Relevance of Statistics to a State like Meghalaya

By Gary Marbaniang

Statistics Day is celebrated on June 29 every year in India, in honour of the famed Statistician, P C Mahabonalis who was instrumental in formulating the momentous Second Five year plan. This year Statistics Day fell on a Saturday and it was celebrated without much fanfare here in Meghalaya. The beauty of Statistics is that it is relevant to a wide range of subjects. In fact Statistics has become the subject which is the kingpin of other disciplines.

To a layperson Statistics is simply just numbers. For eg a housewife running a family will not be aware that she is using Statistics in her day to day life. How much monthly expenditure needs to be incurred on basic household items like rice, dal, sugar, oil etc. These are information which are of utmost importance to a person running a household. A slight increase in the price of a household item whose elasticity of demand is high will definitely lead to a change in the consumption pattern of many households. At the macro level, data on prices of basic consumption articles is of prime importance to policy makers since important price indices like the Wholesale Price Index(WPI) and Consumer Price Index(CPI)are formulated on the basis of information collected from local markets from all across the country. Likewise when it comes to other different economic and social indicators like Gross Domestic Product, Index of Industrial Production, Infant Mortality Rate etc, a layperson will look at all the numbers derived from such data as relevant to his or her life. Alas! Statistics to a majority of people is simply irrelevant information. But there’s a lot more to Statistics than meets the eye.

If we look at food production, an area which  Meghalaya and the rest of the North East have so far been dismal, Statistics has a pivotal role to play. It is such a shame that States like Meghalaya are so heavily dependent on import of food grains from other states. The potential that a district like Ri-Bhoi has in terms of food production is immense. Ri-Bhoi district has the potential to turn into our very own food basket. I remember a former neighbor of ours who used to own a plot of arable land in Ri Bhoi. They used to give the land to some local persons to cultivate and they would share the produce. The rice that they would get from that plot of land would suffice for the whole year. Ri Bhoi district is one of the most fertile district in the whole of the region and farmers just need better farming techniques to reap the full potential of their fertile land. And for farmers to be able to implement better farming techniques they need better education. With increase in population a food crisis is looming large over us. In years gone by, people in rural areas used to produce sufficient food grains to last them the whole year but with the increase in population and scarcity of arable land, farmers are finding it hard to produce enough food grains even to meet their own needs. Agriculture is a way of life for people in the rural areas and unless farmers implement better farming techniques, an impending food crisis is inevitable.

Is there really a correlation between a farmer’s educational attainment level and higher agricultural output? This is where Statistics can play an important role in ascertaining whether education really plays a positive role in higher agricultural output. The Karl Pearson’s Coefficient of Co-relation is one of the most used and most popular statistical tool out there and it is used in a wide range of disciplines. Using Sampling method, if data on educational level of the farmers and the annual yield per acre in monetary value could be collected from various districts in Meghalaya, the Karl’s Pearson Co-relation Co-efficient could be calculated and based on the coefficient derived, we can find out if there is really a co-relation between education and agricultural output. If the Co-efficient is somewhere in the range between 0.5 and 0.8,then we can safely say that higher educational attainment plays a positive role when it comes to higher agricultural output.

If there is a positive co-relation between education and agricultural output, then farmers in the State deserve better education and education which is relevant to agriculture.

They don’t need to learn about the moon, stars and everything under the sun. Most parents in rural areas send their children to school with the undying hope of seeing their kids becoming Government officers, doctors or engineers one day. And when kids from rural areas finally land up in Shillong to pursue a College degree, their desire to go back and work in their villages slowly diminishes until it reaches a point of no return. Going back to working in Agriculture after pursuing a general college education in Shillong or some district headquarter represents a step backward rather than forward for most rural kids. It is something which is unimaginable and completely out of the question. The only thing that’s on their mind is getting a white collar job. A white collar job represents a sort of a status symbol for most rural kids and most parents in rural areas may find it difficult to convince their college educated kids to plough the field again after they complete their education.

Education should not be a stumbling block to young educated people working in Agriculture or other allied activities. In fact it should enhance a student’s ability to be a more productive farmer. They  need to be imparted knowledge on how to become that productive farmer. We have a premier agricultural research institute in the State and we hope that our policy makers take the onus upon themselves to set up numerous centres of learning which will cater to the needs of farmers in the State.