Karbi Anglong ,one of the hilly districts of Assam, is now losing its control over its own economy. This largest district is rich in natural resources with enough man power. But only because of the negligence of authorities, the lingering ethnic tensions, and lack of education the whole economy of Karbi Anglong has been captured by Mahajan or middlemen. The largest district of Assam is mainly inhabited by indigenous tribes like Karbi, Dimasa and Kuki. The tribals are fully dependent on agricultural activities, and they are mainly engaged in jhoom cultivation. More than 4,15,000 hecter lands of this district are used for jhoom cultivation.
Karbi Anglong is the highest producer of ginger. And its produce has found markets in Delhi, Kolkota, Siliguri,Orissa, etc. Ginger production in the district is on the rise every year. In 2007 it produced 17,312 metric tonnes and in 2012 it rose to 32,033 matricton. Though the production has been rising over the years, for ginger cultivators’ the story is the other way.The most unfortunate thing is that the cultivators do not get the benefit from their cultivation. The kukis mainly cultivate 90% of ginger at the Simhashan area of the district. The farmers sell their ginger at Rs 10 to the middle man while the latter sell it at the rate of Rs 200 per kg in other parts of the state. But these common cultivators are ignorant about the huge difference of price.
Lien Thang ,a cultivator of ginger says, “We do not get any help from the government at the time of cultivation. So, my family is fully dependent on ‘mahajan’. After harvesting I give all my produce to him. I do not even think about how much he earns from my ginger.”According to Tou Thang, president of Kuki National Assembly, “The former Deputy Commissioner Angamathu did a great job for the cultivators of Karbi Anglong. He formed GINFED (Ginger Growers Co-operative Marketing Federation) in 2007. The aim of this marketing federation is to help the ginger cultivators by buying the produce at a reasonable rate. But, now, GINFED is totally a non-performing organization. Our people are illiterate. They only know that they have to cultivate ginger and they have no other option to live. Illiteracy is the main reason of not getting the dignity of their labour.”
Senior journalist of Karbi Anglong, Sanju Bora, says, “The main aim of the executive members of Karbi Autonomous Council is to strengthen the financial condition of their own family and relatives .Once they have come to power they do not pay any importance to the development of their own community. Most of the Karbi people involve themselves in part-time contractual work like construction of road, and they do not want to be involved in agricultural activities. That is one of the reasons why they mortgage their land to outsiders. And often they fail to repay and automatically the land goes to the mahajan, rendering the locals landless. This way, the economy of Karbi Anglong now goes to the control of these people.”
Another important thing is that it is not only Karbi Anglong , another hill district, Dima Hasao, has also been reduced to a mere goose which gives golden egg every day to the mahajans. “The indigenous people of these districts are simple ,most of them are not aware of the government schemes. Their leaders visit them during elections. The industry department use to give training to people every year. But they are not the real beneficeries, and those who received training are the close associates of the executive members,” says DN Hazarika, a retired government official.After having captured the lands through mortgage and lease process the so-called ‘mahajan’ sell the land at a very cheap rate to others.The agricultural land of the district being fertile and produces high quantity of paddy ,sugarcane and turmeric apart from ginger is the reason why others are hankering after their land.
Tou Thang also says, “The kuki people do not have any representation at the council and our community is always targeted by the militants. The clash between the two communities of Karbi Anglong i.e Karbi and Kuki, occurred in the year 1999 only because of ginger cultivation. The militant organizations are engaged in extortion at large scale. Moreover ,the communication system in this area is very poor. So, our people are compelled to sell their produce through middle men.”
The new landowners don’t want the simple villagers to slip from their control. So they are ready to fulfil their agricultural needs at any cost so that they remain engaged in the occupation, cultivating for them and at the same time keeping them in their own grip.
The scenario is not only with agriculture; local handicraft market is also now under the control of these mahajans. Chief Executive Member Tuliram Ronghang says, “The ethnic clashes occured frequently in the district because of the backwardness of the people. Some political leaders use these simple people for their own benefits. Only education can help these common people to develop. So, our council is trying our level best to provide better education to the people. Luckily, the problem of militancy is decreasing. I hope we will be able to concentrate on developmental activities.”