Union Finance Minister's Address at 46th Convocation of Indian Statistical Institute

Posted on    13 January 2012


Please find below the text of the Union Finance Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee’s Address at 46th Convocation of the Indian Statistical Institute(ISI) in Kolkata today :
It is a great pleasure for me to here today on this occasion of the 46th convocation of the Indian Statistical Institute. The opportunity to share some thoughts with bright young scholars, about to get into the ‘real world’ in exciting professions gives a wonderful sense of fulfilment. At the same time, it is a matter of great honour to share this stage with so many distinguished academicians including, in particular, Prof. Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate in Economics 2001.
I have a very special association with the Indian Statistical Institute, being the chairman of its council for a few years now. The Indian Statistical Institute began its journey as the Statistical Laboratory in Presidency College in 1920s and was later founded as a learned society on December 17, 1931. It has now developed into a massive institution of higher learning. A lamp was lit by Professor Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, the doyen of Indian statistics, in establishing the ISI. The Institution had the fortune of his paternal care for a long period in its formative years. A distinguished lineage of Indian statisticians who have studied and taught here contributed to bringing this institution to its present form. Some of the well known names including Professors J.N. Sengupta, H.C. Sinha, R.C. Bose, S.N. Roy and C.R. Rao have greatly enriched the discipline of statistics in the country. I pay tribute to all of them. 
As you all know the Institute now has 5 centres and 8 SQC & OR units spread all over India. I also take pride in stating that the Institute has all along been pioneer in teaching, research and application of statistics and its alumni have made outstanding contributions to academia, governance and industry. I am confident that generations of alumni to follow will strengthen this tradition further in the years to come. 
Statistics is the bed rock of modern evidence based analysis and policy making. It is an area where our endeavour should be to constantly improve the relevant institutional practices and methodologies for data collection, compilation and analysis, as well as the knowledge and skill base of the professionals engaged in the subject. 
Prof. P C Mahalanobis, the founder of ISI, had realized that a developing country like India would require statistical and data analysis skills and therefore it was imperative to set up an institution of excellence engaged in research, teaching, training and application of statistics. During the 1930s nearly all the statistical work done in India was done by ISI and the tradition is still continuing. The early statistical studies included analyses of data on the status of Agro-Indians, meteorological data, rainfall data and data on soil conditions. Some of the findings of these studies were of great impact in areas of vital importance like control of floods and development of agriculture, and led to the recognition of statistics as a key discipline capable of delivering enormous value in the progress of the society. 
Indeed, in an era of rapidly advancing technology and information connectivity statistics plays an even bigger role. The tremendous improvement of internet and related technologies has made a wide variety of data available. Organizations in the public and private domains have huge demand for skills that help in making sense of this large mass of data. There are many industry segments like retail, banking and insurance, utilities and software services that require handling bulk data using sophisticated statistical tools. Specific services like direct marketing are almost completely data driven. 
The global economy at present is going through turbulent times. In this era of uncertainty, understanding the economy, analysing the trends and risks, developments in technology and principles of quality control and its management plays an immensely important role. This is a period of massive challenge as well as great opportunity for people trained in the fields of Statistics, Mathematics, Economics, Computer Science, Quality Control, Reliability and Operations Research. 
I would like to mention that ISI has made many noteworthy contributions towards development of the nation. Formation of National Sample Survey Organisation on the basis of the proposal from P.C. Mahalanobis was an important contribution. The second five year plan was chalked out at ISI under the guidance of Prof. Mahalanobis. ISI started the quality control movement in the nation. ISI has all along been playing a pioneering role in theoretical and applied research, teaching, training and application in these areas. There are many contributions in these areas that have helped the nation to solve problems of wide variety. I am sure that bright young minds associated with this institution would continue to make many more contributions to the nation at large and will make all of us proud of their achievements. 
Those of you, who are graduating today are therefore, going to face the world with an unique advantage. I am confident that the world class training that you have received from this prestigious institute would be of great help to you in future – irrespective of whether you choose a career in academics, industry or government. I am also sure that you will do justice to the education you have received and would give back to the society much more than what you have received. 
I appeal to you to adopt the values of Indian education to build your character and conduct congenial to the social life of our nation and to build up your self confidence in pursuing your prospects. May you bring reason and hope to all whom you touch in your professional and personal lives and may you make your work deeply rewarding and truly satisfying. 
I would like to conclude by congratulating the graduates on their successful completion of their academic programs, but reminding them that this is only the beginning of the most important part of their lives, the part in which they are expected to contribute to the society and the nation. 
You are the future of the nation and I sincerely hope that all of you achieve the maximum you are capable of. I wish you all success in your future endeavours. Let me also urge the faculty and the staff of this institution to do their best in upholding the academic tradition and excellence of ISI in the times to come. 

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