initially both the departments were housed in the Statistical Laboratory at the Presidency College. Professor Mahalanabish was Head of the University department and Prof K Madhava of the Statistical Institute was the honorary head of the Presidency College department. Some of the best known teachers in these early years of the department were Professor PK Bose, Professor Mani Mukherjee, Prof BN Ghosh, Professor Suneet Gupta, Professor Amalendu Narayan Ganguly and Professor Purnendu Mohan Roy.

Meanwhile the Indian Statistical Institute from its modest beginnings grew under the able leadership of Professor Mahalanabish to become an all-India organisation under the Government of India. Its scope of activities widened to include dissemination of the knowledge of statistics, research and development of statistical theory and the methods for their use in various fields of natural and social sciences, collection and analyses of information undertaking projects and operational research for the purpose of planning and improvement and efficiency of management and production.

Until 1946, the University of Calcutta was the only institution for providing facilities for post graduate studies in statistics in this region. By the enactment of the Indian Statistical Institute Act of 1959 the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru recognised it as an institution of national importance and empowered the Institute to confer diplomas and degrees in statistics. The institute has henceforth played an enormously powerful role in developing the theory and practice of statistics in India. The fundamental contributions of the Indian Statistical Institute include among others, the development of sample surveys, multivariate analysis, design of experiments and modes of inferences. It played a pivotal role in establishing the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO). Its most important contributions include small area statistics, environmental statistics and Bayesian Analysis.

The ISI was also pioneering in starting the Statistical Quality Control Movement in India by organising the visit of WA Shewhart, the founding father of the movement in 1948. Statistical Quality Control was extended to all major industrial centres in India and a comprehensive programme covering education and training, applied services and consultancy was organised.

From its early beginnings in the initiative of Professor Mahalanabish, the discipline found a fertile centre of growth and development in Bengal. From the needs of empire to the needs of the nation it grew to become one of the most innovative of the sciences in Bengal as well as India.

In the academic field, there was a growing realisation of importance of statistics in the university of dhaka. In 1937-38 Professor satyendra nath bose, Head of the department of Physics, sent qazi motahar husain for the study of statistics under the famous Professor PC Mahalanabish at ISI. Quazi Motahar Hosain received diploma in Statistics from the Indian Statistical Institute in 1938. Simultaneously, he obtained another MA degree in Mathematics from Calcutta University. In 1939, a regular course of statistics was first introduced at pre-graduate level for BAg student of the Dhaka Agricultural Institute under Dhaka University and Quazi Motahar Hosain was the teacher of that course. He obtained PhD in Statistics on 'Design of Experiments' from Dhaka University in 1951. In fact Quazi Motahar Hosain was the first academic statistician of East Bengal. Hosain himself wrote a book on statistics in Bangla language titled Tatthya Ganit which is enormously useful in understanding statistical terminology.

The University of Dhaka introduced statistics as an optional paper in the BSc honours level in 1940. This was later extended to the MA/MSc courses in 1941 and BSc pass course in 1944. The birth of Pakistan in 1947 felt the urgent need of trained statistician. Dhaka University served as nucleus for development of Statistics in East Pakistan. Statistics was separated from the department of Mathematics in 1949 and turned into a full-fledged department teaching at the pass and honours BA/BSc courses and MA/MSc courses. The first batch of MA/MSc in statistics came out in 1951.

The University of Dhaka felt the need of a Statistical Institute as early as 1952. As a preparation for this, the first was the formation of a Statistical Survey Research Unit (SSRU) in the university with a separate constitution of its own framed by the Executive Council (now called Syndicate). Professor Quazi Motahar Hosain was the Director of the Unit and ANM Muniruzzaman was the Deputy Director. Some national surveys (such as Demographic Survey, Population Growth Estimation) were successfully conducted by the SSRU and it accelerated the establishment of an institute. The Institute of Statistical Research and Training (ISRT) was established in 1964 under Dhaka University with Professor Quazi Motahar Hosain as the Director. The main aim and object of this institute was to provide facilities for training and advanced studies in statistics and to conduct survey and research on statistical methods and analysis. The first journal in statistics called Bulletin of the Institute of Statistical Research and Training came into existence with an inaugural issue on the occasion of the first graduation ceremony of the Institute in March 1967. Now it is renamed as Journal of Statistical Research and recognised as an international journal. The Journal of Demography is also published from this institute regularly. At present, ISRT offers BSc (Honours) in Applied Statistics and MSc in Demography and other short course on statistics.

The Rajshahi University established a full-fledged department of Statistics in 1961, Chittagong University established the same in 1970. The Bangladesh Agricultural University started a department of Agricultural Statistics in 1963 to produce agriculture statistician.

After the War of Liberation in 1971, the newly born Bangladesh, standing on the threshold of developments with limited resources and unlimited needs, felt keenly the importance of statistics. The bangladesh bureau of statistics (BBS) was established by the government in August 1974 and a Statistical Division was established in 1975 under the Ministry of Finance and Planning to provide ministry level support for the development of statistics in the country in general and the BBS in particular. The National Statistical Council (NSC) was constituted by the government in August 1977 as the supreme policy making body in the field of statistics at the national level. The National Statistics Council is chaired by the Minister in charge of Finance and Planning and the Secretary of the Statistics Division as the vice chairman. The Bangladesh Bureau of Education Information and Statistics was established in 1977 to collect, compile, preserve and dissemination of data relating to education.

The establishment of large number of statistical organisations after liberation naturally demanded a large number of trained personnel in statistics. jahangirnagar university opened a full-fledged department of Statistics in 1971, and later shahjalal university of science and technology followed suit in 1992. Now there are full-fledged department of Statistics in Chittagong Government College and Rajshahi Government College. All these universities and colleges have been offering BSc (Honours), BSc (Pass) and MSc courses in Statistics. At present, all the departments of Sciences, Commerce, Social Sciences and in some departments of Arts in different universities and colleges are offering courses in Statistics. Besides, different institutes, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Bangladesh Institute of Technology, Medical Colleges, and some selected degree colleges in the country offer courses on statistics. The subject is also introduced in Higher Secondary School Certificate curricula.

In early 1970s statisticians of Bangladesh formed the Bangladesh Statistical Association. The association arranges seminars and workshops on statistics in different universities every year. Every two years, the association organises National Conference in Statistics. Statisticians of Bangladesh are internationally recognised and many of them are now teaching and engaged in different organisations and universities of foreign countries like USA, UK, Canada, Australia and other countries of the world. [Manindra Kumar Roy, Madhumita Mazumdar and Matiur Rahman]