Year 2013 is being celebrated as the ‘International Year of Statistics’. Since 2007, India started celebrating 29th June as the National Statistics Day. Most of us are scared of the numbers and the formulae that constitute the subject of Statistics. But, if used wisely these dreadful numbers and formulae can simplify the solutions of many real world problems. In fact, this has been proved many times even in the Indian context. At this juncture, I remember an incidence dating back to 1947. Our country was rejoicing at the newly acquired independence. However, at the same time, due to partition, some areas had a riotous situation. Red Fort in New Delhi was occupied completely by the refugees. Government had given the contract of providing food to these refugees to some contractor. But no one knew the actual count of refugees. As a result, the contractor took advantage of the situation and provided a huge bill. Due to explosive situation, it was almost impossible to enter the red fort and take the actual count of people. So, everyone was puzzled. At that time, a statistician named Dr. J. M. Sengupta came up with an interesting idea. Salt was the cheapest item among those foodstuffs. So, the contractor knew that he wouldn’t earn much by inflating the quantity of salt. Dr. Sengupta decided to use this knowledge. He estimated the average amount of salt consumed per head in the Indian families and used it to estimate the number of refugees inside the Red fort. This method was tested on another smaller colony of refugees and it was found to give accurate results. As a result, Statistics was useful in detecting the fraud.
The basic paper in Statistics “Ars Conjectandi” was written by Jacob Bernoulli, 300 years ago. This year also marks the 250th anniversary of the discovery of Bayes' theorem, which is useful in many fields. As a result around 124 countries and 2040 organizations all over the world have joined hands to celebrate this year as the International Year of Statistics. Special efforts are being made to increase the awareness about Statistics. The M.Sc. Statistics course in the University of Pune was started 60 years ago. So, to commemorate both these special occasions, Department of Statistics has planned various activities throughout the year and the concluding ceremony of these year-long celebrations will be held during an International conference and Alumni meet which would be organized in December 2013.
29th June is the birth anniversary of Dr. P. C. Mahalanobis, who is considered as the father of Statistical thinking in India. He played a major role in formation of policies regarding industrialization and economic planning in India. His work on sample surveys received a worldwide recognition. Indian Statistical Institute established in 1932, under his guidance has been continuously producing many statisticians who went on to achieve name and fame in the various fields of Statistics. An important Statistician from Maharashtra is Dr. P. V. Sukhatme. His work on hunger, malnutrition is noteworthy.
One more statistician who became famous world-over is Dr. V. S. Huzurbazar. Department of Statistics in the University of Pune was founded by Dr. Huzurbazar. He did his Ph.D. from Cambridge University and returned to India. He devoted all his energies for the growth of this newly established department thereby proving his mettle as a good administrator as well. He was awarded the coveted Adams Prize by Cambridge University. His work was efficiently continued by two of his students, Dr. S. R. Adke and Dr. B. K. Kale. Dr. Adke made significant contributions to the field of Statistics, during his stints as researcher/faculty members across various institutions in India, Australia, USA etc. He took sincere efforts to put in good shape the journal of Indian Statistical Association. Even until today, the Indian Statistical Association functions from the Department of Statistics, University of Pune and the journal is also published from the same department. Work of Dr. Adke was recognized by the “Distinguished Statistician Award”, which he received from the Indian Society for Probability and Statistics. Dr. Kale also had an illustrious career. Along with the Department of Statistics, University of Pune, he also played a major role in the growth and development of Department of Statistics, at the University of Manitoba, Canada. His books have been included in the syllabus of various universities. One of his books has been translated in Japanese. Dr. Kale received “Dr. P. V. Sukhatme” award from the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India. The same award was bestowed upon another Puneite Dr. J. V. Deshpande in 2012. Through his publications, Dr. Deshpande has contributed tremendously to survival analysis, which forms a basis of many problems in Medical science.
Due to the contribution of such stalwarts, the Department of Statistics, of University of Pune grew rapidly. Currently it is recognized as the Centre for Advanced Studies in Statistics by University Grants Commission. Every year around 50 students are admitted for M.Sc. course. Along with the fundamentals of Mathematical Statistics, these students get to learn about applications of statistics in various fields including Finance, Insurance, Economics, Genetics, Medical Statistics etc. Some students join research programmes such as M.Phil. and Ph.D. Due to ever-growing need for trained Statisticians, these students get placed in different sectors such as insurance, finance, software, pharmaceutical industries, banks, colleges, universities, research institutes, Indian Statistical Services etc.
Statistics has tremendous applications in the variety of fields, such as weather forecasts, psephology, market research, finance, economics, insurance, epidemiology, genetics, medical science, clinical trials, quality control etc. Statistics is required for assessment of efficiency of drugs, assessment of severity of the side-effects of the drugs, determining the causes of diseases such as cancer, maintaining the quality of the products, comparative study of efficiency of fertilizers, ranking of sportspersons, designing new insurance policies, determining the rate of spread of epidemic and accordingly the intensity of the measures to control this spread etc.
One more important contribution of Statistics, in the Indian history can be found in the works of Florence Nightingale. Her work as a nurse is well-known. But, she was a good statistician as well; in fact she was the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society. Her skill of representing the data into graphs proved useful for creating awareness about the health problems of soldiers. In those days, the reports on such issues used to be highly technical and hence were rarely read and understood by the politicians. As a result, no policy changes could be made due to lack of awareness about the severity of the problem. Her important contribution to the field of statistics was the Nightingale Rose Plot. It’s a variant of the pie diagrams that we generally see in the newspapers. In the pie diagrams, radius of each sector is same and the angle of the sector is proportional to the contribution of the corresponding fields, whereas in the Nightingale Rose plots, the angles are same for all the sectors and the radii are proportional to the contributions of the respective fields. Due to the simultaneous efforts on the statistical and medical fronts, Nightingale was successful in reducing the mortality rates among Indian patients from 69 per 1000 to 18 per 1000.
This is just a glimpse into the uses of Statistics. If you are further interested, you may visit the link: www.statistics2013.org. It also features a small video made by SAS company, to showcase the role of statistics in our daily lives. Prof. A. P. Gore, former head Department of Statistics, University of Pune has also composed a song for Statistics. You can listen to this song at: http://bit.ly/YcufiJ .