Official Statistics from South Asia: A Guide to Resources at CRL

Agricultural Situation in India. Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Ministry of Agriculture. May, 1962.
Agricultural Situation in India. Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Ministry of Agriculture. May, 1962.

The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) holds a wealth of statistical information relating to India and other South Asian countries. The following description highlights some of those holdings. Much of this material is not currently available online or is not openly available, due to various database access restrictions.

Statistical Abstracts

The Statistical Abstract Relating to British India was the product of the first systematic effort to collect information on the British Raj’s possessions in South Asia. Published first in 1867 (with the inaugural volume covering statistics from 1840 to 1865), the Statistical Abstract sought to represent consistent information on topics including area and population, finance, industries, trade, agriculture, and education, among others.

CRL holds a complete run of the Statistical Abstract (vol. 1–55) from 1867 to 1922 on microfilm. CRL also partnered with the Digital South Asia Library (DSAL) to digitize a selection of the volumes covering contiguous periods of time from 1840– 1920. These are available in digital book form as well as data encoded in spreadsheets for computational use.

CRL also holds successor titles, including the Statistical Abstract for British India . . . covering 1915/16 to 1924/25, and 1930/31 to 1939/40, the Statistical Abstract, India covering 1949 to 1962, Statistical Abstract of the Indian Union covering 1963/64–1967, and the Statistical Abstract, India New Series covering 1968 through 1998.

For other countries, CRL holds various publications similar to the Statistical Abstract Relating to British India including:

CRL also holds many district-level statistical abstracts, a substantial portion of which are rare or uniquely held by CRL.

Population Census

The first complete population census for India was undertaken in 1881, and has been conducted every ten years since (a partial census of 1872 was conducted asynchronously). CRL has collected comprehensively each decennial census for India from the first up through the present (2011) as volumes are issued. The census documents are part of CRL’s extensive foreign documents collection.

Generally, the census is arranged with Series 1 covering all of India, and Series 2, etc. covering each administrative state or union territory. Each series is issued in parts, with content covering topics such as administration reports; general population; economic, social and cultural, migration, fertility, and housing tables; special tables on castes and scheduled tribes; town directory and survey reports on selected towns and villages; ethnographic notes and special studies on scheduled castes and tribes; census atlas; district census handbooks; and miscellaneous separate papers or monographs.

CRL also holds census publications for other countries of South Asia, though not comprehensively. Holdings include:

CRL also has collected extensive provincial- and district-level housing and population statistics from the various states within India, Pakistan, and other countries. Consult CRL’s catalog for further references.

Economy and Industry

CRL maintains numerous subscriptions to central government statistical reports, including annual economic surveys (for example, Bangladesh [1974–1995]; India [1957–2004]; Nepal [1980–2014]; Pakistan [1964–2014]; and Sri Lanka [1990– ]), quarterly digests, monthly statistical bulletins, and a range of other periodicals. Many countries also produce “national accounts” statistics reporting on country income and GDP figures. Most countries in South Asia follow a decentralized statistical system, with many states and districts reporting details of the economy, industry, agriculture, development, and trade for each state in a variety of publications.

A wealth of statistics on industry production and income are produced by various states and sectors of India’s economy. The Annual Survey of Industries (ASI), launched by the India Central Statistical Organisation in 1960, subsumed and extended earlier efforts to report comprehensively on the structure and growth of Indian industry and its contribution to national income. CRL’s holdings include:

More recent data (1998– ) from the ASI may be found on the Indian Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation website.

Similar reporting from other countries held by CRL include:


Centralized collection of agricultural information in British India began as early as 1866 with the appointment of an agricultural commission to deal with the challenges of famine assistance and agricultural development. A separate Department of Revenue and Agriculture was firmly established in 1881 with the principal tasks of administration of land revenue, statistical enquiries, agricultural improvement, and famine relief.

The first volume (1884/85) of Returns of Agricultural Statistics of British India consolidated provincial agricultural reporting on land area (cultivated and uncultivated), crop specifications, prices of produce, land revenue assessment and land transfers. Regular reports (annual or quinquennial) with standardized reporting tables followed (under various titles).

CRL holds extensive runs of agriculture statistical reports from India and neighboring states, including:

Through the efforts of the South Asia Materials Project (SAMP), CRL also possesses a rich trove of data related to agricultural production and revenue contained in the Indian Land Survey and Settlement Reports collected on microfilm by SAMP. “Land Settlement” generally refers to the cadastral survey of the land and surrounding environment, and the fixation of an assessment for revenue generation. Settlements were determined by such factors as current population and caste distribution; land area and conditions; land ownership and tenure; agricultural production, and an assessment of current assets. Each report provides detailed narrative and statistical information on the district’s physical character and economic condition, statistics of tenancies and rents, markets, population growth, and numerous other features. As settlement surveys were undertaken periodically, the reports also provide comparison data on past and present conditions of the described areas.

A listing of all settlement reports acquired by SAMP may be found on SAMP’s Guides to Collections web page.

Further Resources

Beyond the resources described above, CRL holds numerous additional periodicals and monographs containing statistics relating to crime, development, education, elections, employment, forestry, foreign trade, health, labor, manufacturing, press, tourism, transportation, water, and many other topics. Patrons may consult CRL’s catalog for further information, or may request a reference consultation to assist in the identification of resources relevant to a particular topic.