AGRICULTURE AND LAND REFORMS
The major portion of the total
population in Assam (88.8%) are living in rural areas. Thus top priority
must be given to the development of rural areas which requires development
of agriculture, implementation of land reform measures and the development
Agriculture in Assam and its importance
The economy of Assam is
mainly depending on agriculture. More than 70 per cent of the total
population in Assam are getting their means of livelihood from agriculture
sector. As per 1991 census, 64 per cent of the total workers in Assam are
agricultural workers. In recent years (1990-91) agriculture alone
contributed 36 per cent to the total state domestic product.
Out of the total geographical
area of 7852 thousand hectares, net area sown in Assam upto 1981-82 was to
the extent of 2706 thousand hectares and area sown more than once was 754
thousand hectares making the total cropped area in Assam to 3, 460
thousand hectares. There are 104 thousand hectares of cultivable waste
land and 88 thousand hectares of fallow land. In 1981-82 total cropped
area of the state stood at 34.60 lakh hectares which constitute roughly 44
percent of the total geographical area of the state as against the all
India coverage of 50 per cent.
Assam is producing both food and
cash crops. Main food crops in Assam include rice, wheat, pulses, potato,
maize etc. The principal cash crops are tea, jute, oil seeds, tobacco,
sugar cane, mesta etc. The area under food crops in Assam increased
marginally from 27 lakh hectares in 1975-76 to 27.04 lakh hectares in
1994-95. Total area under rice increased from 23.0 lakh hectares in
1976-77 to 24.9 lakh hectares in 1994-95 which accounts for nearly 72 per
cent of the total cultivable area of the state. Area under non-food crops,
excluding jute, registered an increasing trend.
As per agricultural census
1985-86, there were 19.90 lakh operational holdings in Assam of which 19.4
lakh in the plain districts and 50 thousand in the hill districts. These
holdings covered an area of about 25.89 lakh hectares of land. The average
size of operational holding in Assam declined from 1.47 hectares in
1970-71 to 1.30 hectares in 1985-86, inspite of increase in operated area.
This indicates the impact of the growing problem of fragmentation and
sub-division in land holdings.
Tea is one of the most important
cash crop in Assam. Assam is well known for her tea. Total area under tea
plantation in Assam were 233 thousand hectares in 1991. Total production
of tea in Assam was 396 million kg, in 1991. Average number of workers
engaged daily in the tae gardens were 554 thousand in 1991. Thus a huge
number of people are earning their livelihood from these tea gardens. A
good number of people are also engaged in tea trade in Assam.
Jute is another important
commercial crop in Assam. Area under jute as gradually declined from 115
thousand hectares in 1979-80 to 112.3 thousand hectares and 91.0 thousand
hectares in 1980-81 and 1994-95 respectively. The total production of jute
was 925 thousand bales in 1994-95.
Thus agriculture is the mainstay
of the economy of Assam. But agriculture in Assam is solely depending on
vagaries of monsoons, which sometimes creates unexpected havoc on the
agricultural production of the state. Thus irrigation facilities should be
created at a massive scale to reduce the dependence of this large sector
on the nature. There are wide scope for the establishment of the
agro-based industries. Sugar industry can easily grow in the State. Jute
industry can be developed to utilize the raw jute produced in the state.
Thus by developing agro-based industries in the state, unemployment
problem can easily be solved as these industries are mostly labour-intensive.
There is scope for orange and other fruit plantations which can be used
both for direct trade and for running some fruit canning centers. Thus the
importance of agriculture in Assam must be realized as it provides food,
raw materials for industries and employment to the major portion of the
Cropping Pattern in Assam
The cropping pattern is an
important indicator to show the proportion of area under different crops
at a definite point of time. Cropping pattern in a region or a state may
change with the changes in proportion of area under different crops.
Change in cropping Pattern in
At the beginning of the
present century about 90 per cent of the of the total cultivable land of
Assam was put under food crops and the remaining 10 per cent was put under
non-food crops. But in 1958-59, there was a change in the cropping pattern
in Assam along with other states of the country and accordingly excluding
plantation crops, area under food crops came down to 84 per cent and the
area under non-food crops slightly increased to 16 per cent. Then changes
in the cropping pattern mainly occurred due to increase in the prices of
non food grains or cash crops.
On the basis of average areas
under different crops during the period 1947-48 to 1949-50, the relative
importance of the principal crops in Assam were Rice- 64.8 per cent, Tea--
6.2 per cent, Rape and Mustard- 5 per cent, Jute-- 3.7 per cent, Sugar
cane- 1 per cent, Others- 19.3 per cent. Compared with total all-- India
acreage, under different crops, Assam accounted for : Rice-- 6.1 per cent,
Sugarcane-- 1.6 per cent, Tobacco-- 2.2 per cent, Rape and Mustard- 14.5
per cent, Jute 26.1 per cent, Tea-- 48.9 per cent.
After independence a lot of
change had been recorded in respect of cropping pattern in Assam. The
following table reveals the change in cropping pattern since 1960-61.
Table No. 6.1
Change in Area under different
crops in Assam since 1960-61
(in Thousand hectares)
1. Total Foodgrains
1.3 Other coarse Cereals
2. Total non-foodgrains
2.1 Oil seeds
(Note : Figure in brackets shows
percentage figures to total area under different crops.)
From the table given above it is
revealed that the proportion of area under cultivation between food crops
and non-food crops has recorded a little change from 85 : 15 in 1960-61 to
84 : 16 in 1980-81 and then to 83.4: 16.6 in 1994-95. Thus in recent
years, the area under non-food crops has slightly increased.
Moreover, it is found that due to
the partition of the state into Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh, total
area under different crops in absolute terms has declined significantly.
In percentage terms, total area under the production of rice has declined
from 80.2 per cent of the total cropped area in 1960-61 t0 75.9 per cent
in 1980-81 and then again slightly increased to 76.5 per cent in 1990-91
and then to 76.7 per cent in 1994-95. Total area under wheat cultivation
which was only 0.16 per cent of the total cropped area 1960-61, gradually
increased to 3.4 per cent in 1980-81 and then it declined to 2.5 per cent
in 1990-91 and 2.5 per cent in 1994-95. Again, the area under the
cultivation of pulses as percentage of total cropped area of the state
varied marginally from 3.4 per cent in 1960-61 to 3.8 per cent in 1980-81
and then again reversed to 3.3 per cent in 1994-95. But the area under
cultivation of traditional commercial crops viz. oil seeds, potato,
sugarcane recorded a modest increase. Especially, the area under the
cultivation of oilseeds as percentage of total cropped area increased
gradually from 5.7 per cent in 1960-61 to 7.8 per cent in 1980-81 and then
to 9.7 per cent and 9.5 per cent in 1990-91 and 1994-95 respectively.
Again the area under the cultivation of potato has recorded a marginal
change from 1.4 per cent of the cropped area in 1960-61 to 1.7 per cent in
1980-81 and then slightly increased to to 1.9 per cent in 1994-95. But the
cultivation of jute is gradually becoming unpopular in Assam. Accordingly,
the area under the cultivation of jute in Assam as percentage of total
cropped area which was 5.5 per cent in 1960-61 gradually declined to 3.7
per cent in 1980-81 and then to 2.9 per cent and 2.8 per cent in 1990-91
and 1994-95 respectively.
Factors determining cropping
Cropping pattern reflects the
production behaviour of the farmers in their agricultural operations. At
one time people felt that cropping pattern in India and more particularly
in a state like Assam could not be altered. Accordingly, Mr. S.N. Sinha
observed, "In a tradition ridden country with a very low level of
knowledge, the peasant are unwilling to make experiments... In an
agricultural community where the members are illiterate and tradition
ridden, there is hardly any possibility of crop shift". But with the
passage of time, things have changed a lot. Now the farmers started to
believe that the cropping pattern can be changed and must be changed for
the interest of the people so as to bring diversity in the agricultural
sector. Thus although Assam has experienced a very little changed in its
cropping pattern in comparison to that of the states like like Punjab and
Haryana but whatever changes the state has recorded these are influenced
by various factors. The following are some of the important factors which
are very much responsible for determining the cropping pattern of the
state in general:
1. Physical factors such as soil
content, weather, climate, rainfall etc. ;
2. Technical factors such as
nature and capacity of irrigation facilities, fertilizers etc. ;
3. Economic factors influencing
cropping pattern includes remuneration and steady price of crops and
income maximization aspects, i.e., relative profitability per acre, farm
size, availability of farm inputs viz., seeds, fertilizer, assured
irrigation water etc. ;
4. Government action undertaken
in the form of administrative and legislative measures.
The National Council of Applied
Economic Research (NCAER) suggested certain measures for introducing a
better and scientific cropping pattern which include :
(a) Like USA, U.A.E. and other
countries, the NCEAR suggest to introduce legislative compulsion for
structuring a desired cropping pattern in different regions of the
(b) Government may appoint
District Planning officers, who introduce crop planning in every season
considering various seasonal changes and changes in other factors such as
yields, prices, demand etc. The cultivator, also should co-operate with
various government departments for implementing their programme.
(c) An Agricultural Mechanisation
Corporation may also be set up for supplying various inputs on loan.
(d) The Government should also
provide adequate transport and marketing facilities and also make
provision for consolidation of holdings.
Thus in order to change the the
cropping pattern in a state like Assam, the State Government should take
adequate steps as suggested by NCEAR
Thus it can be finally observed
that in a poor state like Assam, economic factors are playing a dominant
role in determining its cropping pattern. Although the farmers in Assam
are very much poverty stricken and conservative, still their cropping
pattern can be changed through appropriate changes in economic motive.
Whenever farmers in Assam see a better cropping pattern they try to adjust
with such pattern. To adopt a better cropping pattern in a state like
Assam, farmers should possess adequate know-how and requisite volume of
capital in order to have a better result in their farming operation.
Agricultural production, Food
Production and the yield rate
Agricultural production in Assam
is growing at a very slow rate. The index of agricultural production of
the year 1970-71(1956-57 = 100) for Assam was 126 as against all India
index of 147. Again the index number of agricultural production in Assam
of the year 1977-78 (taking 1969-70 = 100) increased to 123 as against the
index of 132.7 for all India. The index then again declined to 122 and 114
in 1978-79 and 1979-80 respectively. But again the index scaled the
ever peak level of 138 in 1980-81 and 172.4 in 1990-91. Again the index
number of agricultural production (Base-Triennium ending 1981-82 = 100)
has increased from 143.09 in 1992-93 to 1993-94 and then to 149.71 in
The land in Assam is quite
suitable for the production of foodgrains.The major portion of the total
cropped area ,i.e., 83.4 per cent in 1994-95 is being utilised for the
production of food grains in Assam. Various types of food grains
production in assam includes rice, wheat, maize, other cereals and pulses. Total production of food-grains in
Assam, which was 16.79 lakh tonnes in 1960-61 has increased to 23.66 lakh
tonnes in 1975-76 and then to 34.4 lakh tonnes in 1990-91 and then
declined to 33.80 lakh tonnes 1991-92. Thus the food-grains production in
Assam , after registering an advancement of 16.6 per cent in 1990-91 has
declined by 2 per cent in 1991-92 over 1990-91. Production of rice, the
most important cereal crop grown in the State, rose to 32.9 lakh tonnes in
1992-93 as against 16.4 lakh tomnnes in 1960-61.
Again, in recent years, total
production of foodgrains has further increased to 34.47 lakh tonnes in
1992-93 and then to 35.4 lakh tonnes in 1993-93 and then slighly declined
to 34.9 lakh tonnes in 1994-95. Moreover, total production of rice has
increased to 33.6 lakh tonnes in 1993-94 and then it slighly declined to
32.8 lakh tonnes in 1994-95.
The following table (no. 6.2)
shows the total production of foodgrains in assam since 1960-61.
Table No. 6.2
Total Production of Foodgrains in
(in lakh tonnes)
table given above reveals that total production of foodgrains in Assam has
been increasing gradually since 1960-61 and it is more than doubled during
the last 34 years, from 16.79 lakh tonnes in 1960-61 to 34.90 lakh tonnes
Production of Foodgrains
Production of other cereal crops
in Assam viz. Wheat and maize had registered some increase in recent
years. Production of most of the commercial crops like sugar-cane, potato,
oil seeds etc. registered marginal increase in recent years.
The following table shows the
trend in the production of principal crops in Assam since 1960-61.
Table No. 6.3
Production of Principal crops in
000, bales of 180 kg.
(b) Production of Gur.
The above table reveals that
total production of rice, being the most important crop of Assam has
increased from 16.41 lakh tonnes in 1960-61 to 25.23 lakh tonnes in
1980-81 and then to 32.7 lakh tonnes in 1990-91 and finally to 32.79 lakh
tonnes in 1994-95. Total production of wheat which was only 9 thousand
tonnes in 1960-61, gradually increased to 121 thousand tonnes in 1991-92
and then declined to 104 thousand tonnes in 1994-95. Production of other
coarse cereals has also increased to 9 thousand in tonnes in 1960-61 to 18
thousand tonnes in 1994-95. Total production of pulses in Assam which was
very poor at 26 thousand tonns in 1960-61, gradually increased to 59
thousand tonnes in 1994-95. Accordingly, total production of food grains
has increased from 16.8 lakh tonnes in 1960-61 to 34.90 lakh tonnes in
Assam is backward in respect of
production of commercial crops excepting jute. Total production of oil
seeds in Assam has increased from 48 thousand tonnes in 1960-61 to 112
thousand tonnes in 1980-81 and then to 191 thousand tonnes in 1991-92 and
finally declined to 164 thousand tonnes in 1994-95. Again total production
of jute has increased from 813 thousand bales in 1960-61 to 912 thousand
bales in 1980-81 and then gradually declined to 867 thousand bales in
1991-92 and then increased to Rs. 925, thousand bales in 1994-95. Total
production of sugarcane has also increased from 869 thousand tonnes in
1960-61 to 1505 thousand tonnes in 1994-95. Total production of potato in
Assam has increased significantly from 144 thousand tonnes in 1960-61 to
224 thousand tonnes in 1980-81 and then to 428 thousand tonnes in 1990-91
and 567 thousand tonnes in 1994-95.
Thus we have seen that although
the production of principal crops in Assam have been increasing but it is
increasing at a slower pace in comparison to that of all India production
of principal crops.
Trend of Food Production in Assam
in the Post-Green Revolution Period
The new agricultural strategy of
Green Revolution was adopted in India during the Third Plan. The green
revolution was initially adopted in India with the help of Intensive
Agricultural Areas Programme (IAAP) and High yielding Varieties Programme
(HYVP). From the very beginning, the coverage of green revolution was very
much restricted to Northern states. Accordingly, Assam could not
experience any major change in respect of food production, particularly in
the initial period. Moreover, as the green revolution was very much
restricted to production of wheat thus Assam, primarily being a rice
producing state, cannot expect to benefit from such new agricultural
strategy. Moreover, in the absence of irrigation facilities, the question
of experimenting with such new agricultural methods was not at all
Thus, in the initial stage of
post-green revolution period the trend of food production in Assam were
almost stagnant. The table 6.2. reveals that the total production of
foodgrains in Assam which was 16.79 lakh tonnes in 1960-61, gradually rose
to 20.41 lakh tonnes in 1968-69 and then stagnated at the level of 20.34
lakh tonnes in 1970-71 and then slowly rose to 23.66 lakh tonnes in
In recent years, the Department
of Agriculture of the state has introduced Demonstration programme and
Area Extension Programme for the development of agriculture. With the
growing use of high yielding variety (HYV) of paddy, the area under. HYV
paddy in Assam started to rise gradually from 2.87 lakh hectares in
1975-76 to 5.48 lakh hectares in 1978-79 and 9.62 lakh hectares in 1987-88
and then to 11.44 lakh lakh hectares in 1993-94. Accordingly, total
production of foodgrains gradually increased to 27.05 lakh tonnes in
1980-81 to 30.30 lakh tonnes in 1985-86 and then to 34.42 lakh tonnes in
1990-91 and then marginally rose to 34.90 lakh tonnes in 1994-95.
Similarly, total production of
rice in Assam gradually increased from 16.41 lakh tonnes in 1960-61 to
25.23 lakh tonnes in 1980-81 and then to 32.70 lakh tonnes in 1990-91 and
then finally to 32.79 lakh tonnes. But the production of other foodgrains,
viz., wheat, coarse cereals, pulses etc. remained almost same during the
last two decades.
Thus it is found that Assam has
experienced a marginal impact of green revolution in the production of
foodgrains and that too again is totally restricted to the production of
Impact of Green Revolution or
New Agricultural Strategy on Agriculture in Assam
Since the Third Plan
onwards, Green Revolution or New Agricultural Strategy was adopted in
India in a restricted manner. From the very beginning, the coverage of
green revolution is very much restricted to Northern States like
Punjab, Haryana and some parts of Uttar Pradesh. Moreover, as the
green revolution was initially very much restricted to the production
of wheat, thus the impact of green revolution in its initial stage was
almost marginal. It is only since eighties, Assam started to
experience the adoption of new agricultural strategy with the growing
use of HYV seeds, chemical fertilisers, modern implements etc. to a
limited extent. Thus even at ther present stage, Assam still stands as
a marginal player in the field of green revolution or new agricultural
strategy. Under such a situation, the state cannot expect to gain much
from such new agricultural strategy.
The following are some of the
impacts of green revolution on the agriculture in Assam.
1. Area under HYV Paddy :
Although late, but due to the adoption of new agricultural strategy, the
area under HYV paddy in Assam gradually increased from 2.87 lakh
hectares in 1975-76 to 11.44 lakh hectares in 1993-94, which in around
42.3 per cent of the total cropped area of the state.
2. Consumption of fertiliser
: With the adoption of new agricultural stategy, the consumption of
fertiliser by the agricultural sector of the state started to increase
gradually. Total consumption of fertiliser in Assam has thus gradually
increased from a mere 3.48 thousand tonnes in 1975-76 to 43.17 thousand
tonnes in 1993-94. This is no doubt a good trend. Again the consumption
of fertiliser per hectare of land in Assam has increased from 4.8 kg. in
1986-87 to 12.8 kg. in 1995-96.
3. Yield rate : With the
introduction of new agricultural strategy to a limited range along with
the adoption of hybrid seeds, chemical fertilisers and expension of
irrigation facilities, the average yield per hectare of some principal
crops started to show some positive results. Table no. 6.4 reveals that
the average yield per hectare of winter rice has increased from 1046 kgs.
for all India in 1994-95. The average yield of wheat per hectare in
Assam has also increased from 824 lgs in 1960-61 to 1290 kgs. in 1994-95
as compared to that of 2550 kgs. for all India in 1994-95. The average
yield per hectare of potato has increased from 4784 kgs. in 1960-61 to
7854 kgs. in 1994-95 as compared to that of 15,000 kgs. for all India in
1994-95. Thus it found that the adoption of new agricultural strategy in
Assam is having such a limited extent that yield rate in the state in
still very poor as compared to that of all India Figures.
4. Increase in Production : With
the introduction of new agricultural strategy at a slow pace, total
production of foodgrains in Assam gradually increased from 16.79 lakh
tonnes in 1960-61 to 34.90 lakh tonnes in 1994-95.
5. Multiple Cropping System
: With the adoption of new strategy, the farmers in Assam started to
adopt multiple cropping system in agricultural operations. This has
resulted increase in agricultural production and has also enlarged the
employment opportunities for the farm labourers. With the expansion of
irrigation facilities within the state, more and more areas can be
brought under the multiple cropping system, which would go a long
benefit the farmers to the state.
6. Intra-state inequality : As
the green revolution has enlarged the regional disparties between the
different states of India, similarly, the adoption of new agricultural
strategy has been widening the disparties between the different
districts of the state. The district like Nagaon, Barpeta, Kamrup,
Darrang and Mallar have been progressing at a quicker pack in respect of
modernisation as compared to other districts of the state leading to
growing disparities between the different districts of Assam.
Thus it is found that although
the progress of green revolution in Assam is quite marginal but within
the limited range it has started to reveal some impact on the economy of
the state, in general and on the agricultural sector of the state, in
Agricultural Yield Rate :
The yield rate of various
crops in Assam is not at all satisfactory in comparison with the average
yield rate of all India. In Assam, cultivation is still carried on with
traditional techniques and modern inpute like fertilisers, HYV
seeds, irrigation and pesticides etc. are yet to be extensively used.
Further, the yield rates fluctuated widely in Assam due to natural
factors viz, floods, draught, erosion of soil etc.
From the very beginning the
agricultural yield rate in Assam in very low. The following table shows
the agricultural yield rate in Assam.
Table No. 6.4
Yield Rate of Some selected
crops in Assam (kg. per hectares)
The above table reveals that
the yield rates of some principal crops such as Rice, Wheat, Jute,
Sugarcane, Potato, Rape and Mustard have increased slightly from
1960-61 to 1992-93. The average yield rate of rice per hectare in
Assam which was 968 kg. in 1960-61 gradually rose to 1220 kg. for
India in 1980-81 and then to 1350 kg in 1994-95 as compared with
1880-81 and then to 1350 kg in 1994-95 as compared with 1880 kg. for
India in 1993-94. Asmong the three varieties of rice produced in
Assam, i.e., Autumn rice, Winter rice and Summer rice, the yield rate
of summer rice remained always higher since 1970-71 and its yield rate
per hectares has increased from 860 kg. In 1960-61 to 1244 kg in
1970-71 and then to 1708 kg in 1993-94, which then slightly declined
to 1615 kg. in 1994-95. The yield rate of winter rice has increased
from 1046 kg per hectare in 1960-61 to 1220 kg in 1994-95. But the
yield rate of autumn rice did not record any considerable increase as
it rose from 713 kg. in 1960-61 to 873 kg in 1990-91 which then
declined to 785 kg in 1991-92 and again increased to the level of 973
lg. per hectare in 1994-95.
The average yield rate of
rice in Assam, per hectare, was 975 kg. in 1951-54 and then it
remained at 974 kg. in 1969-72 in 1951-54, increased to 1117 kg. in
1969-72. The yield rate of rice per hectare, which rose to 1038 kg.
for Assam and 1235 kg. for India in 1975-76, fell to 947 kg. for Assam
and 1235 kg. for India in 1975-76, fell to 947 kg. for Assam and 1088
kg for India in 1976-77 and then it increased to 1042 kg. for Assam
and 1317 kg for India in 1977-78. Again, in 1978-79, the yield rate
for Assam came down to 979 kg per hectare but it rose substantially to
reach 1350 kg per hectare in 1994-95. This showsa that yield rates are
fluctuating widely in different years both in Assam and other states
of India. But the yield rate of rice in Assam which was slightly
higher in the beginning, remained all along lower than the average
yield rate of rice in India.
In case of total cereals, the
yield rate per hectare for Assam was 1067 kg. in 1991-92; whereas the
all India yield rate of cereals gradually increased from 886 kg. In
1972-73 to 1776 kg. in 1990-91.
In case of pulses taken
together, the yield rate per hectare for Assam gradually decreased
from 489 kg. in 1972-73 to 420 kg in 1988-89, whereas the same rate
for India gradually increased from 474 kg in 1972-73 to 516 kg in
The yield rate per hectare in
case of total foodgrains for Assam gradually declined from 1042 kg
during 1972-73 to to 1032 kg. during 1988-89, whereas the same rate
for India gradually increased from 813 kg. during 1972-73 to 1327 kg.
The yield rate of wheat in
Assam which was only 824 kg. per hectare in 1960-61 gradually rose to
1158 kg. in 1980-81 and then rose to significantly to 1290 kg. in
1994-95 as compared to India’s 2493 kg. in 1995-96. The yield rate
of Jute in Assam which 1229 kg. per hectare in 1960-61 gradually rose
to 1455 kg. in 1980-81 and then rose to 1632 kg. in 1990-91 and then
finally rose considerably to 1832 kg. in 1994-95. The yield rate of
sugarcane in Assam gradually increased from 34,403 in 1960-61 to
42,510 kg. in 1990-91 and then again declined to 42,223 kg. in 1994-95
as compared with 65,000 kg. for all India in 1992-93. The yield rates
of potato in Assam has also increased from 4784 kg. in 1960-61 to 7704
kg. in 1991-92 and then to 7854 kg. in 1994-95 whereas the rate
increased for all India was 15,814 kg. in 1989-90. Again the yield
rate of rape and mustard in Assam has been increasing slowly from 381
kg. per hectare 1960-61 to 485 kg. in 1980-81 and then rose to 533 kg.
in 1994-95 whereas the yield rate for all India was 826 kg. in
1989-90. The yield rate of tea in Assam was 1603 kg. per hectare in
1987-88 and 1700 kg. in 1990-91 as aginst all India yield rate of 1606
kg. in 1987-88.
Thus it is revealed that the
agricultural yield of various crops in Assam are poor and even
declining gradually in case of some crops.
Slow Pace of Modernisation
of Agriculture or Transfer of Technology in Agriculture in Assam-
causes or Major obstacles or Constraints
Adoption of modern
technology or method is known as modernisation of agriculture or
transfer of technology in agriculture. Modernisation of agriculture or
transfer of technology in agriculture in Assam is progressing at a
slow pace. Adoption of new agricultural strategy or green revolution
which was very much restricted to Northern states like Punjab, Haryana
and Uttar Pradesh in its initial stage, could not make much headway
ina backward state like Assam even at its later stage. There are
certain major obstacles or causes responsible for the slow pace of
transfer of technology or modernisation of agriculture in Assam. Then
obstacles are mentioned below:-
1. Absence of sufficient
assured and controlled water supply due to lack of adequate irrigation
facilities is one of the major obstacles in the path of modernisation
of agriculture. In 1994-95, total irrigation potential developed in
the state (4.77 lakh hectares) covers only 13.8 per cent of the total
cropped area of the state.
2. Small size of agricultural
holding is another obstacle in the path of modernisation of
agriculture. The average size of operational holding is only 1.37
3. Lack of high yielding
variety of seeds and its limited use is the next important obstacle,
in the path of modernisation of agriculture.
4. Scanty use of fertiliser
is another important obstacle on the path of modernisation of
agriculture. In Assam, the consumption of fertiliser per hectare of
land was only 4.8 kg. in 1986-87 as compared to that of 48.7 kg for
5. Lack of adequate finance
is another important obstacle in the path of modernisation of
agriculture in Assam. Poor financial condition of the farmers and the
absence of adequate institutional finance are mostly responsible for
such a peculiar situation.
6. Natural factors like
floods, hailstorm, frost or attack by pest or inscts and the inability
to contain such natural problems are also responsible for lack of
modernisation of agriculture in Assam.
7. Lack of adequate
agriculture research is also another important obstacle in the path of
modernisation of agriculture in Assam. This has led to the situation
where fruits of research are not being percolated to the farmers and
thus the problems faced by the farmers still remain largely
8. Lack of motivation on the
part of farmers and eduacated youths is another important obstacle on
the path of modernisation of agriculture.
Suggestion for sustaining
Agricultural Production in Assam in view of the Current policy of
The current policy of
economic liberalisation adopted in India has broadened the scope of
modernisation agriculture in different states of the country. In order
to sustain the agricultural production in Assam to the required level
under the current policy of economic liberalisation, the following
measures are suggested :
Agriculture : In order to keep pace in respect of increasing
agricultural production, the farmers in Assam should try modernise the
agricultural sector by adopting modern implements, using high yielding
variety of seeds, applying adequate quantity of fertilisers, by
adopting scientific rotation of crops and careful crop planning and
finally through intensifying agricultural reserch and percolating the
fruits of ressearch to the farmers.
Under the new GATT
arrangement and particularly after the birth of World Trade Organisation (WTO), farmers, interest are completely protected through
the ‘sui generis’ legislation to protect the plant varieties.
Under this legislation, right of farmers to retain and exchange seeds
are not affected. Thus the farmers in Assam can also avail the
benefits of retaining and exchanging seeds of HYV variety produced in
their farm without any difficulty. Moreover, the current level of
agricultural subsidies, maintained at the rate of 5 per cent of the
value of agricultural produce in India vis-a-vis Assam also can be
easily continued to support the new agricultural strategy adopted in
the state as present level of subsidies is far below the 10 per cent
Moreover, the Central
Government has already set up our Farm Machinery Training and Testing
Institute in Assam to provide better quality of equipment and training
to the farmers of the state.
2. Organisation Steps : In
order to sustain agricultural production in Assam to the required
level, adequate organisational steps must be taken for the all-round
development of the agricultutral sector of the state. These
Organisational steps include- consolidation of small and uneconomic
holdings, overcoming the problems of agriculture created by natural
factors like ever-recurring floods, extension of irrigation
facilities, developing of marketing arrangements etc. All then steps
will definitely develop the organisational structure of the
agricultural sector of the state.
3. Widening the scope of
Agricultural Trade : Under the present regime of economic
liberalisation, non-tariff barriers on agricultural trade area
gradually being withdrawn. This has led to the widening of the scope
of agricultural exports throughout the country, as India is enjoying a
comparative and competitive advantage in this respect. Assam being a
agricultural state can avail the benefit arising out of economic
liberalisation through diversification of its agricultural exports. If
the agricultural sector is the state cna be modernised to a
considerable level, the farm lobby in Assam would see major growth in
exports of superior rice, vegetables, fruits, fishery products, meat
products etc. over and above its traditional items of exports like tea
4. Development and
Expansion of Plantation industry : Assam is quite famous for
plantation industry. Tea industry of Assam is one of the most
important agro-based industry of the state. Considering its age- old
tea gardens, tea plantation in the state needs its expansion in areas.
Moreover, re-cycling of plantation activities in the age-old gardens
can be great help in regeneration of tea plantation in Assam.
Moreover, the state is having
enough scope for rubber plantation, coffee plantation, horticultural
plantation etc., considering the natural endowments and land available
in the state. Development and expansion of these plantation can lead
to a boost in agro-horticultural production and its exports in the
Thus under the present regime
of economic liberalisation, the state can play role of an important
playre in the field ageicultural production and its exports, if
adequate steps are taken to take care of the genuine needs of the
The agriculture, which is
the main source of livelihood in Assam, are suffering from low
productivity. The agricultural sector in Assam has not developed
sufficiently. In respect of modernisation of agriculture Assam was
trailing behind other states of India. Thus the agricultural
productivity in Assam still remains stagnant and poor.
The agriculture productivity
in Assam is even comparatively much lower than that of all India
average. The index of agricultural production of Assam and India
taking 1956-57 as base, stood at 126 and 147 respectively during
The index of agricultural
production (triendum ending 1969-70 = 100) for Assam stood at 119 in
1975-76 and then declined to 117 in the next year whereas the same
figure for India, as a whole, stood at 132.7 during 1977-78. In
1989-90, the index of agricultural production for Assam and all India
were 156 and 183 respectively. Again the index number of agriculture
production (Base-Triennium ending 1981-82-100) for Assam has gradually
increased from 143.09 in 1992-93 to 146.61 in 1993-94 and then to
149.71 in 1994-95.
Causes of low
The main causes of low
agricultural productivety in Assam are as follows:
1. Small size of holdings :
The size of agricultural holdings in Assam is very small. As a result
of the unrelenting pressure of population and lack of alternative
employment opportunities outside agriculture, the size of holding has
become very small. The average size of the total operational holdings
is 1.37 hectares. Of the total operational holdings 60 percent are of
size less than one hectare. Of the total area of operational holdings
in Assam, holdings having less than 3 hectares account for nearly 57
percent of the total land operated. This small holdings along with
growing fragmentation of lands stands in the way for modernisation of
agriculture to raise the agricultural productivity in the State.
2. Primitive methods of
cultivation : The farmers in Assam are still following the orthodox
method of cultivation. They are still relying on the centuries old
wooden plough to turn the land, the crude sickle to harvest cropes
while farmers in some other states of India are shifting from
primitive methods to modernnised methods of cultivations, the farmers
in Assam are still basing on their old methods. Thier methods are far
from the best for raising agricultural productivity in the State.
3. Lack of irrigation
facilities: Irrigation facilities in Assam are very poor. Assured and
controlled water supply for agricultural land is particularly
important in the sub-tropical climate of Assam where the rainfall
distribution is not even and crop transpiration rate is high in
winter. But the cumulative achievement (in minor irrigation) in
general areas by the end of 1977-78 was of the order of only 3.75 lakh
hectares which was about 12 per cent of the net cropped area. Total
irrigation potential created under major and medium irrigation upto
the end of 1977-78 was only 0.61 lakh hectares and its utilisation was
limited to only 0.32 lakh hectares. Upto the end of 1980-81, a total
of 3.58 lakh hectares of irrigation potential (about 95 thousand
hectares was under major and medium irrigation and about 2.63 lakh
hectares was under minor irrigation) was created in the state which
was only 10.9 per cent of the total cropped area of the state.
Again, at the end of 1994-95,
total irrigation potential created in Assam was 4.77 lakh hectares.
Out of this irrigation potential created under minor irrigation was 2.97
lakh hectares and under major and medium irrigation was 1.79 lakh
hectare. But all these irrigation potential developed in Assam are not
being properly utilised due to delay involved in the development of
non-farm work, like construction of field channels, land levelling or
shaping and adoption of the warabandi system etc. Accordingly, the
actual irrigation potential utilised in Assam during 1993-94 was only
1.30 lakh hectares which was about 27 per cent of the total potential
created during that year.
Due to the absence of
sufficient assured and controlled water supply, the agriculture in
Assam is still depending on rainfall which is neither regular nor
4. Use of ancient implements
: Agriculturists in Assam are still using all old and ancient
implements instead of using modernised inputs. These implements are
neither sharp nor suitable for raising the agricultural productivity
in the state.
5. Lack of high yielding
seeds : The supply of high yielding seeds are very minimum in Assam.
Thus the farmers are mostly using the traditional variety of seeds
whose average yield is just half of the yield of improved variety.
However, the HYV covered only 23.6 per cent of the area under rice in
1977-78. Area under HYV paddy has been increasing from 2.9 lakh
hectares in 1975-76 lakh to 11.5 lakh hectares in 1993-94. So the lack
of HYV seeds in the state is a very important cause of the low
agricultural productivity in the state.
6. Scanty use of fertiliser :
Agriculturists in Assam are not applying sufficient quantity of
fertilisers on their lands. Constant cultivation of land causes
deterioration of its fertility which requires application of
fertilisers. But poor cultivators cannot afford to purchase costly
chemical fertilisers for their lands. A small section of wealthy
cultivators in Assam are applying small amount of fertilisers on their
land. Poor cultivator cannot even spare full quantity of cowdung for
their land which is a good kind of organic manure. Total consumption
of chemical fertiliser in Assam increased from 7.86 thousand tonnes in
1973-74 to 43.2 thousand tonnes in 1993-94. Further, the consumption
of fertiliser per hectare of land in Assam was only 12.8 kg in 1995-96
in comparison to 74.6 kg. for all India. Even these fertilisers are
mostly used for tea plantation in the gardens. Thus due to the absence
of use of fertiliser on agricultural lands in Assam, agricultural
productivity of the state remained poor.
7. Natural factors : Nature
still dominates agriculture in Assam. It is said to be a gamble in the
monsoons. The rains are totally uncertain in Assam. Sometime rains are
insufficient and sometimes we have too much of rain resulting in heavy
floods which cause widespread damage and destruction. ther natural
calamities like hailstorm, frost or attack by pest and insects atre
also of common occurance in Assam. These natural factors always go
against the farmer in stepping up agricultural productivity.
8. Lack of adequate finance :
There is lack of adequate financial facilities for the farmers in
Assam and thus they have to depend on the village money lenders, who
charge very high rate of interest. Commercial banks advanced a very
little amount of finance to agricultural sector in Assam comparison to
its needs. Total outstanding credit of scheduled commercial banks in
Assam to Agricultural at the end of March, 1991 was to the tune of Rs.
7721 crores only. Again major portion of this amount is advanced to
plantation industries. The total disbursement of refinance by
Agricultural Refinance Development Corporation to Assam as on 30th June
1978 was only Rs. 483 lakh which is only 0.5 per cent of the total
disbursement of the corporation. Further, as on 30th June 1978, under
the aegis of SFD/MFSL agencies, total amount of financial assistance
sanctioned were Rs. 228 lakhs against 13 schemes.
Again till 1990-91, through
Integrated Rural Developmet Programme (IRDP) about Rs. 6262 lakh worth
of loan was advanced. Moreover, in 1989-90, about 40 per cent of the
total agricultural crwedit was advanced by the commercial banks in
Thus the volume of
agricultural finance available in Assam is far from adequate.
"The vicious circle resulting in poverty, debt and high interest
rates holds the small cultivation in a tight
9. Lack of Productive
Investment : There is absence of productive investment in Assam
alongwith other state as the investment in land is found less
attractive than the investment in jewellery, trade and money lending.
10. Inadequate marketing
facilities : The farmer in Assam are deprived of due prices of their
product due to defective marketing system available. Middleman takes
away a major portion of the profit, paying a very minimum price to the
farmers. Farmers are not guaranteed fair and remunerative prices of
their product thus creating little inducement to increase agricultural
11. Land Policy : There is
delay in implementation and uncerainty about the rights of the farmers
on land. There is excessive reliance on revenue administration in
connection with land legislation which affects agricultural
productivity in the state.
12. Lack of agriculture
research : Agricultural research in Assam is very poor in comparison
to its needs. Whatever research is being conducted is not even made
available to the farmers fully and thus the problems faced by the
farmers still remain unattended.
13. Socio-economic factors :
Socio-economic factors like farmers’ conservative outlook,
ignorance, illiteracy etc. stand in the way of adoption of modern
techniques in Assam. Further, the antiquated organisation of
agriculture run by illiterate, ignorant and illequipped person cannot
raise the agricultural productivity of the state. Adoption of
progressive agricultural technique is to some extent impossible under
the present position.
Thus we find there is gross
absence of many basic facilities in the agricultural sector in Assam
which are responsible for this low rate of productivity.
The low agricultural
productivity is a very serious problem for the economy of Assam
particularly when the average contribution of this sector to the state
economy is around 40 per cent although 77 per cent of the total
population are engaged into it. For the improvement of agricultural
productivity in Assam we must adopt both economic and non-economic,
short term and long term measures, These as follows :
1. Consolidation of land
holding : For modernisation of agriculture in Assam provision for
consolidation of holding is to be made by enacting legislation in this
regard. Uneconomic small farms should be consolidated and fragmented
ones be grouped together through consolidation and co-operatives.
Incentive for the formation of co-operatives farming should be
2.Overcoming natural factors
: Adequate measures must be taken to overcome the problems of
agriculture in Assam created by natural factors. Extensive flood
control measures should be adopted to prevent huge loss and
devastation created by ever-recurring floods in Assam. Sufficient
irrigation facilities must be provided to the agriculturist through
the extension of major and minor irrigation works by utilising huge
irrigation potential vaialable in the stae. This will save the
agriculturist from unprecedented drought. Adequate quantity of
insectsides and pesticides should be made available to the farmers
either free of cost or at cheaper rates along with the knowledge to
3. Application of
modernisation: Farmers in Assam must apply modernised technique in
their agricultural farming for raising agricultural productivity.
Increased quantity of fertilisers and manures must be made available
to all the farmers of the state. Farmers must follow scientific
rotation of crops and careful crop palnning. Improved variety of seeds
should be taken for the reclamation of low lying land. Provision be
made for the manufature of cheap modern tools and equipment in large
scale which reduce the cost of farming. Agricultural research should
be intensified and fruits of research should be made available to the
4. Economic measures : To
make agriculture more remunerative, active economic measures must be
introduced. Steps must be taken to improve farm organisation and land
management. Subsdiary agro-based industries must be set up in the rural
areas so that surplus labour in the agricultural sector can be
utilised in these industries. Steps must be taken to break the vicious
circle of poverty. Adequate credit arrangements must be provided so
that farmers can get sufficient credit at cheaper rate and also on
easy terms. Marketing facilities of the agricultural product must be
improved and regulated markets must be set up all over the state.
Government must introduce price support policy and also guarantee
minimum prices of the agricultural goods to the farmers.
5. Human Development : For
the improvement of agricultural productivity in the state, the quality
of farmer must be improved through education , both general and
technical. To save the farmers form epidemics and other diseases,
adequte public health measures must be undertaken. Farmers should shed
off their fatalism and adopt new ideas which will make them more
rational and help them to gain self-confidence.
Thus to raise the
agricultural productivity in Assam, the above mentioned measures, both
economic and non -ecomonic, must be introduced.
Importance of Five Years Plans on
the Development of irrigation potential in the North Eastern States.
Irrigation facilities are
an integral part of the agricultural development programme. North
eastern region has sufficient irrigation potential but its importance
was not realised in the early years of planning. During the First and
Second Plans, expenditure on irrigation in the North Eastern states
were very insignificant, viz ; for Assam the amount was Rs. 251 lakhs
which created anitcipated benefits to the extent of 82,000 acres.
During the Third, Fourth and Fifth Plans, expenditures on irrigation
in Assam were Rs. 228 lakhs, Rs. 571 lakhs and Rs. 61.10 crores
respectively creating benefits from major and medium irrigation to the
extent of 38 thousand hectares and 70 thousand hectares (potential)
of area during the Fourth Plan respectively of which 40 thousand
hectares of land were benefitted from the Fifth Plan Schemes.
potential in Assam, upto the end of the Fourth Plan, was of the order
of 2.18 lakh hectares. Utilisation of the above potential created was
only 30-35%. This was due to inadequate attention given to Command
Area Development programme which included construction of field
channels, consolation of land holdings and other infra-strctural
development. The cumulative achievemenmt (in monor irrigation) in
general areas by the end of 1977-78 is of the order of 2.75 lakh
hectares which is about 12% of the net cropped area. Total irrigation
potential created in Assam by the end of the Fifth Plan as in
percentage of ultimate potential was 11.1% in comparison with all
India’s 48.7% which shows wide gap in the utilisation of development
potential between the North East region and other regions of country.
The allocation on irrigation and its benefit in other North Eastern
State were either nil or very negligible in amount.
Again in 1985-86, i.e., at
the first year of the Seventh Plan, total irrigation potential created
in North-Eastern states were 572 thousand hectares for manipur, 50
thousand hectares for meghalaya, 8 thousand hectares for Mizoram, 51
thousand hectares for Nagaland and 29 thousand hectares for Tripura.
Again the percentages of
gross irrigated area to gross cropped (sown) area in the North-
eastern states in 1987-88 were 15.5 per cent for Assam, 39.9 per cent
Manipur, 23.7 per cent for Maeghalaya, 12.1 per cent for Miziram, 29.2
per cent of Nagaland and 10.5 per cent for Tripura. Thus it is found
that the North-eastern states are very mucvh backward in respect of
developing irrigation facilities although the economy of these states
are very much depending on the agricultural sector.
The main reason for these
backwardness in the field of irrigation are inadequate attention on
the part of the Government, lack of fund and lack of peoples’
Development of Irrigation
Potential in Assam
Assam has to face the problem
of irregularity in the arrival of monsoon. Some times the state is
facing the problem of heavy rain leading to devatation of crops due to
flood or the problem of drought due to scarce- rain. Under this
situation there is immense importance facilities in the state.
Assam is blessed with huge
natural irrigation potential which remained mostly neglected. It is
only recently that irrigation has been given its due importance by
developing irrigation projects and for its utilisation. In the absence
of sufficient and assured irrigation facilities the agrarian economy
of Assam largely depends on vagaries of weather. Record of last few
years shows that the rainfall in the state has been showing erratic
behaviours. Therefore, to develop agriculture in the State utmost
importance must be given to bring more and more areas under assured
and controlled water supply. Only assured irrigation facility would
enable raising a second and successful crop in the dry winter.
Total irrigation potential in
Assam, upto the end of Fourth Plan, was of the order of 2.18 lakh
hectares out of which only 30-35% of the above potential were utilised.
Till the end of Fifth Plan, total irrigation potential created in
Assam as in percentage of ultimate potential was 11.1% only as against
48.7% fol all India.
The irrigation programme
being carried on in Assam consists of (a) Major and medium irrigation
programme and (b) Minor irrigation programme. Upto the end of 1980-81,
a total of 0.58 lakh hectares of irrigation potential have been
created in Assam, of which 95 thousand hectares are developed under
major and medium irrigation scheme and the rest 2.63 lakh hectares are
developed under minor irrigation schemes. Total irrigations potential
created, till 1994-9 is to be around 4.77 lakh hectares. Out of the
total irrigation potential created in 1994-95, 1.79 lakh hectares are
developed under major and medium irrigation schems and the rest 21.97
lakh hectares of area are developed under minor irrigation schemes.
But what is more painstaking is that although the total irrigation
potential created in Assam is very poor, but out of which only 1.30
lakh hectares of irrigation potential are utilised in real terms in
1993-94, which comes around 27.04 percent of the total irrigation
potential developed so far. The irrigation potential created in Assam
so far, covers roughly 14 percent of the total cropped area of the
State which is very poor in comparison to the potential created in
some other states. Further, the actual utilisation of the irrigation
potential created in the State remained as low as 27 percent only in
1993-94. This is mainly due to absence of field channels, assured
supply of electricity, reluctance of cultivators to adopt the
envisaged cropping pattern etc. To minimise these constraints, the
Government of Assam is initiating following steps such as formation of
sub-divison level co-ordination committees, gearing up rural
electrification programme, construction of field channel, special
extension measures steps to improve institutional credit flow etc.-
for the fullest utilisation of the irrigation potential created in the
Among all the districts of
Assam, the irrigation potential created upto March 1995 was highest
in Nagaon district (85,820). The other district, in order of
irrigation potential created are- Barpeta (55,405) hectares), Sonitpur
(51,107 hectares), Darrang (50,277 hectares), Kamrup (32,553
hectares), Kokrajhar (20,856 hectares), Karbi Anglong (21,060
hectares) and the lowest size of potential created in the district of
Karimgunj (2884 hectares) and Hailakandi (3581 hectares) followed by
North Cacher Hills district (4802 hectares).
Agricultural Finance in
Farmers in Assam
are facing a chronic problem of lakh of adequate financial facilities
from the very begining and they have been depending on the village
money lenders, who charges a very high rate of interest. In recent
years steps have been taken by various agencies to flow gricultural
credit in the State.
In Assam, the bulk of the
agricultural credit is channelised through the Gaon Panchayat level
Co-operative Societies (GPSS). The Assam Co-operation Apex Bank,
Nationalised Banks, including the State Bank of India are the main
credit advancing agencies.
Total outstading credit of
scheduled commercial banks in Assam to the agricultural sector at the
end of March, 1991 was to the extent of Rs. 7721 crores only. Again
the major portion of this amount is advanced to plantation
industries.Total disbursement of refinance by Agricultural Refinance
Development Corporation (ARDC) to Assam as on 30th June,1978 was only
Rs. 483 lakh which was only 0.5 percent of the total disbursement of
the corporation. Further, as on 30th June, 1978, under the aegis of
SFDA/MFAL agencies, total amount of financial assistance sanctioned
were Rs.228 lakhs against 13 schemes.
In recent years, commercial
banks are advancing agricultural credit through co-operative
Societies. During 1989-90, the flow of credit for Rabi crops
production through the co-operative was as under:
1. Target-Rs. 330 lakhs.
2. CLS submitted to the
financing Bank- Rs. 457.66 lakhs.
3. Credit Limit sanctioned -
Rs. 185.90 lakhs.
4. Loan disbursed (Upto
31.390) - Rs. 133.47 lakhs.
It is thus observed that only
about 56 percent of the targetted credit was sanctioned by the Banks
and 40 percent of the targetted credit was disbursed during 1989-90.
This is mainly due to the fact that though the membership of Primary
Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS) though quite high, the percentage
of borrowing members is relatively low. Non-adoption of improved
methods of cultivation, traditional shyness to borrow loans from
financing institutions, procedural difficulties to which the farmers
has to go through to procure loans are also some of the impediments
responsible for low volume of credit sanctioning disbursement in the
NABARD: In recent years, the
National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD) is
playing an important role to flow agricultural credit in Assam through
different agencies. NABARD does not help the farmers and other rural
pepole directly rather it flows the credit to these people through
co-operative banks, commercial banks and Development Banks, Regional
Rural Banks (RRBs) etc. It is thus working as an apex body dealing
with policy planning and other oprational aspects of rural credit for
the all round development of rural economy of the State. The long term
and short term credit needs of these institutions are also met by
In 1995-96, the amount of
refinance disturbed by the NABARD to North-eastern states showed an
increase of 27 percent over the previous year. However, the Annual
Report of the NABARD,1994-95 reveals that as compared to the rest of
the country, refinance to the North-east during 1994-95 was 1.68
percent with cumulative disbursement till March 1995 being the order
of 1.8 percent. Out of the total refinance of Rs.67.56 crore received
by the NE states from NABARD during 1995-96, Assam received the major
share i.e. Rs. 44.46 crore while Mizoram got the lowest share of Rs.
1.24 Crore. On the short-term credit limits for seasonal agricultural
operations, the NABARD disbursed Rs. 6.30 lakh to the entire NE region
during 1995-96, of which RS. 450 lakh was earmarked under special line
of credit for development of tribal population.
NABARD has also set up a
Rural Infrastucture Development Fund (RIDF) with a corpus of Rs. 2,000
crore for completing ongoing infrastructure development projects. On
the promotional and developmental intiatives the NABARD has taken
taken special care for strengthening co-operative banks, Regional
Rural banks (RRBs) by helping them tp prepare specific development
action plans (DPAs).
Another important data
available from NABARD shows that the purpose-wise disbursements under
schematic lending for different purpose viz, minor irrigation, land
development, farm mechanisation, plantation/horticulure, fisheries,
dairy development, storage and market yards, N.F.S., IRDP etc. in
Assam from the banks during 1993-94 was Rs. 26.85 cores and the total
disbursements of schematic lending in Assam upto 31st March, 1994 was
cstimated at Rs. 269.17 crores. Out of these various schematic
lending, the maximum amount is disbursed on plantation and horiculture
(Rs. 102.84 crore), followed by IRDP (Rs. 94.93 crore) and Minor
irrigation (Rs. 37.72 crore).
It is observed that while the
other regions of the country have derived benefits from the refinance
facility available from NABARD but the policy of providing refinance
to commercial banks by the NABARD at 90 percent of their disbursements
in the NOrth-Eastern region has not met with much success as the
absorption of refinance by the banks in the region continued to be
Again, in 1996-97,
disbursements of agricultural advances by public sector banks under
special Agricultural Credit Plan (SACP) in Assam was Rs. 7.20 crore
only as compared to that of Rs. 920.5 crore in Andhra Pradesh.
Central Debt Relief Scheme
: Following the pattern of the Central Debt Relief Scheme, the
Assam Agricultural and Rural Debt Relief Scheme,1990 has been approved
to facilitate writing off of loans with interest upto Rs. 10,000
issued by the Co-oprative Banks which has fallen over due on 2nd
October.1989. The financial involvement for this will be about Rs.
28.40 crores to be shared on 50 : 50 basis by the state and centre.
Moreover, in respect of over
due loans issued by the Nationalised Bank,directly or through GPSS/LAMPS
under their adoption, writing-off of loan is being done under the
Central Debt Relief Scheme.
These exercise will make more
than 2 lakh borrowers debt free and eligible for fresh loan during
next crop seasons. Keeping this in view, the Agriculture Department
has already proposed a credit target of Rs. 250 lakhs for Rabi season
in 1990-91. With the recent posting of Agricultural Inspectors and
Assistant Agricultural Inspectores in about 300 GPSS for input
management and distribution, including credit, it has already
improved, the credit sanction,disbursement in the selected GPSS.
Inspite of all these schemes,
it can be observed that the flow of agricultural credit in Assam is
very inadequate in comparison to its requirement. Thus proper steps
must be taken by the Government as well as to its different agencies
to augment the flow of agricultural credit in the state. Moreover,
steps must be taken to motivate the farmers for proper utilisation and
regular repayment of agricultural loan in the state so as to attain a
viable rural credit structure.
Procurement of Paddy and
Public Distributuion System
Procurement of Paddy in
The Assam State Co-operative
Marketing and Consumers Federation (STATFED) and the Food Corporation
of India (FCI) were entrusted with the task of procurement of paddy
till the kharif year 1981-82. However, it was during the kharif season
during 1982-83, the State Government decided to procure paddy/rice
through STATFED both under price support measures as well as under
level scheme on millars. In those years the procurement price of paddy
was fixed at Rs. 122 per quintals for common variety, Rs. 126 fine
variety and Rs. 130 for superfine varieties. Upto February 1983 of the
kharif year total of 3.03 lack quintals of paddy and 491 quintals of
rice were procured in the State by the STATFED. The following table
shows the volume of paddy procured in Assam over the last few years.
The table reveals that total procurement of paddy and rice in Assam
which was 15.501 M.T and 17,381 M.T respective in 1985-86 gradually
decline to 1397 M.T in 1990-91 and then reached to 126 M.T and 8.575
M.T. in 1992-93.
Again the procurement of
paddy and rice in Assam further declined to 73 M.T. and 4,995 M.T.
respectively in 1993-94.
Table No. 6.5
Procurement of Paddy and Rice in Assam
Rice (in M.T)
Paddy (in M.T)
Director of Food and Civil Supply, Assam, Guwahati-5
Public Distribution System in Assam :
As Assam is depending heavily
on outside source for supply of a large number of essential commodities
the need for effective public distribution system is very important for
this State .In August 1975, the exisitng public distribution system was
introduced in Assam and since then the essential commodities like rice,
wheat products, levy sugar, salt, controlled cloth etc. had been supplied
to the consumers in rural and urban areas through a wide net work of
distribution centres. In 1982,665 GPSS with 15,821 retail outlets in the
rural areas of the plain districts, 17 wholesale Co-operative societies,
130 consumers’ co-operative stores and 2196 Fair Price Shops in the
urban areas and 21 LAMPS with 349 retail outlets in the hill areas are
associated with the distribution of the above commodities in the state.
Beside, the STATFED through its 145 retail outlets spread throughout
the state, is also engaged in the distribution of many essential
The gross allotment of rice
wheat from the central pool to the state during 1982(January to December
was 3.65 lakh tonnes and 2.57 lakh tonnes and FCI in Assam was to the
extent of 2.42 lakh tonnes (or 66 percent) and 2.20 lakh tonnes (or 86
In the mean time, the state
Government has a number of remedial measuresin order to ensure regular
supply of essential commodities as well as to check malpractices by
traders. These measures include strict enforcement of the existing
control orders, display of stock position and prices by traders, regular
review of the availability and supply position of essential commodities
etc. The new control orders viz. the Assam trade Articles (I.S.C.)
Order, 1982 and the Assam Public Distribution of Articles Order, 1982
were promulgated in the State for curbing down the activities of corrupt
and unscrupulous traders.
In recent years, the public
distribution system has been revamped in Assam along with the other
states of the country. In 1995, total number of fair price shops in
Assam stood at 29,833 out of which 3,456 were located in the urban areas
and 29,833 were located in the rural areas. Moreover, the total amount
of rice and wheat released through public distribution system in Assam
was 4.32 lakh Metric tonnes and 2.16 lakh metric tonnes respectively in
LAND TENURE AND LAND REFORMS
Land tennure System in
Land tenure system has its
importance as it locates the owner of land, influences the productivity of
land and social organisation prevaling in that area.
Like other states of India the
tenure system in Assam was not satisfactory rather it was a bit
Owing to certain historical reasons zamindary system was prevalent in
Assam which was to some extent similar to the system prevalent in Bengal
and Uttar Pradesh. Under the Zamindary system one or more persons owned
a village and where responsible for the payment of land revenue. There
were permanent settement in Goalpara and in the Karimganj Subdivision
of Cachar district.
The system was not at all
beneficial due to following reasons: (I) it robbed the state of its due
share (ii) making the land lords absentee parasites, the zamindary
tenure proved harmful to the cultivators and stood in the way of
agricultural development, (iii) discouraged all enterprise on the part
of cultivators due to frequent enhancement of rent and fear of ejectment
and (iv) the agricultural sector suffered as the zamiders contributed
nothing for agricultural progress.
The above metioned evils make
way for the abolition of zamindary system, bringing the huge number of
tenants into direct relationship with the State and making available to
the state Government several lakh farmers.
In agriculture and allied
activities, land is one of the basic inputs for production. Remodeling
of existing agrarian structure is extremely essential to ensure the
achievement of the desired objectives in agricultural production in
conformity with the accepted concepts of social justice. The main
objective of land reforms was to alter the pattern of land ownership and
bring a structural change in rural society for the attainment of greater
production and justice.
As mentioned in the Second Five
Year Plan, the objective of land reform was to create conditions for
evolving the agrarian economy high degre of efficiency and productivity
and to establish an eglatarian society as early as possible. The Fifth
Plan draft mentioned that the objectives of land policy have been to
remove such motivational and other impediments in agricultural
production as arise from the agrarian structure inherited from the past
and also to eliminate all elements of exploitation and social injustice
within the agrarian system so as to ensure equality of tenurial status
and opportunity to all sections of the rural populations.
The basic motive of various
land reform measures initiated in Assam are:
(I) Providing security fo
tenancy right to the tenants ;
(ii) Protecting tennants from
under and wanton exploitation by land owner ;
(iii) Establishmentof a direct
nexus between the tenants and the Government ;
(iv) Fixation of ceiling on
land holdings etc.
Principles of land reforms
Land reform measures must be
framed on the basis of certain principles. In India, the Agrarian
Reforms Committee (1948) laid down certain principles for land reforms
which were accepted by the Planning Commission. The principles of land
reforms are :
(I) The agrarian economy should
develop the farmer’s personality.
(ii) There should be no scope
for class exploitation.
(iii) There must be maximum
efficiency of production ; and
(iv) The scheme of reforms
should be practicable.
The above principles involve
the following major changes :
(a) abolition of Zamindari, (b)
reform of the condition of tenants through legislation, (c) an increase
in the unit of cultivation, (d) consolidation of holdings, (e) adoption
of mechanised cultivation where needed and provision of water,
electricity and finances for the improvement of agriculture.
Land reform measures introduced
in the state of Assam were also based on the same above mentioned
Land reform measures introduced
Land is one of the basic inputs
for production in agriculture and allied activities. Thus to remodel the
existing agrarian structure, reform of the present land system is an
important step. The economy of Assam is totally dependent on
agriculture. The land tenure system in Assam was not at all
satisfactory. The system of land holding stood in the way of
agricultural development of the State.
Thus the Goverment of Assam
introduced various land reform measures in the state during different
years since independence the main purpose of such land reforms would be
to alter the pattern of land ownership and bring about such a structural
change in the rural society as to ensure that the fruites of production
are equitably enjoyed by those who toil in the agricultural land. These
measures are as follows :
(I) Abolition of intermediary
tenures : Along with other states of India, the Zamindari system in
Assam was abolished. Record of land holding in Assam shows that there
were permanent settlement in Goalpara and in the Karimganj subdivision of
Cacher district. Only a few minor intermediary tenures are still
existing and efforts are being made to end them. With this abolition of
intermediary tenures, a huge number of farmers have been brought into
direct relationship with the State.Besides, considerable areas of
cultivable waste land,private forest etc. have been acquired for its
utilisation. But till now, a sizeable area of land is still held by
absence owners. Thus Planning Commission Committee for land Reforms
suggested the abolition of absentee ownership of land, abolition of
share-cropping and conversion of rent of kind into cash rents and
acceleration of the programme of transfer of ownership to tenants.
(ii) Protection to Adhiars :
The system of ‘Adhi’ cultivation is very much common in Assam. Thus
to provide adequate to Adhiars, The Assam Adhiars protection and
Regulation (amendment) Act was passed in 1955. By this act the adhiars
have been given facilities. These are (a) the restriction on
indiscrimnante eviction of the adhiars, (b) conferring of rights to
adhiars to continue cultivate adhi land and (c) specification of grounds
on which adhiars may be evicted.
(iii) Preparation of Tenants
‘and Adhiars’ Records of Rights : This scheme is being implemented
along with resettlement operations in the district of Nagaon, Darrang,
Lakhimpur and Dibrugarh and also in two sub-divisions of the district of
Cachar. A crash programme for preparation of records of right in the
district of Kamrup, Goalpara, Sibsagar and in the Karimganj sub-division
of Chachar district, has since been undertaken. The need for updating
the record of rights of tenants and adhiars (now tenants) in these
districts was extremely urgent partly because of the launching of
S.F.D.A and M.F.A.L schemes and partly due to the enactment of the Assam
(Temporarily Settled Areas) Tenancy Act. 1971. Further,steps have been
taken to strengthen the Land Records Staff for collectionof agricultural
statistics. So far 251 lakh persons have been recorded as tenants.
(iv) Protection to tribal
people : In order to protect the interest of the simple plain tribe
people of Assam, the Government of Assam passed the Assam Land and
Revenue Regulation (Amendment) Act in 1947. Under the direction of this
Act 30 tribal belts were constituted in the areas predominantly
inhabited by the tribals in the plain district of Brahmaputra Valley.
(v) Consolidation of holdings :
The scheme for consolidation of holdings was originally taken up to save
labour and money in agricultural operations and also to increase
agricultural production. The Assam consolidation of Holdings Act,1960 was
enacted in 1961 for consolidation and prevention of fragmentation of
agricultural holdings for better cultivation in the plain districts of
the state. A programme for consolidation of land holdings was in
progress till 1969-70 and an area about 2005 bighas of land in 41
villages was brought under the scheme. But since June,1969 this scheme
had been kept in abeyance. A sample survey of the utility of
consolidation in existing circumstanaces was carried out in 1973. The
Goverment of Assam has also adopted the agrarian reorganisation policy
which aims at (a) consolidtion of holding. (b) land management
practices, (c) development of Co-operative farming and (d) development
of Co-operative village mangement.
(vi) Land Ceiling : Imposition
of land ceiling is a very important measure towards land reforms in Assam.
The Assam Fixation of Ceiling on Land Holdings Actwas passed in 1955.
The Act provides for fixation of ceiling on land holdings at 150 bighas
per family. Later, it was reduced to 75 bighas by making necessary
amendment. Again the Government of Assam amended the existing
legislation on land ceilings during June, 1972 to limit the amount of
agricultural land that can be held by a family to 50 bighas and to
reduce the allowable area of orchards from 30 bighas to 15 bighas.
Through the implementation of these amendments, it is estimated that
surplus area of about 12 lakh bighas would be available for acquisition
under the Act, composed of 9 lakhs bighas from tea garden areas and the
balance from non-tea areas. The surplus land so acquired would have to
be equitably distributed among several beneficiaries. It is proposed
that the surplus land, as and when acquired, would have as a first
charge on it the requirements of homestead land for landless
agriculturists and others without homestead land. Then the remaining
cultivable lands would be constituted into Agricultural Farming
Corporations composed of genuine landless cultivators who will enjoy the
share of profit of this corporation. Land not suitable for cultivation
would be utilised for afforesation, where feasible.
The achievements in respect of
acquisition and distribituin of Ceiling surplus land in the State as on
March,1985 is shows below:
(I) Area declared sruplus
-17.80 lakh bighas
(ii) Area taken possession of
-17.80 lakh bighas
(iii) Area distributed -11.57
(iv) Total number of families
benefitted -3.27 lakh
(v) Land distribution to
institutions -0.47 lakh bighas
(vi) No. of instituions
Source : Directorate of
Land Requistion and Reforms, Assam.
Thus it is observed that a
series of land reform measures as enacted by the State Legislature from
time to time are under implementation in the State. These measures
basically aim at : (i) providing security of tenancy right, (ii)
protecting tenants from possible exploitation (iii) establishment of a
direct nexus between the tenants and the Government and (iv)
distribution ceiling surplus land etc.Data made available that by the
State Directorate of Land Requistion,Acquisition and Reforms, shown in
the above chart reveals that under the Assam Fixation of ceiling on Land
Holding Acts (as amended ) a total of 17.78 lakh of surplus land have
been acquried in the State at the end of 1984-85 since inception. Out of
these, 11.57 lakh bighs have been distributed to about 3.87 lakh
allotees upto that date. Again in 1992-93, the state Government could
distribute 21,983 acres of ceiling surplus land among the landless
beneficiaries. The break up is scheduled caste- 1987 acres, scheduled
tribe-3060 acres, others- 16592 acres and Institutions-345 acres.
Basic Problems in the Effective
Implementation of Land Reforms in Assam and Modifications in view of
ongoing Economic Reforms
Land reforms measures
introduced in Assam are facing some basic problems in its effective
implementation. Although the land reforms programme in Assam was started
with good spirit and enthusiasm but the very response from such
programme was lost in the mid-stream. The following are some of the
basic problems in the effective implementation of land reforms in Assam.
1. Faults in Legislation : The
legislations enacted for land reforms in India is having certain
built-in-faults. This includes-unsatisfactory definition of personal
cultivation ; unlimited retention of land for personal cultivation ;
large scale transfer of land by the Zamindars to their family members
leading to a largescale evasion of land ceiling law ; inadequate
definition of tenant from the point of view of tenancy reform ; forcible
voluntary surrender of land by tenants to land lords due to omission of
share croppers and informal tenants from the provision of the laws
related to tenancy refrom and inadequate celing laws at the initial
stage, leading to realisation of small areas as surplus followed by
illegal transfer of land.
2. Lack of Political Will
:Strong political will, determination and courage are very much
important for the implementation of land reform measures related to
restructuring property relations. But unfortunately,this is very much
absent in the state as well as in the whole country , which leads the
land reform measure a mere slogan. The Report of the task force on
Agrarian relations, in this connection observed, "Enactmant of
progessive measures of land reforms and their efficient implementation
call for hard political decision and effective potitical support,
direction and control.........The lack of political will is amply
demonstrated by the large gaps between policy and legislation and
between law and its implementation."
Thus,so long the required
political will is not forthcoming, implementation of land reform
measures in true spirit will be very difficult.
3. Bureaucratic Obstacles :
Bureaucratic Obstacles is also another impediment in the path of
implementation of land reform measures in Assam. Sometimes, enthusiastic
administrators are demoralised by the political bosses. the bureaucracy
always try to play safe by following a ‘lukewarm’ attitude. In some
cases, even administrators have joined hands with the politician to
grave the surplus land (declared).The rich peasant power is dominating
in every layer of government and they are subverting the land reforms in
such a manner that the implementation of land reform measures is
becoming more and more difficult .
4. Lack of Peoples’
co-operation :In the absence of
peoples’ active co-operation, the implementation of land reforms in
Assam is gradually becoming more and more difficult. Lack of
consciousness on the part of farmers of the state regarding their rights
on land is also responsible for poor implementation of land reform
measures in Assam.
Thus considering all these
factors it can be observed that under the prevailing situation it is
very difficult to implement the various land reform measured in the
Thus the main challange before
the land reform programme is to dislodge the vested interests on land
and legal support offered by the judicial system to those vested
interest group in the guise of sanctity of private property. In order to
break such as impasse the following suggestions of the Force should be
followed in true sprit :
(I) As the judicial systems is
time consuming and dilatory, thus in respect of the implementation of
various land reform measures, judiciary should not be involved.
(ii) Organisations of the poor
peasantry in the form of strong militant trade unions, is no doubt, a
pre condition for the successful implementation of land reforms.
Formation of a land reform Committee by the Government at the Village,
taluqa or district level having majority representation of marginal
farmers, share croppers and landless cultivators for the implementation
of land reform measures will be a good step in this direction.
In the mean time, the State
Government have barred the jurisdiction of Civil Courts in respect of
ceiling on land holdings and also made subsequent provision in ceiling
laws for necessary appeal and revision through revenue Courts and
tribunals. Moreover, necessary steps are also taken by the State
Government to record the rights. Adhiars or share croppers for providing
security of their tenancy.
Although attempts were made to
establish a linkage between land reform measures and rural development
programmes but in real practice, the State Government has failed to
established such a linkage. Thus it can be finally observed that the
land reforms in Assam is still far away its goal.
Modification of Land Reforms in
view of Ongoing Economic Reforms :
With the introduction of
economic reforms in the country, the agricultural sector is also facing
a lot of changes particularly in relation to social relation of
production, organisational structure modernisation of agricultural
sector, etc. Under this changing situation, land reforms also need some
modifications in view of ongoing economic reforms.
Accordingly, the land reforms
measures introduced in Assam also need some modifications. Globalisation
of the economy and the economic reforms introduced in the country has
also widened the scope of development of agricultural sector alongwith
the development of industry and trade. Assam being an agricultural state
can reap the maximum benefit by exporting various agricultural,
horticultural and floricultural products to diferent countries. But this
would require an organised development of agricultural sector.
The following are some of the
important modifications in land reforms in Assam in view of ongoing
economic reforms :
(a) Stricter measures to
abolish the absence owership of land for the effective utilisation of
land resources :
(b) Systematic converion of
Adhi" land into permanently settled land, for providing incentive
to adhiars to boost agricultural output ;
(c) Ceiling of land may be
raised for the development of organised, intension and large scale
agricultural farming on a specific fruitful basis like tea cultivations
in the state.
(d) Sincere and serious attempt
be made for proper consolidation of holdings and to adopt land
management practices through development of co-operative farming on
voluntary basic and pursuasion for reaping the benefit of modernisation
Agricultural Holdings in Assam-
Its Problem of Fragmentation and Sub-division
Problem of Decline in the
Average Size of Holdings in Assam
In the absence of
alterative occupations particularly in the rural areas, population to
large majority, i.e. to the extent of 77 percent, has to depend on the
agricultural sector alone. This has resulted excessive dependence of the
economy of the State on agriculture leading to a huge pressure on
agricultural land holdings. According to 1991 census, about 6.41 percent
of the total working population in Assam are engaged as cultivators and
agricultural labourers. Thus the excessive dependence of the population
on the agricultural sector has been resulting continuous subdivision and
fragmentation of land holdings in Assam. All these has been resulting a
continuous decline in the average size of holdings in Assam.
: As revealed by the Agricultural census 1985-86, there were 19.90 lakh
operational holdings in the State wihich covered an area of about 25.89
lakh hectares of land. Compared with the figures of the earlier census
(1980-81), the number of operational holding and operated area during
1985-86 were lower by 13.4 percent and 17.1 percent respectively. The
marginal holding with less than 1 hectare of land acounted for 62.0
percent of the total holdings and 19.0 percent of the total operated
area of the state in 1985-86. In case of small holdings with size class
between 1 to 2 hectares, the share turned out to be 21.36 percent of
total holdings and 23.11 percent of the total operational area. On the
other hand, the large holdings (10 hectares and above) which constittuted
only 0.25 percent of the total number of operational holdings, accounted
for as much as 16.68 percent of the total operational area in the State.
An important feature revealed by these successive agricultural census is
that the average size of operational holdings in Assam recorded a
declining trend. The following table shows important findins about
operational holdings in Assam as obtained from Agricultural Census,
1970-71, 1976-77, 1980-81 and 1985-86.
Table No. 6.6
Number, Area and Average Size
of Operational Holdings in Assam
1. Numberof holdings
2. Total Operated area
(in thousand hectares)
3.Average size of holdings
Source : Economic
Survey, 1989-90. (Assam). p.11. and statistical Hand Book,
The table given above reveals
that the total number of holdings in Assam gradually rose from 19.66 lakh
1970-71 to 22.97 lakh in 1980-81 and then to 24.19 lakh in 1985-86.
Another important feature reported is that the average size of operational
holdings in Assamhas declined considerably from 1.47 hectares in 1970-71
to 1.37 hectares in 1976-77 and then marginally to 1.36 hectares in
1980-81 and then finally to 1.31 hectares in 1985-86. At all India level
also the average size of holdings have also declined from 2.00 hectares in
1976-77 to 1.84 hectares in 1980-81.
Measures to deal with the
problems of fragmentation and sub-divison of land holdings in Assam
Continuous fragmentation and sub-divison
of land holding is creating a huge problem for the agricultural
development in Assam. With this the size of the farm becomes most
uneconomic which stands in the way of modernisation of agriculture in
The Government of Assam has
adopted the following measures during the plan period to deal with the
problems of fragmentation and sub-division of land holdings in the state :
(a) Consolidation of holdings,
(b) Development of co-operative
(a) Consolidation of holdings
: It means the rearrangment of scattered fields of an individual owner
into bigger and compact fields, through exchange with the fragments of
other cultivators in the area. The idea is to reduce the number of
fragments as much as possible. The process of consolidation also provides
an opportunity for the planning of common village facilities like roads
and schools. The scheme for consolidation of holding was originaly taken
up to save labour and money in agricultural operations and also increase
agricultural production. The Assam consolidation of Holdings Act, 1960 was
enacted in 1961 for consolidation and prevention of fragmentation of
agricultural holdings for better cultivation in the plain districts of the
state. A programme for consolidation of land holdings was in progress till
1969-70 and an area about 2005 bighas of land in 41 villages was brought
under the scheme. But this scheme had been kept in abeyance since June,
1969 due to desirability of first completing the work relating to
recording of rights of tenants and, if possible conferring ownership
rights on them.
The main difficulties which have
stood in the path of progress of consolidation are-- sentimental attachment
of the people of Assam to part with ancestral land, fear of losing better
lands, lack of trained and honest staff, lack of up-to-date records, lack
of finance and wide difference in land values in the State.
(b) Development of
Co-operative farming : To overcome the evil effects of small and
uneconomic holding in Assam adoption of some sort of Co-operative farming,
i.e., joint cultivation, is a very appropriate method in the desired
directions. This sort of farming can provide the advantages of largescale
farming without abolishing private property. During 1973-74, the
Government of Assam have introduced a novel scheme for setting up
Agricultural Farming corporation in each sub-division of the state. The
main objective of the scheme is to ensure the management of land and its
proper use by tillers of the soil through the settlement of landless
agricultural farmers in Government and surplus land that may be available
as a result of enforcement of land ceiling Act. According to the scheme,
cultivators would be organised into corporate bodies to manage and
cultivate agricultural land. Fifty or more agriculturists along with the
State Government may form an Agricultural farming corporation in the
State. The State Government will only give their share capital
contribution to such corporations. The basic idea underlying the setting
up of such corporations is to treat land as an earning asset rather than
as a form of wealth. Till 1974-75, nine Agricultural Farming Corporations
were registered in the State. These Corporation accomodated a total of 818
families and took up cultivation of 983 hectares of land during 1974-75.
The State Government is encouraging the Co-operative farms by providing
some special facilities. During 1979-80, Assam had 121 joint farming
societies and 277 collective farming societies. But it was found that
nearly half of these societies remained dormant during the year. Net area
sown by these societies were of the order of 2102 hectares under joint
farming societies and 5528 hectares under collective farming societies. In
1979-80, the value of production from these societies stood at Rs. 10.4
lakhs in respect of farming societies and Rs. 18.0 lakhs in respect of
collective farming societies as against Rs. 8.7 lakhs and Rs. 16.7 lakhs
respectively in 1978-79. Again in 1970, total number of agricultural
co-operative societies in Assam stood at 413.
Thus it reveals that although
there is marginal improvement in the operation of some established joint
farming societies but the extent of development of Co-operative farming in
the state remained very poor. It is due to lack of response on the part of
the agriculturists of the state towards the policy of consolidation of
holding and development of Co-operative farming. Thus agriculturists in
Assam should come forward with active interest to adopt the policy of
consolidation of their holding for their mutual benefit. Agriculiturists
should also try to develop Co-operative farming by forming increasing
number of joint farming societies ad Co-operative farming societies in the
state. In this respect, the existing farming societies has got their
additional role to attract the farmers to form such societies by showing a
better result. As the Co-operative farming societies are having definite
advantages of modernisation and cost reduction, thus they can show
definitely a better result if organised efficiently.
Shifting Cultivation in Hill
Areas of Assam
Definition and process of
Land Cultivation in Assam is classified into two distinct pattern - (a)
Settled farming on the permanent and developed land in the plains and
valley areas and (b) shifting Cultivation or ‘Jhumming’ on the hill
slopes or the jhum land available in the hill area the state.
Shifting Cultivation is a
primitive method of Cultivation which might have originated in the
neolithic period covering the years between 13,000 to 3,000 B.C. Perhaps
the system of shifting cultivation is the first stage for the use of soil
for the production of crops. This system of Cultivation was practised over
a long period of time as a regular system by the hill inhabitants of Black
Africa and America. In India, shifting cultivation is still practised in
the hill areas of entire North-eastern region, Sikkim, Bihar, Orissa,
Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and
Shifting Cultivation is known as
slash-and-burn-agriculture, migratory primitive agriculture, nomadic
agriculture, hoe and burn, forest field rotation,land rotation agriculture
and in north-east India it is known as ‘Jhum’ Cultivation or ‘Jhumming’.
Due to diminution of fertility, ‘Jhummias will have to shift from one
area to another area and thus it is known as shifting cultivation.
Process : The
process of shifting Cultivation is like that firstly a plot is selected
and the next step is to slash or cut the forest, bushes etc. upto the
stump level in the month of December, January followed by drying and
burning the jungle Jungle for making it clear. After that holes are dug on
land with the help of simple instrument like dibble or digging sticks for
sowing seeds of several crops. After several shower, when the ash settles
down, then seeds of several crops are applied into holes for getting a
large variety of crops from a same field. In this process of shifting
cultivation, the original fertility of land alongwith the burnt ashes make
it possible to raise a good yield of crops for a year or two. After that
all the nutrients of soil will become exhausted and thus yield falls
drastically. This will force the farmers to shift into a new area leaving
the previous land as fallow land for gaining fertility and follow the same
process of slash and burn in new area as mentioned above.
Area under shifting Cultivation
Shifting Cultivation requires a
large amount of land but it can support only a small number of population.
In Assam, shifting cultivation is mostly practised in the two hill
districts, i.e., Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills district in Assam.
The total area under shifting cultivation in Assam is estimated at
4,90,000 hectares. Out of which the average area under shifting
cultivation in a year in Assam is estimated at 70,000 hectares. Thus out
of the total amount of area under shifting cultivation only 14.3 percent
of the total area is cultivated in a year, leaving the remaining 85.7
percent of the area as fallow land for regaining fertility. The jhumming
cycle in Assam is aabout 7 years.
As per the report of the Task
Force, Ministry of Agriculture on Shifting cultivation (1983) it is
observed that the annual area under shifting cultivation in Assam is 696
sq. kms. The minimum area under shifting cultivation one time or other is
also estimated at 1,392 sq. kms. The fallow period in Assam is about 2-10
years. The report further observed that the total number of families
practising shifting cultivation in Assam is around 58,000.
In Assam, Jhum Cultivation is
practised in the hilly area of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills
districts. Out of the 15,332 sq. Kms. of land on the hill districts, the
areas under jhum cultivation is estimated to be little over 60,000
hectares with a total population of 8.04 lakh as per 1991 census report.
Evil Effects of Shifting
Cultivation in Assam
Shifting Cultivation in Assam has
been destructing the natural endowments in the two hill districts of the
state through its various evil effects. The following are some of these
Firstly, the most important evil
effect of shifting cultivation in Assam in that destrution of forest in
the hill areas causes heavy soil erosion during rainfall and consequent
siltation in the major rivers like Brahmaputra and Barak leading to a
heavy flood in the plain low lying areas of the State. Moreover the loss
of top soil to the extent of 22 percent of the total soil due to jhumming
causs a serious fall in the fertility of soil in the hilly areas. Thus it
creates a serious economic problem for the people of the state.
Secondly, shifting cultivation
has resulted a high national waste as it has converted a green land into
fallow for the major part of the jhum cycle.
Thirdly, shifting cultivation
causes deforestation on a large scale and is highly destructive to
productive and protection values of forests in the state. A recent report
released by the DehraDun-based Forest Survey of India (FSI) based on
Sattelite data and extensive field surveys shows Assam to be the main
victim of shifting cultivation in the recent years. In the early 1990s,
the state lost about 243sq. kms. of forest to shifting cultivation. In the
same period, jhumming further deforested 100 sq. kms. in Meghalaya, 28 sq.
kms. in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur and 10 sq. kms. in Tripura.
Fourthly, shifting cultivations
upsets the ecological balance of nature in the state and it leads to
environmental degradiation and disturbs the fragile eco-system. The
jhumming practice has caused extensive climatic changesin the state and
destroyed rare flora and fauna of the state along with surrounding natural
vegetation. Thus the environmental imbalance has resulted uneven spread of
monsoon rainfall leading to the problem of drought and excessive rainfall
resulting flood in the low-lying areas of the state.
Future Strategy and Efforts to
control Shifting cultivation in Assam
In the mean time, the state
government and other agencies have undertaken various measures for
controlling shifting cultivation in desired directions. In the fifties,
the Government of Assam took the earlier attempts for taking the problem
of shifting cultivation with the introduction of the plantation of cash
crops like rubber, coffee, black pepper and cashew nut for encouraging the
‘jhumias’ to accept these crops. During the Fifth Plan periods, a
major thrust was given with three different programmes on the control of
shifting cultivation in all the north-eastern states. These were :
(I) scheme of soil conservation
in the state plans :
(ii) Centrally sponsored pilot
projects for the control of shifting cultivation :
and (iii) regional river basis scheme
for controlling shifting cultivation under NEC.
1.Irrigated Terraces :
Another successful way of controlling shifting cultivation is to settle
the jhum on an irrigated terraces by channelling water from mountain
streams. This type of cultivation is known as terrace cultivation which is
very much popular in Khasi and Jayantia hills of Meghalaya. Thus adequate
steps must be taken to introduce irrigated terrace cultivation in the two
hill districts of Assam.
2.Watershed Management :
The concept of watershed management indicates optimum use of land and
water resourses within a physiographic or hydrological unit governed by
natural conditions. This watershed management makes provision for
scientific survey and investigation of each unit for detailed planning and
its implementation conducted by a technical team on each watershed. The
National Watershed Development Project for rainfed areas is now being
implemented in various North-eastern states. Thus steps must be taken to
introduce this watershed development project in the hill areas of Assam.
3. Settlement of Jhumias :
Solution to the problem of shifting cultivation requires the settlement of
tribal families on permanently settled agriculture. This would require
development of land for regular cultivation which again requires a huge
investment and many years. Thus short term measures as suggested by ICAR
should be introduced. Considering the physiographic character of land,
climatic conditions, social conditions, food habits etc. alternative
system of farming like diversified farming should be introduced. This
would require a system which includes agriculture, horticulture along with
animal husbandry, fishery, poultry farming etc.
4. Development of Rubber,
Oil-palm and coffee cultivation : In order to control shifting
cultivation in the hill areas in Assam, proper steps must be taken to take
up intensive and extensive rubber, coffee and oil-palm cultivation and for
the development of non-forest waste land in the Karbi Anglong and North
Cacher Hill districts of the state. Recently in March, 1997, the State
Government has decided that a large area of the non-forest water-land
would be brought under ’rubber block planting’ scheme where more than
65 percent of the total investment would be contributed by the Rubber
Board of India and the rest would be financed by the State Government. The
scheme is expected to give employment opportunities to a large number of
tribal persons in Karbi Anglong district. As regards coffee cultivation,
it has been decided to bring 5,000 hectares of land under the ‘robasta’
varity of Coffee during the year 1997-98 . It is pertinent to mention that
the land in Karbi Anglong district has been found to be suitable for the
oil palm cultivation and more than 1000 hectares of land in the district
have been earmarked for raising oil-palm cultivation.
5. Soil Conservation Measures
: In order to protect the bio-diversity, it is of utmost necessicity that
the delicate eco-system be protected by soil conservation measures. The
will benefit all sections of people not only in the hills, but also in
the plains. In the mean time, the Government of Assam has taken up soil and
water conservation schemes in the problematic areas to wean away jhum
cultivation in the hill slopes adopted by the hill tribes in both the hill
districts of Assam. These schemes includes land reclamation, bench and
broad-based terracing, water harvesting and water distribution, paddy land
development scheme in the agricultural land with necessary river taming
works etc. and also raising of protective afforestation lands. Meanwhile,
a great achievement is being noticed in improving those problem-prone
areas through such schemes in both the hill districts.
But whatever steps are taken by
Government in this direction, all are not being implemented
sincerely. Thus, under such a situation it will not be possible to wean
away the traditional age old practice of cultivation completely. But the
magnitude of the practice of this type of cultivation is being
considerably reduced by diverting and motivating the hill people for
accepting a permanent and settled method of cultivation. Thus both the
whole hearted efforts on the part of Government agencies and NGOs as well as
motivational progress are equally important to transform this age-old
tribal agricultural practices into a settled and developed farming
NATURAL VEGETATION AND FOREST RESOURCES
North -East India is rich in type of
natural vegetation. Climate physiography and soils of the region have provided
favourable conditions for luxuriant growth of natural vegetation.
The region has one of the heaviest
rainfalls in the world . Although the average annual rainfall of the region is
about 250 cm it varies from place to place. The windward sides (of SW Monsoon )
of the foothills generally receive 300 cm to 400 cm rainfall while the plains
receive 200 cm to 300 cm annually. The leeward sides of the hills , as the
Lanka-Lumding -Namber region receives only 100 cm annually. The high Himalayas,
on the other hand, experience frost and snowfall.
As the physiography varies from
lowlying swamps and marshes to high mountain ridges lying above 6000 m, the
soils vary from sand, silt and loam to laterite.
There variations have give rise to
various types of flora in North East India. Of all the physical factors, it is
climate which seems to have the most telling effect on the vegetation type. The
heavy rainfall which comes from May to September, keeps the relative humidity of
the area very high throughout the year . Temperature variation is low, remaining
normally between 12 0 C and 35 0 C except in the high
hills. These favourable climatic conditions , augmented by fertility of the
soils have provided luxuriant growth of numerous species of plants . Based on
the physiognomy, foliation and flowering characters and gregariousness or
otherwise, the natural vegetation of North East India can be divided into the
following groups :
1. Tropical Evergreen Forest :
Those parts of the region where average annual rainfall is more then 200 cm and
temperature is 250 C there grow tall trees with evergreen foliage.
The Himalayan foothills region from Panch Nai eastward upto Luhit district of
Arunachal the foothills of Changlang and Tirap district of Arunachal, Nagaland
and their adjoining plains district of the Brahmaputra Valley, North Cachar
Hills, the northern and eastern foothills adjoining the Barak plain and higher
altitude of the Meghalaya Plateau (860 m - 1600 m ) bear tropical evergreen
forests. The tropical evergreen forests of this Plateau include pine vegetation
and the temperate broad -leaved trees of the higher altitudes. Similarly, over
the hills of Arunachal Pradesh, Patkai Range and Manipur hills at altitude
between 800 m to 1200 m, one can see the tropical evergreen forests.
A common feature of the evergreen
forests is the presence of a thick undergrowth at ground level and many creepers
and lianas at upper level. In the pine forests, however, these are absent.
The common plants of the tropical
evergreen forests of this region are Nageswar or Nahar (Messua ferrea), Halong (Dipterocarpus
macrocarpus) Hallock, Makari Sal or Makai(Shorea assamica), Shishu (dulbargia
sisso),Titachampa (Atrocarpus chaplasa) Champa, Garjan (Dipterocarpus turbinatus
), Bonsom (Phoebe goalparensis ) , Amari (Amoora wallichii ), Agaru (Aquilaria
agallocha) Khakan, Beyleaf Banaria Am (Mangifera sylvatica), etc. At higher
altitudes these forests also contain Chestnut , Maple, Magnolia, Laurel, Alder
and Birch besides rhododendron, willow, juniper and various sub- species of pine
. The pine forests are common in the higher altitudes of Meghalaya. Manipur and
Nagaland. In the Himalayas pine forests are located between 1200 m and 2000 m
The tropical evergreen forests of North
East India contain numerous varieties of orchids, some of which are rare and
valuable. These forests also support various sorts of climbers including cane.
These forests generally support soft
wood for plywood industry and packing boxes for tea industry.
2. Tropical Deciduous Forest :
Deciduous forests are found in those areas of North East India where the average
annual rainfall is 80 cm to 200 cm. The districts of Dhubri, Kokrajhar,
Bongaigaon , Goalpara Barpeta Nalbari, Kamrup , Darrang, Marigaon Nagaon,,
Sonitpur,, Karbi Anglong, North Cachar Hills and the and drier parts of the
Barak Valley in Assam support tropical forests. In Meghalaya these forests are
found in Garo and Jaintia hills. The drier parts of Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur
and Nagaland also have deciduous forest. In Arunachal pradesh the deciduous
forests are limited to a very narrow zone of foothills.
The common species of tropical
deciduous plants are Sal (Shorea robusta), teak (Tectona grandis ), gamari (Gmelina
arborea ), Simul (Bombax malabaricum), khoir (Acacia catechu), Au tenga (Belenia
indica), Jack fruit (Atrocarpus integrifolia ), Kadam, Siris, Arjun, Silikha,
Economically the most important
products of the deciduous forest are sal and teak. These two species of plants
supply hard wood for construction of buildings bridges and railway sleepers. The
sal and teak forests are confined to two distinct belts in Assam. Firstly there
is a long strip of land in the south bank of the Brahmaputra from Mankachar to
Marigaon along the Meghalaya foothhills, and seccondly, there is another strip
in the northern part of Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon districts.
3. Tropical Grassland :
Grassland is not uncommon in North East India. However, most of the grasses of
the region, except the alpine grasses of high altitude in the Himalayas, are not
climogenic, i.e. they are not produced due to climatic reasons, such as
inadequate rainfall and temperature. Firstly, some of the grasses, found on the
hill slopes of North East India are there because the original forests were
earlier destroyed for shifting cultivation. This also led to depletion of the
soil cover,. Such areas subsequently have given rise to grasses only.. Secondly
there are tall grasses in the Tarai region of the Brahmaputra Valley because
here the ground always remain saturated with water and hence tall trees do not
grow. Thirdly, the river banks and charlands are normally sandy. Such land
cannot support tall tree but gives forth luxuriant seasonal grasses. Lastly, the
swamps and marshes support swamp vegetation which include mostly grasses.
(A) The grasses found on the hill
slopes come up as a secondary growth after people clear the land for shifting
cultivation and settlement. The human interference since time immemorial has
given rise to many grasslands over the hills on depleted soils of North East
India. These grasses include various types of thatch and other members of the
(B) The foothill tarai region,
especially on the north bank of the Brahmaputra Valley, also support tall
grasses, such as various type of reed and thatch. As mentioned above, damp
ground of this region favours the growth of tall grass only. The grassland of
Manas Sanctuary is an example of this type.
(C) The river banks and riverine
islands are mostly made of sandy soil. This type of soil cannot retain water for
a long time. Hence tall trees, except a few varieties like simul, khoir etc.
cannot grow on these areas. The plants that grow on the river banks and islands
are known as riperian vegetation. The riperian vegetation in North East India is
mostly tall grass. The grasslands of Dhemaji, Majuli, Kaziranga, Bhurbandha
Pabitara, Orang, etc. on the banks of the Brahmaputra belong to this category.
Along with grasss these areas also contain simul, khoir karoi kadam and local
plum (zyzyphus) trees.
(D) In the plains of North East India,
especially in the Brahmaputra and Barak Valleys and Manipur Basin, there are
many marshes and swamps. These support various types of swamp grasses and other
plants like lily, lotus, waterwort, water hyacinth, taro, etc.
4. Alpine Grassland : Although
North East India falls within the relatively low latitudes, it has high
Himalayan mountains where temperature is low. The higher mountain slopes of the
Himalayas at an altitude of 4000 m to 5200 m in Arunachal Pradesh, one can see
lush green grass coming up in late spring. This vegetation is known as alpine
grass. Apart from various species of grass, it also contains some varieties of
juniper, rhododendron, shrubs and mosses. This zone of grass lies above the
coniferous forest belt which is mentioned in the evergreen group.
The Specialty of the Forests of
N.E. India :
Heavy rainfall, high humidity
throughout the year and high temperature of North East India have made the
region very rich in floral resources. Some of the important features of the
forests of the region are noted below :
1. In the evergreen forests of Assam
one can find Makari Sal (Shorea assamica) which are one of the tallest trees in
India. It grows to a height of 60 m -70 m. In fact, there are several other
species of plant in this region which are ranked as some of the tallest trees of
2. The forests of the region contain
about 400 varieties of rare orchids which are regarded as one of the richest
occurrence of these plants in the world. It also contains rare pteridophytes
like tree fern.
3. Side by side with broad leaved
forests there are coniferous forests also in the region.
4. There are some varieties of
carnivorous plants in this region. In Garo and Khasi hills of Meghalaya, alone
there are there varieties of carnivorous plants, viz. pitcher plant, bludderwart
5. There are many varieties of
saprophytic and parasitic plants apart from epiphytes in this region. Monotropa,
Belonifora, etc. are some of the examples of these varieties.
6. The region is also very in medicinal
plants. Besides, the region is also native to beverage plants like tea.
Forest Resources of North-East
Forests are a precious resource given
by nature. It is often termed as multipurpose resource. Forests supply us raw
material for construction of building , bridge, ship railway wagon, rail track,
boat, etc. These also supply raw materials to industries for production of
paper, pulp plywood, etc. Besides, the forests supply medicinal plants
ornamental plants and above all fuel wood for domestic consumption. Forests also
supply food to some extent to men and to all animals. From the view point of
environment, forests are important because they influence rainfall and protect
soils from being eroded besides keeping the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels
Although North East India was once rich
in forest resources, it is no longer so now. Reckless cutting of tree and
clearing of forest and a lack of concerted effort in afforestation have made it
poor now in this precious resource. Following figures give the statewise forest
coverage of North East India in 1990 based on satellite imagery (basic
statistics 1995, NER)
Forest (in % of total area)
These forests provide hard wood for
construction. soft wood for plywood and manufacture, bamboo and grass for paper
and pulp, fuelwood, lac khoir, gum, bamboo, thatch, cane, various medicinal and
ornamental plants, vegetable, fruits, honey and many varieties of wild animals
and birds and products from them. Many of these have demand in international
Some of the economically very important
trees found in North East India are Agaru, sal, neem, champa, tea and bamboo.
Agaru or Agar has become a rare plant now. In the olden days people used to
prepare thin long sheets out of its wood for writing. It is locally known as
Sanchi tree. One can still find hundreds of valuable and rare manuscripts
written on Sanchi sheet during the six hundred years prior to the advent of the
British into North East India. Besides providing writing sheets, Agaru or Agar
contain a very valuable oily essence from which a precious perfume and some
drugs are prepared . It is still found, although infrequently, in the forests of
Golaghat, Jorhat , Sibsagar , Nagaland and Manipur. Sal (shorea robusta ) is
another valuable species of plant found in North East India. It provides
extremely hard wood for construction of buildings, bridges and railway sleepers
. It also provides gum and essence. Pine tree not only provides soft wood but it
also supplies turpentine and resin. Neem, plant abundantly found in the region
is one of the most important medicinal plants. Champa also provides an essence
used as perfume. Tea plants are used for extracting tennin and other colouring
juice apart from extracting their leaves as a source of beverage.
The forests of the North East India are
also rich in fauna. The mammals include various types of primates carnivores and
herbivores, Hoolock gibbon, one of the 4 types of apes found on the earth today,
occurs in this region. The region also has one horned rhinoceros in the forests
like Kaziranga, Laokhowa, Orang, Paabitara and Manas. Some of these forests
Kaziranga, Laokhowa Pabha, aand Manas also have wild buffalo. There are as many
as 11 varieties of monkey including the rare golden langur and capped langur in
this region . Elephants abound the foothill regions of all the states of North
East India. The four horned antelope, deer, barking deer, musk deer, Pigmy hog ,
bison and wild boar are some of the important herbivores of the region. The most
important carnivores found here are Royal Bengal Tiger, Leopard, various other
large wild cats, civet cats, snow leopard, Himalayan bear. etc.
Some important products of the wild
mammals of North East India found mention in the ancient Indian classics and
travel accounts. Of these ivory i.e. elephant tusk, horn of the one-horned
rhinoceros and Kasturi or perfume glands of the naval region of musk deer are
the main. The elephant tusk which provides the precious ivory was a much prized
possession of the kings and emperors in India since time immemorial. The kings
and chiefs of North East India used to trade with these commodity and pay
tributes to other kings and emperors with whom they came in contact. One of the
reasons why the rulers of Delhi in the mediaeval period used to invade North
East India time and again is to lay hands on its rich forest products including
tuskers and ivory. The so called horn of rhinoceros is widely used in China and
south west Asia as a very rare drug. That is why it is considered to be very
valuable and poaching of the animal still goes on . The musk deer, especially
its male ones, bear some special glands in its intestine which secretes a
precious juice. This juice is considered to be a very important drug in China.
There is also a rich reptile population
in North East India. It has marsh crocodile, fresh water gharial turtle,
tortoise , varieties of monitors, chamelions , lizards and snakes. Of the
important snakes, the python is ubiquitous in the hills ,while krait , viper and
cobra are found in the tropical forests and grasslands of the plains.
As in the other families of fauna,
north East India is rich in avifauna also . It has scores of species of
birds-large and small, charming mocking and terrifying . Stork, peacock, pelican
, various types of ducks, pheasant , vulture , kite , eagle , varieties of doves
and parrots, wren, linnet , tit, etc. are the common birds of this region.
As North East India abounds in water
bodies, swamps and marshes there are numerous varieties of fish fauna in the
region. Some of the fish live in the numerous streams and rivers and some in
equally numerous beels, jheels and swamps. In fact fish used to be so abundant
in the region that to an inhabitant of it, fish as an item of food, is important
next only to rice. It is the main source of protein supply to them. But of late
many beels and swamps have become silted up. Further, the ever increasing
population of the region have taken to indiscriminate catching of fish. These
have led to an scarcity of fish in the region.
AGRICULTURE AND AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS
Socio - economic Base of Agriculture
Agriculture is the mainstay of the
economy of the people of North East India. The traditional types of agriculture
carried out in primitive manners still determine the way of life of the people
of the region. Barring aside the production of a few minerals, whatever little
industry has grown up in this region is essentially agro-based. The importance
of agriculture can be clearly understood if the following points are taken into
1. Agriculture produces most of the
food requirement of the region.
2. It provides employment to about 65
percent of the working population of the region. So, agriculture is the major
source of livelihood of the people of the region.
3. Agriculture provides raw material
for many local industries, such as tea, jute, sugar, rice milling, flour
milling, oil pressing, fruit processing and canning, etc. Agriculture provides
livelihood to the vast majority of the people of the region both directly and
4. The contribution of agriculture
including its allied activities like animal husbandry, piggery, poultry keeping,
fishing, etc. to the income of the region is the largest among that of other
economic sectors. It is found that nearly a half of the total income of the
region comes from the agricultural sector.
Although agriculture is of prime
importance to the region, it has remained largely undeveloped. Unlike other
parts of India, where innovation in agriculture has made some headway, North
East India has still been sticking to primitive methods showing little progress
in this vital sector of economy. The socio-economic factors that affect the
agriculture of the region are noted below:
1. Fragmentation of Holding: With the
rapid increase of population and perpetuation of the law of heritage of landed
property on the one hand, and lack of economic diversification on the other the
agricultural plots have undergone subdivision in every generation. The result is
that the agricultural land now has been turned into uneconomic small plots and
fragmented. Such small and fragmented plots are neither suitable for application
of modern machinery like tractor and harvester nor are they worthy of any other
form of heavy capital input. This situation acts as disincentive for
This problem can, perhaps, be solved
only by consolidation of land holdings through cooperative endeavourer.
2. Primitive Methods and Implements:
The primitive methods and implements are still in vogue among the peasants of
North -East India. Land is tilled in the plains by a wooden plough with the help
of a pair of bullocks. Tilling is neither deep nor perfect. In the hills again
plough tilling is replaced by slash -and burn and light spadework especially in
the plots of shifting (jhum) cultivation. Besides, use of manure or fertilizer,
insecticide and weedicide is almost absent. It is only recently that some
farmers have started using high yielding varieties of seeds for raising a part
of their crops. But the use of fertilizer or manure is still to get currency. It
is noticed that per hectare consumption of fertilizer in the North East is only
2.5 kg as opposed to more than 5 kg in Punjab and Haryana.
The shifting method of cultivation in
the hills has faced with increasing problems. With the increase of population
the jhum -cycles are becoming shorter. The jhum -plots now can hardly accumulate
enough natural manure. Frequent use of the hill slopes has evoked topsoil
erosion, rendering the plots infertile.
The cause of the problem of the
continuance of primitive method lies in the poverty of the farmers on the one
hand and lack of scientific knowledge on the other. Initial help for capital
investment either in the form of cash or kind may help the farmers to get away
from the primitive implements. But such help must be supplemented by proper
extension services to make them realise the benefit of the scientific methods.
In the hills even if the shifting cultivation is allowed to continue for some
time, some substitute means and methods, such as terrace farming horticulture,
planting of nitrogen bearing and manure yielding crops in the used jhum plots,
etc. should be progressively introduced.
3. Inadequacy of Irrigational
Facilities: Although North East India receives very high average annual
rainfall, about six months of the year remains completely dry. The rainfall is
concentrated mainly to six months from May to October. Because of long drought
in winter no substantial crop can be grown in the six dry months Besides, even
during the summer months there are periods of drought which affect preparation
and proper growth of jute plants and tea leaves. Merely a high average annual
rainfall should be no reason for not adopting artificial irrigation. If water is
supplied in a regulated manner throughout the year, more crops with greater
yield have been cultivated.
In order to solve this problem,
irrigational facilities must be developed adequately. In the plains of North
East India power operated lift and tube -well irrigation would be more suitable
than canal irrigation. In the hills terracing of slopes and tapping of the
streams may be more fruitable.
4. Soil Erosion: With the progressive
destruction of forests for human habitation, agriculture, construction of roads,
extraction of timber and due to over grazing, the forest cover in North East has
been dwindling fast. With the reduction of forest cover the soil erosion,
especially in the hill slopes, has increased by leaps and bounds. As the topsoil
is being depleted the crop yield has decreased.
This problem can be controlled by
preventing deforestation, encouraging afforestation and stopping over grazing in
the agricultural fields.
5. Scarcity of Suitable Agricultural
Land: Availability of land in North East India is a myth rather than a reality.
The four plains, namely, the Brahmaputra Valley, the Barak Valley, the Manipur
Central plain and western Tripura are already over crowded with agricultural
population. These plains hardly constitute 30% of the total area of the region,
while the remaining 70% are full of hills and plateaus. Then again, the plains
are often ravaged by floods and shifting river courses. These contain many
marshes and swamps unsuitable for agriculture. In fact whatever little land was
found suitable for agriculture has already been put to use,. Further horizontal
extension of agriculture can be done only at the cost of ecologic equilibrium.
This problem can be solved only by
improving the methods of agriculture so that more production can be obtained on
whatever agricultural land the region has . Apart from this , reclamation of
waste land shall contribute marginally to ease the problem.
6. General Poverty and Interrelated
Factors : Very small sized landholding, primitive agricultural methods,
natural calamities oppressive summer heat and humidity preventing hard labour,
illiteracy and many such physical and socio economic factors have kept the
farmers of North East India in abject poverty. They eke out a precarious living
on the verge of starvation. The average farmers family budget is a deficit one.
This crushing poverty is responsible for the farmer’s ill health, illiteracy
and general ignorance. They cannot spend on high yielding varieties of seeds,
chemical fertilizers, insecticides, modern agricultural implements, etc. in
order to produce more and get rid of the poverty, Besides, they cannot spend on
their children’s education nor on their medical care. The food of an average
farmer is poor and deficient in vitamins minerals and proteins. The farmers of
North East India therefore, are handicapped by a poor physique and ill health.
Thus, it is seen that the farmers have
to live in a vicious cycle. To rid them out of it a well planned programme is
necessary. To educate them in scientific agricultural methods, supply them with
agricultural inputs such as high yielding varieties of seeds, irrigational
facilities whenever necessary, fertilizers, insecticides, agricultural
implements etc at subsidised rates or on loan are some of the measures that will
go a long way in uplifting their present condition. Since there is hardly any
suitable land to physically expand agriculture, it is obvious that productivity
has to be increased. Productivity depends upon the quality of input and health
and efficiency of the farmers. The Panchayats may perhaps seriously consider the
there pronged improvement based on education, input and health for the farmers
to rid them of the vicious circle.
7. Land Tenure System in the Hills :
The traditional land tenure system among the tribes of the hills of North East
India is based on village-community ownership. Individual family ownership is
confined mostly to the homestead land and the wet plots of sedentary
cultivation. Since the main method of cultivation in the hills is shifting (jhumming),
the jhumland is commonly owned by a village community. Each member family of the
village community decides to move away from that area to somewhere else.
In the areas of shifting cultivation,
the authority of distribution of land for farming to the individual families is
vested on the headmen or village councils. Among the Karbis of Karbi Anglong and
a few tribes of Arunachal Pradesh, where settlements are sparse, although the
jhumland is owned by the village community, an individual family is allowed to
cultivate a plot of land according its own choice. But the Karbi villagers often
shift their settlements and jhumland and as a result individual farmers can
hardly have any interest on development of land.
Among the Garos of Meghalaya, the
district are divided into revenue units called ‘hill mauzas;. Each mauza is
divided into ‘akings’ Each aking is under an Aking Nokma (headman) who owns
land on behalf of this clansmen. The Aking Nokma has the authority to distribute
land among his clansmen for jhum cultivation.
The Khasi Hills are traditionally
divided into siemships under Siems. The land under a Siem is allowed to be
cultivates. However, if he fails to cultivate for three consecutive years, he
loses the right over it.
In Mizoram there were hereditary chiefs
in the past. They used to be called as ‘Lal’ and were vested with the
authority of distributing lands among the villages. The system was changed after
independence and the management of land is now vested on the village councils
elected by the villagers after every three years. The jhumland is now
distributed by the village councils.
The above note on the land ownership
system in the hills shows that individual farmers do not own land. As such
agricultural development and land management at individual initiative are by and
large absent. Moreover, with the increasing pressure of population on land jhum
cycle has become short on the one hand and individual families are allotted
smaller plots of land on the other. Thus it is seen that the land tenure system
in the hills has also hindered agricultural development . However , it be
remembered that jhumming is not just a way of livelihood. it constitutes a way
of life. Hence, agricultural development in the hills , including any change in
land tenure system, must be done after an in depth study and with an integrated
development planning so that the tribal social life is not adversely affected.
8. Low Crop Intensity : The crop
intensity in North East India is one of the lowest in the country. It is found
that the area sown more than once is only about 18% of the net sown area. A
number of reasons such as absence of irrigational facilities, the habit of not
herding cattle in the season when traditional paddy crops are not in the field ,
non use of manure and fertilizer, absence of the use of short -growing varieties
of crops etc. contribute to a low crop intensity in the region Most of the paddy
fields in the plains remain fallow for about 5 months of the year. The condition
is still worse in hills with shifting cultivation. Although a number of crops
are grown together like interculture in a jhum field, it remains almost fallow
for one -third of the year. Besides after cultivating the plot for a year or
two, it is kept fallow for a couple of years or more.
In order to raise crop intensity,
irrigation must be provided, especially in winter. Besides some quick growing
cash-crops should be introduced. The farmers should be motivated to grow
multiple crops in the same plot of land by using manure and fertilizer. Besides,
provisions should be made for grazing lands, so that cattle and goats are not
allowed to graze freely.
9. Paucity of Agricultural Credit: Some
amount of capital, either in cash or in kind - is always needed if agriculture
is to be taken seriously. As seen earlier, the farmers of North East India are
traditionally poverty, stricken. Very few of them can get agricultural credit at
favorable terms in time.
This problem can be solved by providing
agricultural credit on easy terms in proper time, so that the man behind the
plough can cultivate his land without having to go to the money lender or
10. Problem of Marketing of
Agricultural Products : The cultivators of the region do not get a fair
return from their agricultural products. Due to poverty they cannot hold back
the sale of their products for long. Often they are forced to take up distress
sale to repay long or to meet family expenditure. Sometime again, due to absence
of any good road and means of conveyance to markets, the producers sell their
products at home or in the crop field itself at much lower price to the
These problems can be solved by
providing marketing facilities to the growers. Improvement of roads and
conveyance facilities and procurement by public sector agencies may go a long
way in mitigating this problem. Introduction of growers, and sellers,
cooperatives will also help solve these problem.
CROPS AND CROPPING PATTERN
Although in general terms agriculture
also includes livestock and fishery, in North East India raising of crops is by
far the most important, while livestock and fishery tend to be marginal. This is
quite evident from the land use pattern of the region. Out of the total
geographical area of 25,509,000 hectares of the region .about 44% account for
forests and 3,729,000 hectares of 14.6% is net sown area. Area devoted to
grazing and fishery are insignificant.
Of the crops raised, food crops are by
far most important in the region .It is found that the food crops occupy 76.21
percent of the total cropped area. Of the food crops again, rice, which forms
the staple of the people of the region, is the most important and occupies about
68 % of the cropped area. Next to rice come pulses followed by maize. The
following table shows the production of food crops in North East India
Total Foodgrain Output in N.E. India
Source :Basic Statistics, NEC, 1992
The table shows that Assam has highest
production of foodgrains within the region ,distantly followed by Tripura and
Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram has the least production. A temporal analysis of the
area devoted to foodgrains and their production and yield reveals that during
the decade between 1980-81 and 1990-91, there has been some increase in each
respect. While the area devoted to food crops increased by 7.7% from 3,427,000
ha to 3,713,900 ha, the total production increased by 21.64% from 3,826 thousand
tonnes to 4,882.8 thousand tonnes and the average yield increased by 15.13% from
1,116 kg/ ha to 1315 kg/ ha. This shows that apart from growing food crops in
some new areas, land used for more than one crop has also increased. On the
other hand use of high yielding varieties of crops, fertilizer insecticide and
irrigation has contributed to the increase of average yield and total
production. It must, however, be admitted that the total foodgrain production in
North East India is still far less than its requirement and hence the region has
to important foodstuffs from other parts of the country.
is the most important food crop of North East India. It is grown both in the
hills . It is often said that the region, along with Southern China and South
East Asia is the original homeland of rice. That rice is obvious from the fact
that it not only forms the staple food for them but also many of their rituals
and festivals are associated with sowing and harvesting of the crop. Festivals
like Bihu of Assam, Wangala of Meghalaya, Thoubalchumba of Manipur, etc. are
closely associated with rice cultivation and harvest.
Depending on the season of cultivation,
the rice grown in North East India can be divided into three varieties: Aman or
Sali, Aus or Ahu and Bao. The Aman rice is transplanted in summer from late May
to early September in wet fields and harvested in the period from late November
to early January. Of the three varieties, this is the most important from the
view point of area cropped and out put. Aus or Ahu rice is broadcast in the
months of March and April in dry fields and harvested in summer. This variety is
grown either in very lowlying areas where Aman rice cannot be grown due to the
presence of standing water in summer or on the comparatively high land where
enough water does not accumulate even in summer for Aman rice. The Bao rice is
essentially a variety of long stemmed rice that can withstand a long period of
deep and stagnant water. Its seeds are broadcast in spring when the ground
remains dry and is harvested in winter when the water that accumulate over the
ground in summer has dried up. Besides these three varieties, another variety,
known as Boro, is grown in the lowlying areas of North East India. It is
transplanted in the months of December and January in the lowilyng areas where
water level goes down to a few centimetres by this season. It is a quick
-growing variety and can be harvested in April and May before the water level
Climatically and pedologically. the
river valleys of North East India are suitable for the production of rice. It
being the most important staple is grown not only on the plains but on the hills
In fact rice occupies more then two -thirds of the total land under cultivation
in North East India. Of the four varieties of rice grown in the plains of the
region, the Ahu or Aus or Autumn rice is broadcast in spring, while all the
other three varieties, viz Sali or Aman, Boro and Bao are transplanted. Over the
hills, however, varieties of upland rice is grown. Some of these , like Ahu in
the plains, are broadcast in the jhum-fields, while others are grown on the
terraced hill slopes or at the valley bottoms under wet conditions.
The yield of local varieties of rice
has been found to be poor. Hence of late, new and hybrid varieties, such as
IR-8, CH-63, Jaya, Ijong, Pusa and Pankaj, have been introduced into the region.
The production of these varieties is high and they now occupy about 60 percent
of the land devoted to rice in the region.
In Assam as much as 2.00 million
hectares of land is given to rice. The state produces about 2.5 million metric
tones of paddy grain with an average yield of 1,155 kg per hectare. All the
districts of the Brahmaputra and Barak Valleys grow rice abundantly. It is only
in North Cachar Hills and Karbi Anglong that rice is grown less because of
terrain condition. It has been noticed that because of introduction of new high
yielding varieties, the rice production in the state has shown an upward trend.
In the year 1960-61 the state produced 1.63 million metric tones of rice. This
rose to 2.5 million tones in 1980-81 and further to 3.3 million tones in
In Meghalaya rice is grown both on the
hill slopes and occasional valley bottoms. In three western districts i.e. Garo
Hills West, East and South, both spring rice and winter rice are grown. These
districts have more denuded topography with fairly wide valley bottoms where wet
rice (winter rice) cultivation is carried out. Over the hill slope spring rice
is cultivated by broadcast in the jhum fields. The four eastern districts viz.
West Khasi Hills, East khasi hills, Ri Bhoi and Jaintia Hills Generally grow
winter rice on limited valley bottoms and a small quantity of hill rice over the
slopes in the jhum fields. In 1990-91 Meghalaya produced 119.8 thousand tones of
rice over 103.7 thousand hectares of land.
Production of Rice in NE India 1990-91
Source : Basic Statistics of North
Eastern Region, 1992,NEC, Shillong
In Arunachal Pradesh rice is grown
mainly in the jhum fields. In the limited valley bottoms, however, wet rice is
grown. In the Apatani Plateau around Ziro in Lower Subansiri district wet rice
is grown by an ingenious method of irrigation. In recent years the farmers have
been encouraged to construct terraces over hill slopes and grow wet rice in the
Pradesh. This has some effect and Arunachal is growing more rice now. In 1990-91
it produced 121.8 thousand tones of rice over 142.5 thousand hectares of land.
In Nagaland rice occupies about two
thirds (60,000 ha) of the total land (90,000 ha) under agriculture. Rice is
mostly grown here in the jhum-fields. However, in the Angami inhabited areas of
Kohima district rice is found to be grown over terraces with a traditional
method of irrigation which is very much ingenious and effective. Apart from this
the limited valley bottoms also produce wet rice in the state. The state
government of Nagaland have of late encouraged the farmers to take to crop
rotation and this has resulted in a remarkable change in the agricultural
practices of the state. In 1990-91, Nagaland produced 127.4 thousand tones of
rice over 156.3 thousand hectares of land.
In Manipur rice is grown mainly in the
fertile Manipur Basin. O ver the hill slopes, only a small quantity of rice is
grown in the jhum fields . The Japanese method of rice cultivation was adopted
in Manipur during the fourth five year plan period. The yield of this crop is,
therefore high (1742 kg/ha) in this state compared to other regions of North
East India. In 1990-91 Manipur produced 274.2 thousand of land.
In Mizoram rice is traditionally grown
on the jhum fields. In recent period, however, the crop is seen to be grown over
the newly created terraces on the hill slopes and the occasional valley bottoms.
In 1990-91, the state produced 63.8 thousand tones of rice over 51.3 thousand
hectares of land.
In Tripura rice is grown both on the
and on the hill slopes. In the hills the crop is grown partly on the terraced
beds and party in the jhum-fields. Aus, Aman and Boro varieties of rice are
common in the plains. The state produced 50.13 thousand tones of rice over 270.6
thousand hectares of land in 1990-91.
With a rapid increase in the population
the rice production has fallen short of the requirement in the region. Efforts
have been made to increase the production of the crop mainly by using
high-yielding varieties of paddy and by bringing more land it. The following
table shows the trend of rice cultivation in the North East India since 1980-81.
Trend of Rice Production in N-E
1980-81 to 1990-91
(‘000 metric tones)
Source : Basic statistics of N.E.
Region, NEC 1992
The table shows that over a decade, the
area devoted to rice increased by about 8% from 3.0 million hectares to 3.3
million hectares. The increase of production is, however, more i.e. by about
more than 28%, from 3.5 million metric tonnes to 4.5 million metric tonnes. The
yield has also marginally increased from 1150 kg/ha to 1,361 kg/ha. This reveals
that the high -yielding varieties of rice have come to be used by the farmers.
The region produces some varieties of
quality rice like Joha in Assam and Moirang Phou in Manipur. However, their
production is limited.
Wheat: Wheat has recently been
introduced to North East India. In fact, it is after the development of hardier
hybrid varieties of wheat, that it came to be introduced in the last few
decades. The crop is yet to be popular in Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland. In
other states of North-East India, it is carried out as a supplementary crop by
some farmers over the higher grounds. Normally it is grown as a second crop on
less productive land. The seeds are sown in October and November and the crop is
harvested from January to March.
Following table shows the area under
wheat and its production and yield statewise:
Wheat Output in NE India
(‘000 metric tonnes)
Source : Basic Statistics of NER, NEC,
The table shows that compared to the
all India production, the wheat production in the region is insignificant. It is
found that only 1.78% of the total agricultural area of the region is given to
wheat. Besides, there has not been any increase in the area devoted to this crop
since (1980-81). The following table gives the trend of wheat cultivation in the
region since the early eighties:
Trend of Wheat Production in N.E. India
1980-81 to 1990-91
(‘000 ha )
Source :Basic Statistics of NER, NEC
The table shows that although the area
devoted to wheat has remained more or les the same, the use of high yielding
varieties of seeds and application of irrigation and fertilizer to some extent,
have improved yield.
In Assam wheat cultivation was started
only in the early nineteen sixties .More of less of it is now grown in all the
plains districts of Assam. As stated above, it is grown as a rabi crop between
November and March. The varieties commonly grown in Assam are Sonalika, Kayan,
Sona, Sofed and Lorma. The crop is grown over relatively high ground which is
not generally used for traditional Aman or Sali rice .However, some amounts of
water and fertilizer are supplied wherever and whenever it is possible to do so
. At present Kamrup, Nalbari,Barpeta and Dhubri are the leading district in
wheat production. The total production of the crop increased from 3,000 tonnes
in 1960-61 to 11,700 tonnes in 1970-71 and further to 118,300 in 1980-81. The
maximum production (154,800 tonnes )was recorded in 1984-85, but after that it
showed a decline to 104800 tonnes in 1990-91.
One of the reasons as to why wheat
cultivation has not picked up in Assam is that it has to be cultivated in the
dry season. Neither rain falls during that period nor is there any provision for
artificial irrigation. The yield of wheat in the state is, therefore, lamentably
low. Moreover, there is not enough spare land for wheat cultivation. The land
for it has to be tilled when the traditional rice crop is still standing in the
field. Anyway, the wheat cultivation will prosper in Assam only on setting up of
facilities for artificial irrigation.
In Arunachal Pradesh wheat is
cultivated mainly in West Kameng, East Kameng and Luhit district over the gentle
hill slopes. In 1990-91 the state produced 6700 tonnes of wheat over 3500
In Meghalaya wheat is cultivated
mainly in West Garo Hills, East Garo Hills and West Khasi Hills district. In
1990-91 the state produced 5900 tonnes of wheat over 4600 hectares.
In Tripura wheat is grown mainly
in West Tripura District. In 1990-91 the state produced 6900 tonnes over 3700
hectares of land. Of all the North Eastern state Tripura has the highest yield
Nagaland produces very little
quantity of wheat. However, some Ao and Lotha farmers have taken to the
cultivation of this crop in recent years. In 1990-91 the state produced 4950
tonnes of wheat over 4610 hectares.
The production of this crop in both Manipur
and Mizoram is negligible.
Maize : Maize is an important
crop of the hills of North East India . Although the area devoted to this crop
is less, being 2.08% of the total agricultural land, its production is
relatively high, especially in the hills. In the plains of Assam, Manipur and
Tripura only small patches of land is given to this crops by the farmers in
their kitchen gardens. Hence in these areas production of maize is negligible.
Maize is generally grown as an Aman crop in North East India. It is sown in
March to May and harvested in August and September.
It has been noticed that the area
devoted, as also production of maize have been slightly increasing in the
region. In the tear 1980-81, maize was grown over 92,500 hectares of land and
the production in that year was 87400 metric tonnes. The corresponding figures
for 1985-86 were 98200 hectares and 104300 tonnes. In 1990-91 the area devoted
and production increased to 111700 hectares and 125000 tonnes respectively. It
is noticed that yield also increased from 877 kg/ha in 1980-81 to 1122 kg/ha in
The following table shows the area
devoted, production and yield of maize in 1990-91 statewise.
Maize production in North East India
(‘000 ha )
Source :Basic Statistics of NER, NEC,
The above table shows that Arunachal
Pradesh is the leading producer of maize in North East India. It is grown in
almost all the thirteen districts of the state. Arunachal not only devotes a
large area for this crop, but also its production is the highest in the region.
Most of the crop in the state is grown in the jhum fields.
Nagaland is the second largest producer
of this crop in the region. It is mainly grown in the northern parts of the
state dominated by the Ao and Lotha farmers. New hybrid varieties of maize are
being introduced to the state in recent period.
In Meghalaya maize is cultivated in the
higher areas of the eastern, western and central plateau, mostly in jhum fields.
West khasi Hills District is the leading producer of maize in the state.
In Assam maize is produced mainly in
the districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar in jhum fields. Besides, some
Nepali and ex-tea garden residents of the plains also grow this crop. As the
crop is not used as staple by the plain dwellers, it is not seriously grown by
other farmers. Providing manure and fertilizer it can be gainfully grown as cash
crop over the fallow land Assam produced 12,900 tonnes of maize over 12,100
hectares of land in 1990-91.
In Manipur the crop is grown mainly in
Senapati and Ukhrul areas in the northern part if the state. In Mizoram a little
quantity of maize is grown mainly in Aizawl district. Tripura’s maize
production is negligible. However new high yielding varieties of the crop is
being introduced to these three states also in recent period.
Millets : Some varieties of
millets are grown in North East India in the hills. In fact, these from of the
important crops grown by the tribal farmers in the jhum fields over the
hillslopes. There are several varieties of millets including bull rush (Jowar )
and pearl millet (Bajra). The millets are used not only as staple but also
brewed to prepare a variety of local intoxicating drink. Millets are grown in
Meghalaya throughout the state. In Arunachal Pradesh pearl millet is grown in
Tirap, Lohit, Dibang Valley, East Siang, West Siang and Lower Subansiri
districts. In Nagaland it is grown in Mokokchung districts. Other states,
however, do not produce millets. In 1990-91 the region produced only 35200
tonnes of millets over 43700 hectares of land. The yield of millets in North
Eastern states is as low as 805 kg/ha.
Pulses : North East India grows
some quantity of pulses, but the region is not self -sufficient in these. On the
other hand, pulses are the second most important staple food after rice .Some
amounts of pulses are grown in every state of the region, except in Arunachal
Pulses are grown as rabi crops. The
seeds are grown in August, September and October and the crops are harvested in
December and January. No irrigation seems to be practised in the fields growing
pulses. The common varieties of pulses grown in the region are Tur or Arhar (pegion
pea or small per or red gram), Urd (black gram) Matikalai (pulse), Magu (green
gram) and gram (chick -pea or Bengal gram). Some amount of Arhar is also grown
especially in the areas inhabited by tea garden labourers.
cultivated mainly in Assam , Meghalaya and Tripura. Assam is of course, the
leading producer of it followed by Meghalaya and Tripura .In 1990-91 the region
produced 62.000 tonnes of tur over about 77500 hectares of land. Gram or chick
pea is cultivated in Assam, Manipur Meghalaya. In 1990-91, the region produced
2200 tonnes of gram over 4400 hectares of land.
Apart from the above varieties, some
local varieties of pulses are also grown in the region. The region produces
between 60,000 tonnes to 70,000 tonnes of the pulses taken together over about
130,000 hectares to 140,000 hectares of land. Of these, Assam alone produces 3/4
of the total production of the region.
North East India grows several varieties of oilseeds , but the region is not
self sufficient in edible oil. Of the oilseeds grown in the region, mustard and
rape, sesamum, castor, linseed, and groundnut are the main. Of late the region
has started cultivating soyabean also on experimental basis . The area under
oilseeds in the region is about 4.82% of the total cultivated area and total
production comes to about 300,000 tonnes annually. Almost all the oilseeds
except castor are grown as rabi crop over sandy land. In Assam the oilseeds,
especially mustard and sesamum are grown over the silted flood plains during the
Mustard and rape are the common
oilseeds grown in the region with a total production of 197400 tonnes in 1990-91
over 345700 hectare of land. The seeds are sown in September and October over
fertile land and the crop is harvested in January and February . In Assam both
mustard and rape are commonly grown on the flood plains of the Brahmaputra and
its tributaries inhabited by immigrant farmers. In 1990-91 the state produced
157900 tonnes of mustard and rape seeds over 294933 hectares of land . In
Arunachal mustard is grown in the districts of East Siang , Dibang Valley ,
Lohit and Tirap . The relatively plain and fertile foothills of there district
provide suitable ground for the oil seed. In Meghalaya mustard is grown mainly
in West East and South Garo Hills districts. In Tripura the crop is grown along
the foothills. The production of oilseeds in other state of the region is
Sesamum may be called as a minor
oilseed in North East India from the view point of its production, In 1990-91
the region produced 16100 tonnes of sesamum over 27,100 hectares of land , the
yield being 594 kg/ha. The crop is grown in all the seven states of the region
with Assam producing the largest quantity (7200 tonnes).
The production of other traditional
oilseed is very much negligible in North East India . Only a small quantity of
linseed is grown in Assam. especially in the Barak Valley . Small quantities of
groundunt are grown in Nagaland and Tripura. Efforts have recently been made to
grow his crop in the higher slopes of Manipur and Meghalaya. Castor is grown is
some parts of Assam, mainly to use its leaves as a feed to Endi -silk worms. In
doing so , some seeds are also obtained for oil. Many farms, government, grow
Soyabean, another source of oil, has
recently been introduced on experimental basis in the north -eastern region. In
1990-91 the region produced 5,500 tonnes of soyabean over 4.800 hectares of
land. Assam, Arunachal Pradesh , Nagaland, Manipur and Meghalaya have started
experimental production of this crop. It is said that Assam’s soil and climate
are suitable for soyabean. production of it has gained ground in Karbi Anglong,
Marigaon and Barpeta districts of Assam. Cultivation of Sunflower has also been
introduced in Assam in recent years.
The soil and climate of North East
India are such that it can produce a variety of tropical cash crops. Of these
Jute, sugarcane, mesta and cotton are traditionally grown in this region.
Besides tea was introduced as a plantation crop in the middle of the last
century by the British planters and has been under production as an industrial
crop ever since In recent years some more cash crops have been introduced to the
region . Of these ramie (a fibre crop ) coffee and rubber are the main. Since
tea, coffee and rubber cultivations have been organised more in the industrial
line than as traditional agriculture, these shall be discussed separately. The
traditionally cultivated cash crops are discussed below
Jute : Jute is an important fibre crop
grown in the lowlying plains under monsoon climate. The crop needs heavy
rainfall and high temperature during the period of its growth. The seeds are
sown on lowlying silted areas (when these are dry) in the months of March and
April and the fibre is extracted, after cutting the trunks and retting then
under water, in the months of September and October. The crop needs standing
water in the field when the seedlings grow to a height of about half -a metre
and above. That is why jute is normally grown in the flood plains of the
Brahaputra and Barak and their larger tributaries.
Although jute is a typical monsoon crop
it was not earlier grown in North East India, except in the Barak Valley , When
the Britishers came to occupy the Brahmaputra Valley in 1826, they found
extensive tracts of the flood plains of the Valley ideal. It should be noted
that by that time the British industralists started jute textiles mills both at
Dundee in England and at Hooghly side near Calcutta. They did it on the basis of
raw jute supplied by the then undivided Bengal. The British Government was
interested in extending jute cultivation to lowlying wastelands supply to their
mills and partly for increasing their land revenue collection. After a lot of
assessments and proposals submitted by the British administrators of the
Brahmaputra Valley, the then government agreed on a scheme of colonisation of
the Brahmaputra flood plains (charland ) by the landless peasants of the then
East Bengal on June2, 1896. The peasant immigrants were allowed to settle in the
charlands of undivided Goalpara, Kamrup , Nowgong, Darrang and Lakhimpur,
Thousands of immigrants from East Bengal, especially from the districts of
Mymansingh came in, settled in the charlands of the above district and started
growing jute. After that jute cultivation spread to other suitable areas of
North East India. The growth of the crop got a boast up after the partition of
India in 1947. The partition took away the traditionally jute growing area of
eastern Bengal to the then East Pakistan leaving the jute -mills in India with
an inadequate supply of the raw material. The central and state governments made
efforts to grow more jute. Subsequently with the growth of transport and
communication and commercially of Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya,
North East India now produces about 1/8
of the total jute production of the country. In 1990-91 the region produced
940600 bales of jute over 103400 hectares of land. The latter constituted 3.02%
of the total land under agriculture in the region. The following table give the
statewise area devoted to the production and yield of jute in North East India.
Jute in India 1990-91
(‘000 ha )
Source :Basic Statistics of NER
Since jute is essentially a cash crop,
its cultivation is sensitive to the demand and price in the market. Therefore,
its production varies from year to following its demand in the national and
international market. Of late the demand of raw jute has come down because of
the production of synthetic fibre for making bags, carpets ropes etc. It is
found that in 1980-86 the production rose to 1255400 bales over 139900 hectares.
In 1990-91 the production of jute decreased to 940600 bales over 103400 hectares
because of fall in demand in the market.
Assam is the most important producer of
jute in North East India . About 81% of the total area devoted to jute in the
region is in Assam. This crop contributes largely more attention as a jute
growing state after partition. This state is now second most important jute
growing in the country after West Bengal. Assam devotes between 80,000 hectares
to 100,000 hectares of raw jute. Dhubri, Goalpara , Bongaigaon Barpeta , Nalbari,
Kamrup, Darrang, Marigaon , and Nagaon are the districts where it is grown in
large quantities. Besides these districts, each of Sonitpur , Lakhimpur and
Karbi Anglong also produces some quantities of it. In case of all these
districts, the crop is grown in the lowlying flood -plains near the river
Brahmaputa and its large tributaries by immigrant settlers of erstwhile East
Bengal. In the Barak Valley jute is grown to some extent in all the three
districts on the flood plains of the Barak river.
In recent Years efforts have been made
to improve the quality and augment the production of jute in Assam For this
purpose , the following Development Blocks have been included under the ‘Special
Jute Development Progress Programme’. These Blocks are :
1.Gauripur , Bilasipara and South
Salmara in Dhubri district.
2. Gossaigaon in Kokrajhar district .
3. Manikpur in Bongaigaon district.
4. Rupasi and Gabardhan district .
5. Barkhetri in Nalbari district .
6. Hojo in kamrup district.
7. Dalggaon, Sialmri, Majbat and
Kharupetia in Darrang district
8. Juria, Lawkhowa and Batadraba in
Nagaon district .
9. Bhurbandha in Marigaon district.
In Meghalaya jute is produced in the
foothill region of West and South Garo Hills districts. In 1990-91 the state
produced 50,500 bales of jute over about 5,000 hectares of land.
In Tripura jute is cultivated in the
lowlying areas of the plains. In 1990-91 the state produced 23,600 bales of jute
over 2,700 hectares of land.
Nagaland produces about 8,000 bales of
jute other states of North East India its production is negligible.
Mesta : Mesta is a minor fibre crop of
North East India. Tripura, Assam Meghalaya and Nagaland produce this fibre in
little quantities. Of these states Tripura is the lading producer followed by
Assam. In 1990-91 Tripura produced 47,100 bales of mesta over 6,100 hectares of
land. During the same year Assam produced 34,900 bales over 7,400 hectares In
Assam all the districts except those of the Barak Valley produce some from
quantity of it. The district wise highest production, however, come from Darrang
and Sonitpur districts. It is noticed that mesta production has been gradually
decreasing in Meghalaya. In 1990-91 the state produces 28,500 bales of the fibre.
over 4,800 hectares of land. Nagaland produces very little quantity of mesta. In
1990-91 it hardly produced 1000 bales of the fibre. Thus it is found that in
1990-91 whole of North East India produced about 111,500 bales of mesta over
18,400 hectares of land. The yield of the fibre is highest in Tripura and lowest
Because of the abundance of cheap
synthetic fibre and its products in the market , the importance of mesta, like
other natural fibres, has been declining resulting in a decline of its
Ramie : Ramie is also a minor firbe
crop of the region. Although it grows naturally in North East India it was not
used widely in the past. It is said that ramie is the hardest of natural fibres
and is known as "vegetable steel fibre’ or vegetable silk fibre.
This fibre is widely grown and used in South East Asia and East Asia, especially
in philippines, China and Japan. It is grown in U.S.A and Mexico also The fibre
has world -wide market because it can be blended with synthetic fibres like
polyester and with cotton to produce durable cloth.
In North East India this crop is
beginning to be grown in Assam and Tripura. In Assam a ramie research station
was first set up at sarbhog in Barpeta district under the jute Research
Institute, Calcutta. The government of Assam has been encouraging the farmers to
grow it in their fallow lands. Taking cue from the government some tea planters
have started growing ramie over the fallow lands of their tea gardens. The
Agriculture Department of the state has set up Ramie Board to advise the
Department and the growers for better production of the crop. Besides, the
Department has taken up the work of multiplying ramie rhizome at seven different
stations of the state for supplying high yielding variety of it to the growers.
At present Assam grows ramie over only about 1,000 hectares of land. The main
problem faced by the ramie growers is lack of an assured market. Besides, lack
of modern facility for degumming of the fibre is also there. Degumming is
necessary to produce fine fibre out the bark of the plant.
Cotton: cotton is not an
important fibre crop in North East India now-a-days. However, it used to be
grown earlier for preparing cloth domestically. With coming of the British and
opening up of all India trade and commerce, cotton yarn produced in western
India became cheaply available , and cotton cultivation began to be abandoned
largely, However some amount of cotton is still grown in the region for domestic
use. In1990-91 the region produced 10,200 bales of production and area devoted
in comparison to 1980-81 (11,100 bales and 16,600 ha ) and 1987-88 (13,100 bales
and 13000 ha). With the markets being flooded by cotton and cheap synthetic
textiles, the local production of the crop has gone down.
North East India ,with a very heavy
average annual rainfall is not ideally suitable for good varieties of cotton.
The type of cotton traditionally grown is short staple .The two hill districts o
Assam. viz Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills and the three Garo district of
Meghalaya have some favourable physical conditions for growing the crop. Some
amount of it is also grown in the hills of Mizoram, Manipur and Arunachal
Pradesh. The following table shows the production of and area given to cotton in
Cotton production and area, 1990-91
Area devoted (ha)
Source : Basic staistcs of NER. 1992
Of all the North Eastern states
Meghalaya is the most important in cotton production. Short staple cotton is
grown in the Garo Hills districts of the state. These districts have light loamy
soil on gentle slopes. Besides the climate here is warm, humid and frost free.
These physical conditions have helped the growth of short staple cotton in Garo
hills traditionally. In 1990-91 Meghalaya produced 5400 bales of cotton on 7,400
hectares of land. This is a slight improvement over 1980-81 when cotton
production was 4200 bales and area devoted was 6,900 hectares.
Assam is the second important producer
of cotton in North East India. The two hill districts of Karbi Anglong and North
Cachar Hills produce the bulk of the state’s cotton. As in Meghalaya in Assam
also the traditional variety is short staple. However, efforts have been made to
grow medium staple cotton at Kherani Cotton Farm in Hamren sub-division of Karbi
Anglong. It is said that since Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills climate is
favourable for cotton. the crop may be grown more extensively. These districts
now grow about 1,000 bales of cotton over 2,200 hectares of land. It is however,
noticed that production of cotton in the state has not significantly increased
In Tripura short staple cotton is grown
in the slopes of the hillock. But in the face of availability of cheap textiles
in the market , the cotton production has been decreasing in the state. In
1990-91 the state produced only 1.000 bales of cotton over 1,000 hectares of
A limited quantity of cotton is grown
in Mizoram over the hill slopes in the jhum fields. In 1990-91 the state
produced 2,400 bales of over 900 hectares of land.
In Arunachal Pradesh cotton is
cultivated in the frost free hill slopes in the southern lower region. Its
production is highest in Lower Subansiri district. The total production of
cotton in the state has been increasing slowly. In 1990-91 it produced 300 bales
over 400 hectares of land.
Manipur and Nagaland produce only small
quantities of cotton. Manipur produced 300 bales of it over 400 hectares in
1990-91. In Nagaland cotton is produced mainly in the Ao and Lotha inhabited
areas. The state’s production in1990-91 was 100 bales over 100 hectares of
Sugar cane : Sugar came is a
traditional crop of North East India. It is grown in relatively high and fertile
flat or rolling ground. Very heavy rainfall and flooding often limits its
growth. However, the crop is grown over 44.000 hectares of land in the region.
This accounts for 1.19 percent of agricultural land of North East India. The
crop is grown in the region as a source of gur and molasses for domestic use.
Compared to the other states of the
region, Assam has favourable physical condition for sugar cane cultivation.
Assam is followed by Nagaland where some amount of sugar cane is grown in the
plains around Dimapur. Tripura and Manipur also grow small quantities of sugar
came While Meghalaya and Mizoram grow insignificant quantities of it, Arunachal
Pradesh is yet to cultivate it. The following table shows the statewise
production, area devoted and yield of sugarcane in 1990-91
N.E. India : Sugar cane Production :
(‘000 ha )
Production of raw
cane (‘000 tonnes)
Yield kg/ ha
4. Meghalaya 5.Mezoram
Source : Basic Statistics of N.E.R.
In Assam sugar cane is produced in the
districts of Golaghat, Jorhat, Sibsagar, Nagaon, Kamrup, Nalbari and Barpeta.
The plains of the Brahmaputra Valley surrounding the Karbi Plateau produce good
havests of sugar cane. On the basis of local production there came up one co
-operative sugar mill of 800 tonne capacity at Baruabamun Gaon (near Dergaon )
in Golaghat district and another near Kampur in Nagaon district. Both the mills
have, however, now turned out to be sick because of irregular supply of cane .
It is further found that area under sugar cane and its production have not
significantly changed in the last few decade. For example, in 1966-67, the area
given to it and production were 31,000 ha and 13,47,000 tonnes, while in 1991-92
the corresponding figure were 36000 ha and 15,22,000 tonnes. The reason for this
backwardness are firstly , use of archaic methods of fertilizer.
Nagaland comes next to Assam in sugar
cane produced in the region , In 1990-91 the state produced 129,000 tonnes of
sugar cane over 3800 hectares of land in the Dimapur lowlands in Kohima
district. In fact, there came up a khandsari sugar mill along with a brewery
near Dimapur on the basis of this of this production. The Khandsari mill now has
stopped production due to unreliable supply of raw sugar cane.
In Tripura sugar cane is grown on the
foothill plains. The state produced 91,000 tonnes of cane over 1900 hectares of
land in 1990-91. The entire production of the crop is pressed for processing gur
(molasses) for domestic use.
Manipur produced 60, 700 tonnes of cane
over 1,900 hectares of land in 1990-91. The state entire production comes from
the plains districts and is used for gur production.
In Meghalaya sugar cane is mostly
produced in the three Garo hills districts where there are enough of rolling
ground. In 1990-91 the state produced 2,200 tonnes of cane over 100 hectares of
land. It is found that both area under the crop and its production have been
declining in the state in recent years.
As Mizoram does not have enough of
plain land except in Chimtuipuri district, the crop is grown in a very little
quantity. In 1990-91 the state produced only 1,800 tonnes of cane over 500
hectares of land.
Arunachal Pradesh has recently
introduced sugar cane production in its foothill slopes and plains.
Rubber : The climate and soils
of North East India are more or less suitable for rubber (Ficus Indica ) plant.
Its Long season of rainfall from April to late September and fertile hill slope
provide somewhat favourable condition for rubber tree. In fact, many rubber
trees used to grow earlier wild in this region. Assam used to export rubber
between 1896-97 and 1900-01 at the rate of 140 to 150 tonnes annually. In the
face of competition from cheap rubber imported from Malaysia and Brazil, its
production went down. However, from 1957.The Department of Soil Conservation,
Govt. Of Assam started planting rubber plants in small patches on experimental
basis. It was realised that Assam, and for that matter whole of North East India
, have many areas depleted by jhum cultivation . Having been bare of effective
vegetal cover, these abandoned jhum fields suffered from soil depletion. The
Soil Conservation Department Corporation started planting rubber seedlings on
commercial basis in 1976. The Rubber Board of India assessed that about 100,000
hectares of land in North East India can be used profitably for growing rubber.
North East India now has more than1,200 tonnes of rubber annually. Following
tables shows the area under rubber trees and production in North East I
Rubber Production in N.E. India
Area Developed in ha
Production in tonnes
Source: Basic statistics of NER,1992
Of all the states of North East India ,
Tripura is at the forefront in rubber production. The plantation of
rubber was introduced in this state in 1963. Tripura has ideal climate for
rubber.It now produces more than 1000 tonnes of rubber annually over more than
17000 hectares of land..
Assam comes next an area 9880
hectares and annual production of 110 tonnes. In Assam the private sector has
also come forward to grown rubber in small plantation. There are at present 15
important rubber plantation in Assam. Of these, (1) Burhapahar, (2) Rangagara,
(3) Dolamara, (4) Bargaon, (5) Baithalangsu , (6) Henegeri and (7) Ouguri are in
Karbi Anglong district (8) Belchara, (9) Madura, (10) Delai and (11) Kahara are
in North Cachar Hills district, (12) Chandrapur and (13) Tapatai (Nursery)are in
Kamrup district (14) Udalguri is in Darrang district and (15) Kakilabari (Nurserv)
is in Barpeta district. The Rubber Board of India wants to expand rubber
plantation un Assam to 23,000 hectares. Looking at the growing demand of natural
rubber in the India merket (which is likely to be half-a million tonnes in 2000
A.D, the rubber plantation jhas bright future in the region.
Meghalaya has under over 3,880 hectares
of land and produces 40 tonnes annually. The three Garo Hills district, E. khasi
Hills and Jaintia Hills support the rubber plantations.
Rubber plantation has been very
recently introduced to Nagaland. Its plantations are located in North western
foothills bordering Assam. The state has 1395 hectares of land under rubber. As
the rubber saplings are still very young, latex production has not started as
In Manipur rubber plantation was
started in 1987 at Jiribam in the western foothills of the state bordering
Cachar. The state has 1215 hectares of land under rubber and produced 10 tonnes
of latex annually.
Rubber plantation was started in
Mizoram in 1972. It is stated that there is 20,000 hectares of depleted land
abandoned by jhum -cultivation which can be profitably used for rubber
cultivation. In 1990-91 the state had 1100 hectares of land under rubber,
producing 4 tonnes of rubber.
In Arunachal Pradesh rubber plantation
has been introduced very recently. An experimental farm has been started at
Bardumsa. The state now has 50 hectares of land under rubber and produces 10
Coffee : In some hill slopes of North
East India the climate and soil have been found to be suitable for coffee. It is
recorded that two French entrepreneurs started the cultivation of coffee in the
foothills of Cachar as back as in early eighteen -fifties. They could not
sustain their efforts because of lack of capital. Subsequently, about a hundred
years later coffee was reintroduced in Assam in 1954. On a scientific research
it has been found that those gentle hill slopes of North East India which do not
rise beyond 2000 metres , which have an average annual rainfall of about 130 cm
and which have previous sandy or brown clay soils are suitable for coffee
production. On the basis of this study it is said that the region has about
44,000 hectares of such suitable land.
Experimental plantation of coffee
extended from Assam to other states of the region during the fifth and sixth
five year plan periods One. of the aims of extending coffee cultivation in the
region is to use the depleted abandoned jhum fields. Even the individual jhum
cultivators were encouraged to grow some plants in their small jhumfields.
Considering the potentiality of coffee cultivation , each of Assam, Nagaland,
Manipur , tripura and Arunachal Pradesh governments formed their state Coffee
Corporations for commercial growth of the crop. Besides, the state governments
of Mizoram and Meghalaya entrusted their soil Conservation Departments to get
coffee grown wherever possible within their respective territories. With the
slow expansion of coffee cultivation in the region, a dry depot to store coffee
seeds was constructed by the Indian Coffee Board at Guwahati. Besides, a coffee
processing unit has also been started at lakhra, near Guwahati with the
financial help of the North Eastern Council. A Coffee Research Centre has also
been established at Diphu.
Nagaland is now at the forefront of
coffee production with 2177 hectares of land under this crop. More than 1000
families of Nagaland pursuing jhum cultivation earlier have now been engaged in
coffee cultivation. The coffee gardens of this state are located in the
foothills of Mokokchung, Wokha and Kohima districts. The yield of coffee in
Nagaland is one of the highest in North East India.
Assam follows Nagaland in coffee
production in the region. Most of the coffee gardens of Assam are located in
Karbi Anglong and North Cacher Hills districts, especially in their lower
foothills. The important gardens of Karbi Anglong are (1) Harmati, (2) Upper
Deopani, (3) Chutia Nala, (4) Hamren and (5) Bargaon. The main gardens of North
Cacher Hills are (1) Mahur, (2) Lasong, (3) Gunjang and (4) Asalu. Gunjang is
the largest coffee garden in Assam. The average yield of the coffee per hectare
in Assam is about 1000 kg. The state now has 1438 hectares of land under coffee
and produced 115 tones of coffee in 1990-91.
Mizoram now has 783 hectares of land
under coffee. In the state there are now 80 families cultivating coffee over 108
hectares of land. Besides, the Soil Conservation Department also gets coffee
grown through farmers over more than 600 hectares of land.
Tripura grows coffee in the lower hills
slopes in the West and North Tripura districts. The state has 726 hectares of
land under coffee and the area has been expanding slowly every year.
Meghalaya grows coffee in the lower
hills slopes of Garo Hills and Jaintia Hills district. The total area under the
crop is 717 hectares.
In Arunachal Pradesh most of the coffee
plantations are located in the lower foothills of Tirap and Changlang districts.
Namdang and Deomali areas of this region now have several coffee plantations,
The total area under coffee in the state was 710 hectares in 1990-91.
Manipur has started coffee plantation
in the lower foothills surrounding the Manipur Basin. The total area under the
crop was 328 hectares in 1990-91.
Tea : Tea plants (camellia thea)
used to grow naturally in the upper Brahmaputra Valley and its adjoining
Arunachal foothills. In fact, Robert Bruce, an official of the British empire,
who is credited with the discovery of tea in Assam in 1823, only saw the
Singphos drinking tea and gave publicity of the existence of the plant, the
leaves of which were boiled to prepare the drink. The drink was locally known as
Fanap or Finap. The East India Company, after having annexed Assam,
seriously looked for the plant and then Governor General formed a Tea Committee
on January 24,1834 to examine the possibility of commercial cultivation could be
proved beyond doubt and in 1838, the potentiality British entrepreneur a tea
garden near Chabua in the present Dibrugarh district. In 1840 a group of British
planters formed Assam Company at Nazira for commercial plantation of tea in a
large scale. At the initial stage, the companies faced with in the labour
shortage as However, that problem was overcome by bringing in labourers from
Chotanagpur and its surrounding region. By 1852 tea plantation was started also
in Surma Valley and a few years later it was extended to Tripura.
Table of progress Achieved
From 1859 to 1920
7.50 million Ibs
11.33 million Ibs
28.50 million Ibs
53.50 million Ibs
134.00 million Ibs
237.00 million Ibs
North East India has favorable physical
conditions for tea. This plant needs a high annual temperature of more than 250
C and a high average annual rainfall of 150 cm-250 cm. Besides, the should
be gently sloping for water to run away quickly. The soil should be acidic.
Further, the winter drought should not North East India and the slightly
undulating grounds of the upper Brahmaputra plain, Barak Plain and Tripura
Plain. It is, therefore, found that North East India produces more than 2/3 of
the total tea production of India. In fact, Assam alone produces more than 20%
of the world’s tea.
Of all the states in India, Assam
produces the largest quantity of tea and has the largest area under this crop.
In 1990-91, the state had 856 tea gardens spread over 229,248 hectares of land
and produced 380 million kg of tea with an average yield of 1655 kg/ha. In Assam
tea is grown both in the Brahmaputra Plain tea gardens are located mainly in
foothills regions, higher areas occupied by old alluvium and over the relatively
higher undulating plains not inundated by floods. Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sibsagar,
Jorhat, Golaghat, Nagaon and Sonitpur are the districts where tea gardens are
frequently found. Besides, Darrang, Lakhimpur, Kamrup and Kokrajhar districts
also have some tea gardens. In Barak valley tea gardens are located along the
foothills and on the isolated hillocks (tillas) scattered in the plain. The
following table shows the distribution of tea gardens, area under them and their
Tea in Assam, 1989
1. Sonitpir &
5. Dibrugarh &
6. Sibsagar,Jorhat &
Source : Statistical Hand Book of
The table shows that Assam had in 1989
altogether 856 tea gardens. A few of these are 589 tea do not have tea
processing factory gardens. Assam had 229,428 hectares of land under tea in
1990-91 This accounted for about 8 percent of total agricultural land in the
state Compared to India as a whole, Assam with 230,000 ha of land accounted for
54.7% of the total land under tea (420,000 ha) in the county. It is found that
the area under tea in Assam has been slowly increasing. The following table
shows the growth of tea industry in Assam since 1961.
Assam : Trend of Growth of Tea Industry
No. of Factories
Source : (I) Statistical Hand Book of
(ii) Basic statistics of NER, 1990
The table shows that the number of tea
gardens, number of factories, area occupied, production and yield have been
increasing since 1961. This development has been possible because more
scientific growth of tea, use of fertilizer, opening up of new gardens and
expansion of old ones and about all, increasing demand of the beverage in the
national and international market. Today Assam has about 12,000 small tea
growers. They are cultivating tea on a total area of 37,700 hectares and
producing about 13 million k.g. tea annually. Apart from themselves (12000 tea
growers ) they are providing, employment to nearly one lakh labourers and 3000
Generally since the early black tea is
produced in Assam But since 1980 green tea is also being produced. In 1982 the
production of green tea was 1270 tonnes (0.4 p.c. of total tea production ).
Instant tea project has been
established at the tea research centre of Toklai Experimental station in 1974.
Instant tea is a golden coloured powder which dissolves in hot or cold water
very easily. Tea leave is the main raw material for instant tea.
Tripura comes next to Assam in
production of tea with 58 tea gardens, spreading over 6.5 thousand hectares of
land. In 1989 there were 8,945 persons employed in tea plantations, which
produced about 5.2.million kg of it annually. The tea produced in Tripura is of
good quality. Yet the trend of growth of the industry has not been encouraging.
This is because the state suffers from transport bottleneck and labour climate,
topography (with low gently sloping hills ) and soil shall be able to prosper in
Tea Statistics of Tripura 1961-91
No of Tea
(in m. kg)
(in m. kg)
(i) Basic statistics of Tripura 1992
(ii) Tripura at a glance 1992
Since tea plants were first found in
the foothills of Lohit district of Arunachal, the state, especially its eastern
foothills are ideally suitable for the cropp. Experimental tea plantation was
started of Ingkiang Sub-Division of East Siang district have also started tea
plantation over about 1000 hectares of land in small family gardens. A large tea
garden at Oyang near Pasighat with 600 hectares of land has already come up.
This garden is trying to grow Darjeeling variety of tea also. The state has
taken up an ambitious plan to grow tea at the cost of Rs. 6.4 crores and it is
likely that the state will soon find place in the tea map of India.
Mizoram has been growing on indigenous
variety of tea for domestic use since long. In fact, it is found that as many as
2,098 families grow tea on their small orchard gardens over 1,000 hectares of
land for their domestic use after an indigenous method of processing. The Soil
Conservation Department of the State has of late concentrating on growing tea. A
tea garden has come up at Maidun in the northern foothills of the state
bordering Cachar. There are suitable location at Jabek near Lunglei for tea
Tea Statistics in NER
Number of Tea Estates
Source : B.S. NER 1992
Area Under Tea
Source : B.S. of NER 1992.
The climate and soils of Meghalaya have
been found to be suitable for tea cultivation. In fact, a few small experiment
plantations were started in the state about a decade ago. It is found that the
tea grown in such experimental gardens at Umsning, Rariyangdo and Tobrunggiri is
of excellent quality and its yield is also encouraging. Based on these two
nurseries have been started, one each at Umsning in East Khasi Hills and
Ronggram in West Garo Hills. A tea processing factory has also been installed at
Barapani and another at Ronggram.
Nagaland Government have also
been planning to start tea cultivation in the state and their negotiation with
the Tea Board of India is in progress. Manipur has little organized tea
When tea plantation was first started in the eighteen thirties, the British
plantation tried to engage local people refused to work. Hence the planters
looked for other source. They started bringing in Santal, Orao, Munda, etc.
tribal people from Chotanagpur Plateau and its surrounding region From about
1850 to about 1940 thousands of labourers came in from this region, especially
from Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Chaibasa, Santal, Pargana ,purulia, Jagadalpur,
Sambalpur, Raipur, Bastar, Talengana, etc. areas of Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa,
Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. In the Barak Valley tea gardens there are
labourers from north Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh also. These labourers and
their descendents have contributed heavily to the population make-up of North
East India, especially, Assam.
As tea is very important industrial
crop, enough attention has to be paid for the cultivation, processing and
marketing. In fact, research for the development of tea industry was started as
back as in 1900. In 1911 a tea research centre was started at Toklai in Jorhat
for developing more scientific and fruitful methods of cultivating tea plants,
applying fertilizer, testing soil, selecting sites for garden and processing tea
leaves, Many welfare schemes have also been taken up for the benefit of the
labourers, For a better marketing of the tea produced in North East India a tea
auction centres was established in 1970 in Guwahati. This center has become one
of the most important tea auction centers in the world. It now auctions more
than 150 million kg of tea valued at more than Rs. 550.00 crores annually. The
government of Assam has come forward to help the financially sick tea gardens
with its Assam Tea Corporation.
Contribution to Economy : Tea
industry has contributed substantially to the economy of the region, especially
Assam. About 17 percent of the workers of Assam are engaged in tea industry. Tea
has brought in valuable foreign exchange to cater the demand of the tea gardens.
Many machine shop, cardboard industries, tin -plate and aluminum foil processing
workshops have also come up to meet the demand of the gardens. Many roads have
also been built up in the areas of tea plantations to link the gardens with
commercial places and transport termini. Besides, many commercial centres like
Doom Domma, Tinsukia, Nazira, Dergaon, Biswanath Chariali, Dhekiajuli, Tongla,
etc. have come up as tea towns or service centres to the benefit of all.
Some Horticultural Products :
Potato : Potato
is indigenous to South America. The Spaniards and the Portuguese who had
occupied that continent in the 16th and 17th centuries, found the Red Indians of
South America using it as food. They subsequently introduced it in Europe. It is
said that the Portuguese traders introduced potato in India, However, Captain
David Scott , an Agent of the Governor General introduced potato in 1830 in
North East India and got it cultivated at Nongkhlaw in Khasi Hills at an
altitude of 1000 m. It grew well and its cultivation quickly spread to other
parts of Meghalaya Plateau and rest of North East India. The growth of potato in
Meghalaya was so good that by 1881-82 khasi Hills along could export 4700 tones
Potato grows well on fertile sandy soil
. It needs only occasional rainfall during the period of its growth. It is
therefore, grown in North East India between October and February. While in the
hills it is grown on red sandy soil with enough of humus, in the plains silted
flood plains support rich crops of potato.
North East India grew 6.6 lakh tonnes
of potato over 89,800 hectares of land in 1990-91 .Following table shows the
production of and area devoted to potato in North East India.
Potato in North East India, 1990-91
Area Devoted (ha)
Source : Basic Statistics of NER, 1992
The production of potato in North East
India has been increasing although the region is not at all self -sufficient. In
1980-81 the region produced 424,300 tonnes of potato over 65,800 ha of land.
These slightly increased to 544,800 ha in 1990-91.
Assam produces the highest quantity of
potato in North East India. In 1990-91, the state produced 427,600 tonnes of
potato of potato over 59,100 ha of land. The production of this crop has been
increasing in recent tears. In 1970-71 the state produced 110,700 tonnes of
potato over 24,500 ha of land. In 1980-81 the corresponding figures rose to
223,400 tonnes and 38,200 ha. These increased further in 1990-91 to the above
mentioned figures. Potato is grown in Assam mainly on the silted fertile flood
plains with sandy soil. The districts of Dhubri, Goalpara, Bongaigaon, Barpeta,
Kamrup, Darrang Marigaon and Nagaon produce the bulk of the potato of the
state,. As stated earlier, potato is a rabi crop grown in winter. But in the
hills of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar summer variety of potato is also grown.
It should be noted that the potato grown in the state falls far short of
requirement. Hence Assam has to bring in several crore rupees worth of potato
Next to Assam comes Meghalaya in potato
production. It is an important crop of the West Khasi Hills, East khasi Hills,
Ri Ghoi and Jaintia districts of the state. The crop is grown on the gentle hill
slopes. In West Khasi Hills districts along as much as 82,000 tonnes of potato
in grown over 10, 203 ha of land. But it is noticed that the production of
potato has slightly decreased in the state during the last decade.
In 1980 -81 Meghalaya produced 121,00
tonnes of potato over 17,300 ha. of land. The corresponding figures rose
slightly to 149,400 tonnes and 19000 ha in 1985-86, but came down to 109900
tonnes and 175,00 ha in 1000 -91. It is said that various types of blight and
insects have adversely affected the crop in recent years.
Tripura is the third important
producer of potato in North -East India. The lower slopes of its hillocks having
sandy loamy soil produces good crops of potato. Its production has been
increasing from 35,500 tonnes over 2,434 ha in 1980-81. In 1990-91 the
corresponding figures rose to 60,300 tonnes and 3,300 hctatares
produced 21,900 tonnes of potato over 3,600 ha of land in 1990-91. Most of its
potato is grown in the flat Manipur Basin, while the hill areas grow mainly
sweet potato in the jhum fields.
Nagaland has many areas with red
sandy loam that are suitable for potato production. Hence there has been an
increasing trend in potato production in the state. In 1990-91 Nagaland produced
about 12,000 tonnes of it over 1,200 ha of land.
produces potato on the gentle slopes of the lower hills bordering the
Brahmaputra Valley. The production of the crop here also has been increasing in
recent years. In 1990-91 the state produced 31,200 tonnes of it over 4.800 ha of
The production of potato in Mizoram is
very little so far.
Banana : Banana is an important
fruit of North East India. It is grown as a orchard crop in the compound of
almost every homestead in the plains and foothills. There are many varieties of
banana in the region. Assam , Meghalaya, Tripura and Manipur produce abundant
banana . However, Assam is by far the most important producer of it. Although
almost all the plains district of the state produce banana, Goalpara and Kamrup
district are leading producers of good varieties of Banana. The area west of
Chhaygaon in the south bank of Kamrup district upto Agia of Goalpara district
and the adjoining Garo foothills is traditionally famous for a variety of banana
called ‘malbhog’ which is highly priced. In fact, Dhupdhara and
Daranggiri are very important centres of banana collection and distribution.
Everyday scores of truckloads of banana move out from these two centres to
different parts of Assam, North West Bengal, eastern Bihar and Nepal. In 1990-91
Assam produced 444,000 tonnes of banana and the whole of North East India
produced 552,960 tonnes (including Assam).
Areca Nut :
North East India is famous for areca nut. Almost each family in the rural areas
grows areca nut plants in the homestead Areca nut with betel leaf is not only
universally chewed by the indigenous people of North East India, these are
together used in many social and ritual occasions also by the communities of all
castes and creeds. North East also has a tradition of growing areca nut plants
and betel creepers together by allowing the betel vines creep on the areca nut
tree. The most important producer of areca nut in North East India is Assam,
followed by Meghalaya, Tripura , Manipur and Mizoram. In 1990-91, the region
produced 78, 100 tonnes of areca nut.
Although tobacco is traditionally grown in North East India, it is done so in
very small quantity by the farmers for domestic use. Smoking and chewing tobacco
is a common habit of the people of this region and these two varieties , i.e.
smoking tobacco and chewing tobacco, are grown both in the hills and plains.
However its production has been on the decline . In 1978-79 total production od
tobacco was 5,000 tonnes and area devoted was 7,900 hectares. The corresponding
figures were 4,200 tonnes and 6,800 ha in 1985-86 and 3,000 tonnes and 4, 700 ha
in 1990-91. The following table shows the production of and area devoted to
tobacco in the region.
Tobacco in North East India 1990-91
Area devoted in ha
Production in tonnes
Source ; Basic Statistics of NER,
Assam produces the largest
quantity of tobacco in North East India. In 1990-91 it produced 1400 tonnes on
2,600 hectares of land. Dhubri, Goalpara, Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Barpeta,
Nalbari and Kamrup districts produce tobacco, especially the smoking variety, on
the fertile riverine flats. In the eastern part of the Brahmaputra Vaalley
chewing tobacco is grown by some farmers. The Phulaguri area south of Nagaon
town was once famous for the flavour and taste of chewing tobacco. Similarly,
Namati Mauza near Tihu was also once famous for this variety of the crop. The
two hill districts of Assam also grow some quantity of the tobacco However, the
production of this crop has been declining in the state In 1966-67 Assam
produced 8,000 tonnes of tobacco on 10,000 ha land As shown above, the present
production is one -sixth of that year.
Meghalaya was also an important
producer of tobacco in the past. The Garo Hills districts were famous for the
crop. But in 1990-91, the state produced only 500 tonnes of tobacco on 700 ha of
Mizoram (700 tonnes and 800 ha),
Tripura (300 tonnes and 700 ha) and Arunachal Pradesh (100 tonnes and 100
ha ) also produce some quantities of tobacco. However, with the easy
availability of cheap ready made cigarettes, the production has been declining
everywhere in the region.
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY AND FISHING
Plants and animals sustain human life.
Ever since man appeared on the surface of the earth, he has been living mainly
by exploiting the plant and animal resources both directly and indirectly.
Direct dependence on plant animal resources is the mainstay of economy. Rearing
animals along with cultivating small patches of land has, therefore, become an
important activity of the farmer of this region.
Of animals reared in North East India
cow, buffalo, goat pig and poultry are the main. Besides, sheep and horse are
also reared, though to a lesser extent. In some hill areas especially in
Arunachal Pradesh, bison, mule and yak are also reared in small numbers. Cow is
traditionally the most important draught animal in North East India. Oxen are
almost invariably used to draw plough and cart in the plains while the female
ones give milk. On the other hand, cowdung is the only traditional source of
manure in the region for crops, especially orchard and vegetable crops. Next in
importance as draught animal comes buffalo, which is used to till the lowlying
muddy land in the plains. Female ones supply a very good quality of milk in
large quantities. Buffalo and oxen are also used to draw carts way to slaughter
houses for local consumption. Pig is commonly reared by almost all the tribes
both in the plains and hills This animal is raised party for sale and partly for
sacrifice in the religious and social occasions, are ultimately used for human
consumption. Horse is kept as a draft animal mainly in the urban and suburban
areas both in the hills and plains. In Manipur, however, there is a local
variety of sturdy horse which is used for games and as a means of transport.
Sheep is not an indigenous animal of North East India. It has , of late, been
introduced to the region , especially, to its hill areas in Meghalaya, Nagaland
and Arunachal Pradesh. Among the poultry, while duck is reared by every rural
family in lowlying areas, hen is traditionally raised everywhere by rural folk
except those Hindu belonging to some castes.
These animals are kept in small numbers
by the rural families with little capital investment. A family may have 6 to 10
cows (both male and female), 3-8 goats, 20-25 birds. It is only some families in
lowlying areas that each keep a few buffaloes for draught. Large flocks of
buffaloes used to be kept earlier for milk in the grassland areas, especially by
the Nepali graziers. This practice has been abandoned as the grasslands have
disappeared by and large. The number of pigs, reared by those families who raise
it., is also small, ranging between 4 and 12 heads, on the average.
The following table gives a general
idea about the distribution and number of seven important domestic animals of
the region :
Domestic Animals in North East India
( in ‘000)
(year of census)
Arunachal Pradesh (1985)
Source : (I) Basic Statistics of NER,
1984 1985 & 1992
(ii) Statistical Hand Book of each
Although North East India has a large
population of domestic animals, their quality, except that of buffalo, is not
good. The indigenous cow is small, weak and often sickly. The female ones give
but a little quantity of milk (often about half a liter). The goats are small
and emaciated Pigs are also sickly. The local varieties of hen and duck are
small and each female gives hardly a score of eggs. The hot and humid climate of
the region provides breeding ground for many types of germs, viruses and insects
which attack these domestic animals and make them sickly. Secondly, enough feed
and fodder are never supplied to them by those who rear them. Thirdly, whatever
grass and feed are available naturally, are not nutritive because these are
deficient in mineral salt, calcium and phosphorus. Fourthly, while in the dry
season there is deficiency in grass in the rainy season either the grazing lands
are inundated or the animals often cannot move out for grazing due to incessant
Nothing much was done for the
development of animal resource in the region in the past. In 1897-98 , an effort
was made for the first time to develop hybrid cow by setting up a breeding farm
at Upper Shillong. In 1910 some bulls of Siri Breed were brought into Assam to
develop hybrid cow. Subsequent to that Tailor Breed, Sindhi, Haryana, Holstein,
Friesian etc. various types of better stronger and larger varieties of cow were
introduced into the region. But the climate prevalent and the fodder naturally
available were not found suitable for the exotic varieties. It turned out to be
an expensive proposition to maintain such cows.
However with the increasing demand of
milk products on the one hand and efforts made by the State and Central
Governments and North Eastern Council on the other , there has been somewhat
significant development in animal husbandry. especially in dairying Two
Intensive Animal Husbandry Schemes were taken up in 1986- one at Dimow in
Sibsagar District and the other at Khanapara (Guwahati)- for artificial
insemination , so that hybrid cows resistant to local environmental conditions
and yet with better productive capacity, could be developed. Under these two
main centres there came up seven regional centres at Sibsagar, Jorhat, Bokakhat,
Jagiroad, Guwahati ,Nalbari and Barpeta Road . Subsequently , more Jersey bulls
began to be brought in and several other cattle farms were established in the
region for artificial insemination. The North Eastern Council has set up five
cattle breeding centres in the region from producing hybrid and bulls.
Various schemes have also been taken up
develop piggery, sheep farm and poultry by the state governments and autonomous
bodies of the region .
From the view point of sheer number of
various domestic animals Assam is most important among the state of North East
India. In 1988, the state had about 7.3 million cows , 0.62 million buffaloes,
2.1 million goats, 0.64 million poultry, besides 67310 sheep and 13492 horses.
However , all the animals are small weak and less productive, Hence hybrid
varieties of cattle has to be developed which can adapt to local conditions and
become more productive. It is said that by 1985 as many as 56 lakhs of hybrid
cow has been bred. The state has now taken up Extensive Cattle Development
Projects . One such project is located at Chandkuchi in Nalbari districts. Such
a project breeds hybrid cows through artificial insemination and also produce
nutritive grass. Another scheme taken up by the state is Indo-Australian
Cattle Breeding Scheme . This scheme supplies bulls of more productive
variety, some machinery for artificial insemination and seeds of nutritive
varieties of grass.
There are a few buffalo development
centres also in Assam. Such centres were started at Barhamaputra (Nagaon),
Silanijan and Gahpur The Gahpur farm was started with the help of the World
Assam has more than half -a - million
pigs. This animal is reared with least care and in primitive manner. But there
is a great demand for pig and its meat in North East India . As this animal is
traditionally raised by the tribal communities , the number of pig is more in
Kokrajhar Karbi Anglong. North Cachar and Dhemaji districts. Efforts have been
made in recent years to raise pig in modern methods. With this end in view, some
model pig farms have been started. One such farm is located at Khanapara and the
other at Diphu. More productive and larger varieties of pigs, such as Hampshire,
large White Yorkshire, Middle White Yorkshire etc. have been brought to Assam to
produce hybrid pig. Hybridisation centres have been started at Mangaldai and
Marigaon. Besides ,a National Piggery project has been taken up at Joyhing in
Although Assam has more than two
million goats and although the animal has great demand in the local markets
(which is the major source of meat),it is raised in a very primitive way. No
feed or fodder is provided to it . The goat is left to itself to find out its
food. But with the increasing pressure of population there is hardly any grazing
left. The animal has to, therefore, remain underfed.
Efforts have been made in recent years
to feed and fodder for animals in the state. A fodder production unit at
Sangsari and grass production farm at Bamundi in Kamrup district have been
started. These not only supply their products to the farmers, but also act as
Assam has more than 11 million hens and
ducks. Like other animals, poultry is also raised in a primitive manner.
Although the birds are raised party for domestic supply of meat and eggs and
partly for sale, no capital is invested on them. Assam has very favourable
physical environment for poultry ,especially duck. The state has many large and
small water bodies with many small plants and animals which form good feed for
duck. Besides, the demand for egg has been increasing every year . In spite of
these situations poultry has not come up in Assam to the required level. It is
found that local varieties of birds have lesser number of egg which are also
small in size. Efforts have therefore, been made to introduce more productive
and larger varieties of white leghorn, Khaki Cambel, Cambel and Rhode Island
ducks and broilers (chicken). In each of Goalpara and Kamrup districts, 3000
families have been helped with necessary materials -cash and kind -to raise
poultry farms scientifically. Besides, centres have been started at Kaliabar,
Khanapara, Hajo, Jorhat, Sibsagar, Tezpur, Dibrugarh and Silchar to develop
better breed of ducklings and chicks for sale among the poultry farmers. Assam
needs yearly about 500 million eggs. If these efforts come into fruition, a
substantial part of the demand shall be domestically met.
The dairy industry in Assam is very
poorly developed. It is estimated that for 25 million people of Assam, the state
needs 2500 million liters of milk. But the present production is hardly
one-fourth of that. Hence the people have to depend largely on canned and
powdered milk. Efforts have been made in recent years in the areas around large
towns to produce more milk and collect and distribute it in a more organised
manner. Financial help has come forward from the government and banks to
organise "milk villages," which will concentrate on milk production
and supply the same to market. As many as 18 such milk villages were organised
during the seventh Five Year Plain. Besides , Town Milk Supply Schemes have also
come up at Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Tezpur and Silchar . The Guwahati
(Khanapara) unit of this Scheme bottles 25000 litres of milk every day for
supply to the city. In the last few years some milk producers co-operative
ventures have also come up. One such unit, called Western Assam Milk
Producers Co-operative Limited, is situated at Panjabari Guwahati. This unit
bottles and packs milk, cream butter , ghee etc , under the trade mark Purabi.
It has 520 primary milk producers’ Co-operative under it . This unit has
establishments for artificial insemination, grass and fodder production and
cattle care . Over and above these ,some other milk producing units have also
come up in the state in the last few years. At panikhaiti near Guwahati, a milk
chilling plant has come up that chills 5000 litres of milk every day . It is
supported by 120 primary milk producers co-operatives. A model dairy farm has
been established at Belimara near Naharkatiya. Two new patterns of milk
co-operatives , one pattern at Jorhat and an Anand (of Gujarat) pattern at
Tezpur have recently been taken up. There are milk producers’ co-operatives
also at Baragaon neaar Barpathar in Golaghat and at Senchowa near Nagaon.
The efforts made in the state as
described above, have only marginally improved the milk supply situation. The
main cause of backwardness of the state in respect of dairying are the
1) Indigenous cattle gives very little
quantity of milk 2) They suffer from various diseases . 3) There is a lack of
care by the farmers towards cattle 4) Grazing land and nutritive feed are
inadequate. 5) Frequent flooding inundates the grazing grounds and thus render
the grasses unfit for consumption for many days. If these problems are solved ,
Assam can prosper in dairy industry . 1) Artificial insemination 2) proper care
of the cattle, 3)intensive production of grass and fodder, if necessary with the
help of irrigation and 4) development of proper marketing facilities will go a
long way in improving the milk production and dairy industry of the state.
Next to Assam , Manipur comes in animal
resource. The state in 1988 had 0.75 million cows, 138000 buffaloes, 369000 pigs
and about 1.5 million poultry. The cows of Manipur are the best in North East
India . They are of bigger size and stronger and sturdier than those of other
states. The buffaloes of Manipur, especially the female ones, are considered as
prized possession because they give large quantities of milk. Besides, the
horses of Manipur are famous throughout India and South East India, because they
are although smaller in size, swift , strong and climb hills. Therefore , the
horses of Manipur are often used by military and paramilitary forces in the
In order to develop the animal
resources of Manipur a number of schemes have been taken up in recent years. A
farm for producing hybrid buffalo breed and local breed is expected to produce
more milk. Another farm to produce better quality of horse has been started at
Lamphel Pat in Imphal district. Besides, a farm for raising broiler has also
been started at Parampat. Four more farms are projected in the state to further
develop the animal resources.
Tripura has in 1986-87 about 680,000
cows 16000 buffaloes 343000 goats and 103000 pigs As its indigenous animals are
not strong and productive, efforts have been made to develop hybrid varieties.
Five such schemes were implemented in the state in 1985 . The North Eastern
Council the set up an Exotic Cattle Breeding Farm in the state for crossing the
local cows with those from Khairpur. A few urban milk supply schemes have also
been taken up in Agartala , Dharmanagar and Kailasahar towns.
Meghalaya has the third largest cattle
population among the states of North East India with 550,000 cows and 29,000
buffaloes in 1981 -82 . It also had 186,000 goats and 207000 pigs in that year.
The Meghalaya Government has undertaken a number of schemes to develop the
states domestic animal resource. It has established a few artificial
insemination centers including one at Upper Shilliong under the Indo-Danish
Project for animal development. Meanwhile thousands of local cows have been
injected for artificial insemination . Moreover exotic bulls have been
distributed among 100 villages of the state for producing cross breed with the
local cows. As Meghalaya has cool climate and grasslands, the state can
profitably rear sheep also. Two model sheep farms , one at Jowai and another in
the East Khasi hills, have also been set up recently. Shillong also has an urban
milk supply scheme. There is a milk freezing plant at Nayabungalow , 20 km north
of Shillong. The Dairy Extension Centre at Jowai produces butter, cream and
ghee. Cream and ghee are processed also at Tura and Rongrem in Garo Hills A
model poultry farm has been started at Kirdemkalai 25 km away from Shillong . A
model pig breeding centre and a fodder production centre have also been started
The states of Arunachal, Nagaland
Mizoram are not very rich in domestic animal resources Arunachal had 168000
cows, 12000 buffaloes, 20,000 goats,76,000 sheep and 213000 pigs in 1985. During
the last few years these numbers have increased. The Arunachal Government has
started training programmes for the farmers for scientific rearing of animals. A
farm for growing winter grass for the animals has been set up at Dibang Valley.
A bison breeding centre has also been strted at Sagali in Lower Subansiri
Nagaland had in 1984 about 151000 cows,
9000 buffaloes, 61000 goats 224800 pigs, besides 11000 bisons. Efforts have been
made to develop the animal resource of the state. A cow breeding centre has been
started at Januki. A national bison research center has been set up at Paruwa in
Phek district. The first and the only Dairy Processing Plant has been set at
Seventh Mile model village in Dimapur with 10, 000 litre per day capacity. The
project is being managed by Kohima District Co-operative Milk Producers Ltd.
Mizoram had in 1982 about 50,000 cows,
4300 buffaloes, 29000 and 81000 pig. In order to raise cattle scientifically the
state has opened several veterinary hospitals including one each at Kawanpui
Lungchew. and Changlaw. A scientific pig breeding centre has also been started
at Thingdui with the financial help of the Central Government.
Domestic animal resource that North
East India has, can contribute to the economy of the region, if it is properly
developed. There are large demands for milk , milk products, meat and egg,
besides draught animals. If the projects taken up to develop cattle , pig, goat
and poultry resources materialise the region’s economy shall improve to a
Fish is a popular item in the major
meals of the people of North East India. This , in fact is the main source of
protein to them. Fish contains vitamins A and D, besides protein, calcium and
phosphorus. Fish is also used in social functions and rituals by some
communities of the region. This is because three states of the region, viz Assam
Manipur and Tripura have many water bodies and swamps which are natural habitat
of many varieties of fish. Abundance of fish on the one hand and relative
absence of the animals yielding acceptable meat has made fish popular as a
source of protein. But of late. the natural conditions in respect of the
habitats of fish have changed. The beels and swamps have been largely silted up
while the rivers have changed their courses following the earthquake of 1950 and
wanton destruction of trees leading to heavy soil erosion. On the other hand,
population has been increasing by leaps and bounds resulting in increasing
demand of fish. This has led to indiscrimate fishing throughout the year (even
in the breeding period).
North East India is now in deficit
supply of local fish. It is estimated that in the year 1989-90 the region could
produce per capita only 2.8 kg of fish. While the region needs about 48,00,00
tonnes of fish, it could produce hardly 100000 tonnes a year. The region also
imports about 100000 tonnes of fish from outside, especially from West Bengal,
Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. Following table shows the production of fish in the
region in 1989-90 ;
North East India
Production of fish : 1989-90
Production in ‘000 tonnes
1. Arunachal Pradesh
Source : Basic Statistics of NER, 1987,
The above table shows the fish
production figure in the year 1989-90. Efforts have been under way to increase
its production in all the states of the region,. Since the natural habitats of
fish are in the way of depletion, many people have started rearing it in their
own ponds and tanks. As the river fishery and beel fishery have shown declining
production of late , culture fishery (ponds and tanks) and reservoir fishery
have registered an increasing production. It is however, important to note that
with the depletion of the natural habitat, a large varieties of indigenous fish
are on way to extinction . While the rivers used to support many varieties of
carps of including Rau, Pithia , Bahu , Mali and Nadani and many other like Ari,
Barali, Chital, Gagal etc. the beels used to harbour swamp fishes, such as Sal,
Sol, Magur , Kawai, Kandhuli, Singi, Magur, etc. But with the change of course
of the rivers and silting of beels on the hand and indiscriminate fishing on the
other , the fish population has decreased abnormally. In fact, some varieties of
fish are found to have become rare now.
Among the North Eastern state Assam is
by far the most important in fishing as it has numerous rivers, swamps and other
water important in fishing as it has numerous rivers swamps and other water
bodies However, because of deterioration of the ecological conditions in which
fish prosper, the production of it from its natural habitat has decreased,
although production of cultured fish has been slightly on the increase. In
1992-93 Assam altogether produced about 140,000 tonnes of fish, which is far
less than the requirement, needing the state to import fish from outside.
It is estimated that there are about
700 registered fisheries in Assam covering an area of 593,000 hectares. Of these
the rivers and streams cover 450,000 hectares, beels 100,000 hectares, cultured
tanks 85000 hectares, natural pond and tanks 10,000 hectares, swamps 20,000
hectares and water bodies in the reserve forests 5000 hectares. The beels alone
can produce a huge quantity of fish, catering the demand of the local markets
and improving the economic condition of the fishermen.
Considering the above potentiality the
Government of Assam in 1977 set up the Assam Fishery Development Corporation.
The main aim of this Corporation is to develop the swamps and beels to enable
them to be productive fisheries, whereby the fishermen will benefit. It has
taken over about 30 swamps and beels for development, of which the following are
Dhubri district, Sateswar and Dhir ,
Bangaigaon district, Tamranga Daloni , Asila and Kumri , Barpeta district Kapla,
Kamrup district Garhja Bulatjan Dipar and Ghorajan, Nagaon and Morigaon
district, Samaguri, Mer, Marikalang-potakalang Sivasthan Saran, Haribhanga,
Barmanaha , Kujibali Patti, Deora, Jugijan and Warijedeng Kenduri, Jorhat
district : Kakrikata and Gango Chauladubi,, Darrang district Saktola , Dibrugarh
district ; Larowa.
North Eastern Council has also come up
to help reclaim some of the swamps to make them productive fisheries. It has
taken up a pilot project of reclaiming the 62 hectares of Samaguri Beel and 20
hectares of Marikalong Beel of Nagaon district. The Scheduled Castes Integrated
Welfare Scheme of Assam has also stressed on fishery development in the state
because most of the fishermen of Assam belong to Scheduled castes who are
economically weak. Two beels viz . Tamranga of Bangaigaon and
Sivasthan-Potakalang of Nagon have been developed under this scheme. The
National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD) has also advanced
capital for development of Merbeel of Nagaon into a viable fishery. An
international organisation, The World Food Programme Authority, a
subsidiary of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has also come forward to
develop island fishery in Assam. It wants to develop the tributaries of the
Brahmaputra and some swamps into productive fisheries .
Efforts have been made to develop
fisheries in the state by many agencies. For example there are Fish Farmers
Development Agencies which stress on development of rives and swamps into
fisheries as also on growing local varieties of small fish in the paddy fields
along with transplanted paddy . A Regional Fishery Training Centre has been set
up at Amranga in Barpeta district and a Fish Seed Farm has been started at
Jalukanibari in Jorhat District. This farm aims at producing 500 million fish
seeds of improved quality for distribution among the fishery owners of Assam and
other surrounding states.
Tripura has lesser number of large or
medium river nor has its swamps. The state therefore, has to depend mainly on
ponds and tanks for fishery development. These water bodies, along with a few
production of the state, account for 4800 hectares. The total fish production of
the state, is enough to meet local demand . In 1990 Tripura produced about 18000
tonnes of fish. Efforts have been made to increase production in the state. The
North Eastern Council has intiated a Fish Petuitary Gland Bank in Tripura. The
state government , apart from aiding the development of tank and river fisheries
, have completed a scheme of raising turtle and tortoise at a place called
Gongkira in Udaipur sub-division . The rearing ground here covers an area of 23
hectares. The North Eastern Council has also finalized to set up an air breeding
fish seed farm in Tripura . This is likely to help the production of such fish
grown in the state within a short period.
Manipur has many swamps and lakes in
its central basin. The total area of such swamps and lakes stands at about 16500
hectares. Although the lake Loktak was traditionally famous for fish, it has
become slowly depleted due to siltation and human occupation. The state’s
present average annual production of fish is only around 7500 tonnes, although
its total demand is about 14000 tonnes annually.
Efforts have been made to increase fish
production in the state. As back as in 1977-78 , the state government took up 10
schemes in the plains and 8 schemes in the hills for fishery development. But
these schemes have so far not been able to reach their target. The state
government has also undertaken scheme to preserve the locally famous Pengba fish
of Manipur. A carp seed farm has been started at Lam Leipat It also has a
Chinese hatchery . Besides as many as 100 seed and general fish farm have been
started at Waithou near Imphal for Production of big carp, common carp and
has been able to increase it fish production from a mere 240 tonnes in 1975 to
more than 2800 tonnes in 1990. Besides it has now about 5000 small fisheries in
the form of tank and ponds and the state produces more than 3 million fishlings
for distribution to the fisheries of the state. The Mizoram government has also
started at regional fish seed farm at Tuipui in Lunglei district.
The production of fish in other states
of North East India is nominal. All these states, however, have made efforts to
be self-sufficient in fish.