Mizoram literally translates as “Land of the Mizo people. The word “Mizo’ is an umbrella term for a number of tribes and clans, such as Lusei (formerly Lushai), Lai, Mara, Hmar, Paite, etc. Prior to the British rule, the different Mize tribes lived under a number of sovereign chiefdoms. The area was known to the British as the Lushai Hills, and formally became a part of British India in 1895. After India attained Independence, Lushai Hills (later changed to Mizo District) became a District under Assam. In 1972, it became a Union Territory as Mizoram. And finally, after two decades of insurgency, Mizoram became a full- fledged State within the Union of India in 1987.
North East India – Overview
The North East India, comprising of eight States, is an area blessed with abundant potential and opportunities. The region is populated by a number of different communities, with diverse cultures, languages and customs. It is also marked by difficult terrain, backward areas, and limited connectivity. Until recently, this area was known for the active presence of a number of militant groups. However, under the present regime at the Centre, peace has been achieved to a large extent, with notable recent examples being the Nagaland Peace Accord and the Bodo Peace Accord.
The region is connected to mainland India only through a narrow stretch of land (about 22 km wide) in West Bengal called the ‘Siliguri Corridor’, sometimes known as the “Chicken’s Neck”. Except for this narrow Siliguri Corridor, the entire north eastern part of the country is bounded by international borders. The strategic position of the land entails a numbers of advantages as well as challenges. It is against this backdrop that governance must be delivered, for the overall development of the region.
The Department of Development of North Eastern Region (DONER) was established in the year 2001. It became a full-fledged Ministry of the Government of India in 2004. The Ministry of DONER functions as the nodal Department of the Central Government to deal with matters related to the socioeconomic development of the eight States of Northeast India. It handled the Non Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) Scheme, which has been followed by the North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme (NESIDS).
The North Eastern Council (NEC) is a statutory regional planning body for North East India constituted under the North Eastern Council Act 1971. All the Governors and the Chief Ministers of the eight states in the North East are Members of the NEC. The Union Home Minister is the Chairman, and the DONER Minister acts as the Vice-Chairman.
Mizoram – Introduction
Mizoram literally translates as Land of the Mizo people”. The word ‘Mizo’ is an umbrella term for a number of tribes and clans, such as Lusei (formerly Lushai). Lai, Mara, Hmar, Paite, etc. Prior to the British rule, the different Mizo tribes lived under a number of sovereign chiefdoms. The area was known to the British as the Lushai Hills, and formally became a part of British India in 1895. After India attained Independence, Lushai Hills (later changed to Mizo District) became a District under Assam In 1972, it became a Union Territory as Mizoram. And finally, after two decades of insurgency, Mizoram became a full-fledged State within the Union of India in 1987.
Culture & Religion
Before the coming of the British, the tribes were primarily animistic. They practised primitive farming, hunted wild animals, and villages frequently fought with each other Portraying the lifestyle of the times, the folk songs revolved around the three major themes of ‘love’, ‘hunting and ‘warriors’. There was no written script.There were a few tribal dances, such as Cheraw (bamboo dance), Sarlamkan Chheihlam, Khuallam, etc. They observed three festivals called Pany Kut, Chapchar Kut and Mim Kut.
The British annexation followed by the arrival of Christian missionaries, who invented a script and an alphabet for the Mizo language Today, virtually all of the ethnic Mize population have converted to Christianity, making up around 87% of the total population of the State. Almost all facets of their way of life have been Christianized, with the traditions related to the earlier indigenous belief system no longer practised. Around 8% of the population of Mizoram are Buddhists, primarily from the Chakma tribe along the Indo-Bangladesh border.
Mizo Insurgency (1966-1986)
In 1959, the Mizo Hills, which was then a District under the State of Assam, was hit by a famine known locally as ‘Mautam’. This was a phenomenon of bamboo flowering after every 48 years or so, followed by plagues of insects and rats, leading to agricultural famine. Angered and disillusioned by the alleged apathy and negligence of both the Union Government and the Assam Government, the Mizo National Famine Front was formed, spearheaded by Laldenga. In 1961, the Mizo National Famine Front
became a political party called the Mizo National Front (MNF), with Laldenga as its President. On the night of 28 February 1966, the MNF launched an armed uprising against the Union of India, followed by a declaration of independence on 1 March 1966. After being swiftly suppressed by the Indian armed forces, the MNF retreated and continued its operations from East Pakistan and Burma (Myanmar), with training and support from China. The Mizo Insurgency dragged on for two decades, with allegations and counter- allegations of atrocities committed by both sides. Finally, the Mizoram Peace Accord was signed by MNF leader Laldenga, Union Home Secretary R.D. c Pradhan and Mizoram Chief Secretary Lalkhama on 30 June 1986, within the framework of the Indian Constitution. Subsequently, Mizoram became the 23 State of the Union of India on 20 February 1987. The MNF won the election and Laldenga became the first Chief Minister of the State of Mizoram.
Mizoram – Basic Parameters
Mizoram has a geographical area of 21,081 Sq. km. There are 11 Districts, divided into 23 Sub-Divisions. The State is divided into 26 Rural Development (RD) Blocks. There is one Municipal Corporation in the capital city of Aizawl. According to the 2011 Census, there were 830 villages in the State. The total population as per the 2011 Census was 10,97,206 with population density at 52 persons per Sq. Km. Urban population was 52.11%, while 47.89% lived in the rural areas.
Mizoram shares a 318 km – long hard border with Bangladesh on its western side, which is guarded by the Border Security Force (BSF). Fencing is done along the Indo-Bangladesh border. Along the eastern side of the State, the 404 km border with Myanmar is being manned by the Assam Rifles, a paramilitary force. Due to the cultural and ethnic affinity of residents at the border, under normal times. India agrees to a Free Movement Regime (FMR) with Myanmar, allowing residents within 16 km on either side
of the border to travel freely without visa restrictions for 72 hours.
Being sandwiched on either side by Myanmar and Bangladesh, Mizoram has the strategic advantage of acting as a ‘land-bridge’ between the two countries. It has a real potential to become India’s ‘Gateway to South East Asia’ under our Act East Policy.
Minorities and Backward Areas
Under the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India, there are three Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) in Mizoram called the Lai ADC, Mara ADC and Chakma ADC. Lai, Mara and Chakma are the names of the tribes found in majority in each corresponding ADC. While the Lai and Mara are ethnically related to and come under the umbrella Mico term, the Chakma are a tribe distinct from the Mizo in terms of culture, linguistics and religion. The Governor of Mizoram is entrusted with special roles and responsibilities in these areas by the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India, which includes certain discretionary powers.
Economy of Mizoram
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Gross State Domestic Product (SDP) of Mizoram was continuously growing. The GSIP at current prices was estimated at Rs. 26,502 crores in 2019-20, registering an increase of 18.91% over the previous year. The Gross State Value Added (GSVA) at constant (2011-1) prices averaged 12.63% annual growth rate between financial years 2011-12 to 2019-20.
The tertiary or service sector constitutes a share of about 43.28% of the total GSVA. While the industry sector contributes about 10.64%, large factories or industries are more or less absent. While more than half of the population derive the greater part of their income from agriculture, the contribution of agriculture & allied sector to GSVA is only 26.08%.
The Mizoram budget for 2021-22 is Rs. 11,148.89 crores, while the per capita income for the year 2019- 20 is projected at Rs. 2,01,741.
Mizoram is primarily an agrarian State with a large section of the population- especially in the rural parts, engaged in agriculture and allied activities. The projected gross cropped area in 2018-19 was 2,17,000 hectares. The production of important agricultural crops in 2019-20 were: Oilseeds – 8,087 MT: Sugarcane – 46,842 MT; Potato – 534 MT; Maize – 11.668 MT; Paddy – 60,239 MT; Pulses – 5,507 MT.
The Mission Organic Value Chain Development (MOVCD-NER) has been implemented since 2017 in Mizoram for the promotion of organic farming. The Scheme has covered 13,000 hectares, involved 14,104 farmers and initiated the formation of 9 Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) and 5 Farmer Producer Companies (FPCs). It aims to replace traditional subsistence farming with market-oriented farming, following cluster approach for high valued crops such as Turmeric, chillies, ginger and tea.
The Sub Mission on Seeds and Planting Material (SMSP) aims to ensure production of high yielding seeds of all crops. Under the National Food Security Mission – Tree Borne Oilseeds (NFSM- TBO), a total area of 404 hectares pre under Olive plantation. Various programmes have been undertaken in pursuance of the Union Government’s him of Doubling Farmer’s Income by 2022, including introduction of high yielding varieties of crops, intervention by Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) integrated farming system, horti-based farming, etc.
Horticulture is one sustainable land-based activity in Mizoram due to the favourable agro-climatic conditions In 2020, more than Rs. 240.80 lakhs were earned from off-season tomato cultivation, while the production of off-season cabbage fetched around Rs 330.20 lakhs, Cluster expansion of Dragon fruit cultivation has been carried out, generating an income of around Rs. 300 lakhs in 2019-20. The production of Mandarin Orange in 2019-20 was estimated at 53984 Mir valued at around Rs. 16 crores. The Bird’s Eye Chilli from Mizoram has a Geographical Indication (GI) tag.
Socio-Economic Development Policy (SEDP)
The Socio-Economic Development Policy (SEDP) is the flagship policy of the current Ministry in Mizoram. The SEDP is envisaged to bring about sustainable development with both short-term and long- term implications. The Policy has been divided into various components, including political , administrative, economic and social development.
The Administrative policy seeks the extensive use of Information & Communication Technology for effective governance. The core focus points of the Economic policy include self-sufficiency in Agriculture – Horticulture, Bamboo Cultivation, Rubber Plantation, Infrastructure Development & Management, Creation of Trade & Investment Environment, etc. The Social Development policy lays emphasis on Manpower Development, Education, Social Security, etc.
Mizoram – Strengths
Mizoram is the best State in India in terms of forest cover. It has the third highest literacy rate in the country at 91.58%, behind only Kerala and Lakshadweep (2011 Census). It has a high sex ratio of 975 (2011 Census). Potential oil and natural gas reserve has been found in southern Mizoram, close to Arakan in Myanmar. Mizoram has potential of 4500 MW if all the rivers were harnessed. The estimated solar potential of Mizoram, as calculated by the National Institute of Solar Energy (NIES), is approximately
9.09 GWp. It also contributes 14% to the country’s bamboo stock.
There is the presence of a classless society in Mizoram, with a strong sense of community. People are generally good at heart, and are law-abiding citizens. To illustrate the discipline of the residents, the capital city of Aizawl has often been called a ‘honk-free city’, with drivers avoiding unnecessary honking of vehicles. The honesty of the general populace is also on full display with the presence of shops without shopkeepers along the highways, which rely on the principle of trust.
The important role played by the community is evident during the Covid-19 pandemic. The State Government has established numerous Village/ Local Level Task Forces across the State, with active leadership by the local community leaders. Extensive community patrolling at the local levels during lockdowns has been a contributing factor for Mizoram registering comparatively much lesser Covid- related deaths. At the same time, these Local Level Task Forces, in collaboration with the Government and the various religious bodies, are constantly providing financial aid and essential items to the poor and needy families most affected by the lockdowns.
Mizoram – Challenges
Being a landlocked State, connectivity in all its dimensions remains a challenge for Mizoram. The State of Mizoram has only one airport, named Lengpui Airport. It has only one railhead at Bairabi, situated along the border with Assam. Works are currently underway to extend the Bairabi railway line upto Sairang, situated around 20 km from Aizawl.
Mizoram has two National Highways (NH) connecting to Assam, and one NH running into Tripura. The NH connecting to Assam is the lifeline of the State. If this highway gets disrupted for any reason, connectivity with the rest of the country is essentially cut off.
Mizoram is also unfortunately plagued by high incidences of cancer and HIV. Among many reasons, unhealthy lifestyle is a contributing factor. About 67% of the people in Mizoram use tobacco, against the national average of 37%. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the health infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired.
Mizoram – Potential
The State has immense potential in terms of agriculture, horticulture and allied activities. An overwhelming majority of the farmers still practice the ecologically unsustainable shifting cultivation, also called “Jhumming’ or ‘slash and burn’ farming. The agriculture sector is also plagued by problems such as the small size of average land holdings, aged and uneducated farmers, difficult topography, depleting soil health, less farm mechanisation, etc. Modern and scientific farming is the urgent need of the hour. Moreover, since production is mainly for local consumption, a shift towards commercial farming is required. Mizoram also witnesses a fair amount of success on a variety of horticultural products such as tomato, cabbage, dragon fruit, orange, arecanut, chilli, and banana. Profit can be further maximised by value addition through food processing. In all these, infrastructure such as cold storage, agricultural link roads, and easily accessible markets should be priorities.
Tourism, specifically eco-tourism and rural tourism, is another sector with massive potential. The clean environment, fresh air, comfortable climate and lush green cover make the place a potential tourist destination. The exciting terrain offers opportunities for adventure enthusiasts, with possibilities of rural homestay experiences. Health resorts and wellness centres are also viable options. However, for tourism to really take-off, the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system, which restricts the entry of non-tribals into the State, may be a slight inconvenience. As per India Tourism Statistics 2019 by the Ministry of Tourism, Mizoram ranks the lowest in terms of tourist arrival. Therefore, it is imperative that the State improves on this front.
Handloom & Handicrafts is another industry with potential in Mizoram, due to the indigenous textiles culture of the State. It has generated employment to both skilled and unskilled labour. The next logical step is to find markets outside the State for the unique traditional handicrafts and the colourful textiles.
Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project
The Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project (KMMTTP) is a massive connectivity project being undertaken by the Government of India to connect Haldia in West Bengal to Sittwe Port in Myanmar, which will then enter India through the southern part of Mizoram. As already mentioned, the entire northeast is connected to mainland only through the narrow stretch of land called the Siliguri Corridor. This is an undesirable scenario from all angles, including spcurity, conveyance and transportation. The KMMTTP is expected to be a game-changer by providing a valuable alternate source of connectivity, while considerably reducing the long distance currently travelled via the Siliguri Corridor. While work on the Indian side is almost nearing completion, there are a few stumbling blocks on the Myanmar sipie, which have not been helped by the current political turmoil prevailing there.
For a long time, the North East was a neglected and forgotten part of the country. However, upon the initiative of the present Hon’ble Prime Minister, Union Ministers have now been frequently visiting the region at regular intervals. Despite North East India accounting for only 3.76% of the total population of the country (2011 Census), the Union Government assure 10% of its Gross budgetary Support (GBS) to the region. Hon’ble Prime Minister himself has said that the Northeast has the potential to become the growth engine of the country.
In the midst of these expectations and optimism, all the stakeholders have to play their part. It is a fact that the region is riddled with challenges and problems. However, in the words of Albert Einstein, “In the middle of a difficulty lies opportunity.” It is up to the people of the region to grab these opportunities with both hands.
India’s Asset, Threat and Growth Driver
The potential of the northeast to be the energy capital of India with its rich possibilities in solar, water, wind energy generation is hardly tapped so far. The stunning beauty of her locations and flora fauna is not even seen as tourism heaven. However, here is the delicate issue in this problem. What we need today is ‘development through culture’ not development versus culture’.
The eight states of the Northeast form a very integral and inseparable part of India since time immemorial. This area is strategically very crucial for India as well as Asia. The region is surrounded by several other nations Bangladesh, Myanmar, Tibet, China, and so on. It comprises an area of 262,230 square kilometres. Almost 8 per cent of that of Northeast India is a bridge to South East Asia and is
a bridgehead between India and the vibrant economies of Southeast Asia, including southern China. There is a huge economic significance to this area as well as it is endowed with great natural resources (oil, gas, coal, hydro, fertile land, etc) which can be harnessed for national development.
Cultural Links and Rich Treasure
There are innumerable pieces of evidence to show that our brothers and sisters from Northeast India were known and were assimilated in the immense body of Mother India from 10mg century BCE, when Vedas were compiled, till 21st century. Just a few glimpses of such consistent contact and assimilation are cited here. Those whom our recent western and westernised intellectuals termed as Mongoloids were known as Kiratas since then. Yajurveda and Atharva Veda both mention Kiratas. Mahabharata describes Shiva and Uma disguising as Kirata couple to test Arjuna’s penance. (Kirata parva part of the Vanaparva: they were having gold like skin) Bhima during his all- conquering tours of the east met Kiratas in Videha country.
In Sabha Parva, sunrise mountain, Lohitya river and hills surrounding Pragjyotisha are mentioned. In Ramayana (Kishkindhakanda) Kiratas are mentioned: ‘They are rich in gold, gems, an expert in cloth making and they tie their hair in pointed knots. Sri N.N. Vasu in his book Social . history of Kamrupa’ has described their habits: simple life, eating fruits and Herbs, dressed in skins, doing top hair knots, pleasant- looking but terrible with their weapons, – yellow in complexion, adept in the art of weaving, etc. Vishnu Purana mentions Kiratas in the northeast part of India. Greeks in the 1″ century AD had heard about Kiratas, Trade to China was filtered through Kiratas. Observed Kein, a Chinese general and explorer in 2 century AD and then the assimilation of all the races were completed.
A school of Tantra is attributed to Minanatha and belongs to Kamrupa. By the 10″ AD China was possessing one hundred Tantra texts at this time. Sammha tantra speaks of the Tantrika culture of Kira as, Bhotas, Cinas, Mahacinas. But this assimilation was not limited to the realm of mind alone, i.e. in thoughts, imagination and words alone. It got a concrete 4xpression through the efforts of the then Indian rulers who took pride in calling themselves ‘Dharma rakshaka’ (the protector of righteousness i.e.
Dharma) King in India bows down in front of rishi and seeks his guidance in mundane or secular
matters as well. King Bhaskarvarman aka Thagi raja is one of the most notable examples of this trend. Thagi raja was imprisoned by British rulers and there he got inspired by a sanyasi to raise against Britishers. During this Age of creation, many temples were constructed all over Assam and the rest of the area, ruins of which are still surviving in places like Malinithan. It has beautiful images of Parvati,
Indra and Nandi. At Tamreshwari ndar Sunpura, three inscriptions are available which are Shaiva, Shakta and Vaishnava. Kalika purana mentions Vishnu Pitha in this area. Several bairagis are said to have lost their lives while searching for a temple, either due to hlinger or becoming prey to wild animals. An altar of worship called Bura buri is found and is considered as an altar Mahadeva or Adi Buddha. Brahmakunda and Parshuraikunda are places of pilgrimage in Lohit and a Shivling site is discovered
in Paya in Lohit district. Even after thy 12 century when a general decline of creative spirit started one can notice powerful movements of Bhakti sampradaya and this too occurred all over India. “Sages of India have been many for what has this great nation been doing except producing of sages.’ However general mentality of the common man was also suitable for it. Where else was a Kabir, Dadu, a Tukaram accepted so easily observed Swami Vivekananda. These sages travelled from one end of the
vast land to the other and through their exemplary lives, inspired words and melodious devotion took the message of the Vedas and Upanishads to the people of all classes and sects. This was the time when Assam witnessed a great sage, Sankaradeva (1449 to 1669 AD) who relentlessly pursued mission of spreading Vaishnava bhakti.
Like many of the other saints of India, he used the language of common people to express most abstract truths and introduced many concepts like Namghar, kirtana, drama, translation of Bhagavata, etc. He was followed by Madhav deva, Vamsi Gopal deva, Aniruddha deva, Purushottam Thakur, etc. Some of them also adopted some Buddhist Tantrik practices. Gopala deva came to Acamadesh (Assam) from Kalita with his mother. Kalita was on Northeast of Acamadesh and was inhabited by Abors (Adis) and Miris.
Dr Kakati has supported the view that Kalitas were Aryan or Buddhist settlers who were kshatriyas and were having a colony of Vaishnavites in Northeast. Khunbao a leader of Noctes of Tirap district in Arunachal Pradesh became a disciple of Ram Ata of Bali satra he is well known as Sant Narottam. The tale of ever spreading, all-absorbing waves of Bhakti will not be complete without the episode
of Buddhist tides. Buddhists occupy a significant part of Arunachal Pradesh. Monpa, Sherdukpen, in Tawang follow Mahayana Buddhism and Khampti, Sigpho in Dibang district follow Hinayana Buddhism.
Even tribes adjacent to Buddhist also are influenced by them. Buddhists, Shaivartes, Shaktas and Tantrika with Nathas are inseparable as Mina natha is said to be the same as Luipa, who is, in turn, the same as Avalokiteshwara. All over the Buddhist tribes of Arunachal, there are prayers flags, chortens, prayer wheels, stone walls, etc. The same mantra is repeated all over the Himalayan borders, Om Mani Padme Ilum’: hail the jewel in the lotus. This mantra is written in Assamese script which is close to Devanagari and not in Chinese script. Om is considered as the essence of Vedas, Brahman as per Upanishads
and start of many mantras as well as this existence. It is interesting to note that has per Adi lore the world was created from the word ‘Keyum.’ Most probably the grand Lama (The Jewel in the Jotus) was the sage Padmasambhava.
He is considered as an originator of the systems of worshipping which is followed by many even now from Ladakh to Lhasa. In 640 AD Prince Gompa overran upper Burma and western China. He
married a Chinese princess who like his Nepali wife was an ardent Buddhist Both converted him to Buddhism. He sent for Buddhist priests from India and got them to reduce Tibetan language in writing in Indian script and that is still the script of Tibet. The names of almost all the gods and goddesses are Sanskrit: Manjushree, Avalokita, Vajrapala, Vajrasattwa, Amitayu, etc. The name Dorjee means Vajra or thunderbolt and one of the most common names there. An image of Kali is seen in many caves in Tibet, called Lahmo in some places. Most of the prayer flags are having a picture of a goddess on a lion; Vyaghreshwari, Seal of Tashi Lama bears the inscriptioh Mangalam’. Tashi means Mangalam in Tibet. The Mother Goddess is called Tara or Dolma.
Driving India’s Growth Engine
The potential of the northeast to be the energy capital of India with its rich possibilities in solar, water, wind energy generation is hardly tapped so far. The stunning beauty of her locations and flora fauna is not even seen as tourism heaven.
However, here is the delicate issue in this problem. What we need today is ‘Development through culture not development versus culture. Development problem has to be seen in the light of Indian culture and her
inseparable links with local cultures, indigenous faiths, ethnic diversity, biodiversity and such unique but eco- friendly things of this vast and unique area. Cultural and developmental renaissance of the Northeast area will give us an elevation to be once again a dominant soft power in Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia. That is exactly what this area was throughout the historic ages. Development of region with most modern means and yet deeper and strengthened bonds of rich art, craft and culture, restoring lost identity is the mantra for Northeast India. In one of his recent speeches, the Prime Minister said, “The Northeast has the potential to become the growth engine of the country. Day by day my faith is getting deeper because peace is now being established in the entire region. The mantra of peace, progress and prosperity is echoing in the Northeast,” “While blockades in Manipur have become a part of history, Assam has witnessed a phase of violence for decades. In Tripura and Mizoram too, youth have abandoned the path of violence. Now Bru-Reang refugees are moving towards a better lift,” he said.
Almost all eight Northeastern stales are growing in double digits now. From organic food renewable energy.
The latest initiative is a North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme (NESIDS) entirely funded by the central government for infrastructure projects like water supply, power and connectivity. With its heavenly natural beauty, scenic and stunning locations and unique flora, fauna, archaeological sites, loving people and pleasant climate, Northeast has great tourism potential and so it is specially been promoted in recent times and aided now by much-improved infrastructure. More attention is also given now to primary and secondary education and health. Around 22 projects worth approximately 885 crore rupees were recently earmarked for all this and by now the number must have gone up. For a long time lack of industrialization has been a big setback for this region, insurgency, lack of initiatives and difficult terrain were reasons. But now NESID is promoting a lot of industrialisation in the region, in the manufacturing and service sectors. The Northeastern Development Finance Corporation Opportunity Scheme for Small Enterprises (NOSSE) is specially formed to help first-generation entrepreneurs. The Act East Policy emphasized the development of the infrastructure of the region by building roads and highways, expansion of air connectivity, an extension of railway networks, the opening of trade routes, as well as creation of infrastructural conditions for border trade. Nine cities from across the Northeast region are declared as ‘Smart Cities – Agartala, Guwahati, Imphal, Kohima, Namchi, Gangtok, Pasighat, Itanagar and Aizawl. A fund of Rs. 14,124 crore for 464 projects has been sanctioned in the first phase. There has been a clear emphasis on skill development initiatives amongst the youth in the region and about 93 training centres and 69 skill partners are working in the Northeast region. Among them, Assam – leads with 48 training centres with 39 skill partners, Manipur one training centre with one skill partner, Mizoram six training centres with one skill partner, Meghalaya 10 training centres with eight skill partners, Nagaland eight training centres with five skill partners, Tripura 16 training centres with 12 skill partners, and Sikkim four training centres with three skill partners as per a recent study done.
However, looking at the area, population and its potential, and also the possible misuse of that by breaking India forces, all these efforts while being very praiseworthy may need even more impetus and innovation in coming time. Development also needs a careful balance with environmental and cultural heritage preservation. The blunders done in other parts of so-called civilised India and the world which led to eco disastrous and culturally uprooting modernisation and development should not be replicated in the Northeast. Development through culture is the mantra for the Northeast and that will surely make us winners in our Look East and Act East vision.
Agriculture and Sustainable Development
The North-Eastern Region (NER) has several unique and unparalleled features; fertile land, abundant water resources, evergreen dense forests, high and dependable rainfall, mega biodiversity, flora and fauna and a mixture of socio-economic, political, ethnic and cultural diversity. The congenial temperate climate is favourable to agriculture, which is the major occupation of the people of the region.
The NER comprising of eight states viz., Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim has a total geographical area of 262230 sq. km which is nearly 9.12% of the total area of the country with more than 46 million population. About 35% area in the region is plain except Assam where plains account for 84.44% of its total geographical area. Net sown area is highest in Assam (34.12%), followed by Tripura (23.48%). Arunachal Pradesh has lowest net sown area in the region. Cropping intensity is highest in Tripura (156.5%), followed by Manipur (152.1%), Mizoram (136.36%), and Assam (123.59%).About 1.6 million hectare area is under shifting cultivation in North East region. Out of 4.0 million hectare net sown area of the region, roughly 1.3 million hectare suffers from serious soil erosion problem. The region receives an annual rainfall of 2000 mm accounting for around 10% of the country’s total precipitation. The soil of the region is acidic to strongly acidic in reaction. The soils are however rich in organic matter.
Rural population in the region is around 80%. In the absence of major industries except in the state of Assam, the society is agrarian and depends on agriculture and allied sector for livelihood and other support. Around 56% of the area is under low altitude 33% mid altitude and the rest under high altitude. Agricultural production system is by and large of CDR type. The system is characterised by low cropping intensity (114%) subsistence level and mono-cropping. Average landholding is 1.69 ha compared to national average of 1.15 ha. Although the landholding appears to be higher, the entire holding cannot be used for agricultural purposes due to topographical disadvantages. Land use pattern is relatively faulty for which annual loss of top soil is much higher (46 tonnes/ha) than all India average of 16 tonnes/ha. Similarly, due to lack of proper water harvesting measures, only 0.88 mhm out of 42.5 mhm water is used. There is no reliable assessment of total irrigated area. Record gathered from different sources indicates that around 20.74% area is irrigated. Fertilizer consumption in the region is also very low and stands at around 11kg/ha ranging from as low as 2.7kg/ha in Arunachal Pradesh to a high of around 72kg/ha in Manipur. Farming is predominantly rice based with little exception in the state of Sikkim where Maize is a dominating crop. Mixed farming system is the order as most of the farmers want to produce their household food and nutritional need without having to depend on outside sources. The system therefore, supports horticulture and animal husbandry partly due to preference for non-vegetarian food. With these production practices, the region produces 8.2 million tonnes of total food grain against a requirement of around 8.5 million tonnes. The deficiency is therefore, around 0.3 million tonnes of food grain.
Similarly, in spite of a desired aptitude towards animal husbandry practices. per capita availability of milk, meat, egg and fish per annum is only 31.39 litres, 9.36 kg. 33.50 numbers and 4.12 kg respectively. Agriculture and allied activities are the main source of livelihood for the people of North East region and any attempt to reduce poverty as well as to place the region in developmental paradigm shall have to base on system wise eco-regional planning of agriculture development While planning this, the strength of farming system approach to judicious utilisation and conservation of natural resources of the region with concurrent policy and research back up to increase production value addition to the produce and their disposal, sale management shall be of paramount importance.
Transformation of the Region
The ongoing economic reform process has thrown up several opportunities as well as challenges But, in order to capture the advantages of the untapped potential the states need to reorient their development strategy within the overall macro economic framework. This is essential to achieve the broader developmental goals because the stronger states make a stronger region. Unfortunately most of the states in the north-east region lag behind under the garb of economic constraint and infrastructure hiccups.
In recent years, the central and state governments have undertaken several initiatives to stimulate regional economy and promote agricultural growth. Low productivity and risky agricultural production environment are the primary causes of already deteriorated rural livelihood. Ironically, this has happened despite the existence of a large number of production possibilities of a wide range of fruit and vegetables, flowers and herbs, spices and plantation crops (i.e. tea, coffee, rubber) in the region, much of these could be processed and gainfully traded in the rest of the country and worldwide.
The smaller size of total cultivable area prohibits horizontal expansion of agricultural production practices. It is found that the percentage of net sown area (percent of geographical area) is as small as 2 per cent in Arunachal Pradesh and less than one-tenth of total area in Mizoram and Manipur while in Nagaland and Meghalaya it is 13 per cent each. At the regional level,Assam occupies the highest share accounting for 78 per cent of the total cultivable area. Among the crops, the cereals occupy, on an average 74 percent of the gross cropped area.
But the existing rice based production system failed to provide adequate household income support. On the whole, agriculture in the NER is characterised by:
- The NER is extremely diverse: uneven land, high and variable rainfall pattern and ethnicity.
- Rice dominates agriculture, but the productivity is low and production risky
- Further expansion of cultivable land is constrained by geo-physical limitation. The percentage of cultivated area is around a tenth of total geographical area in 5 out of 7 states.
- Various combinations of crop- livestock-fish-silk are followed in the region but such diversification contributed negligibly.
- Preponderance of small and marginal (S&M) farmers is an important feature of the region. As against the proportion of S&M farmers of 59 percent at all India the same varies from 65 per cent in Arunachal Pradesh to 84 percent in Manipur and Nagaland.
- On account of complete dependence on agriculture, its vulnerability to natural calamities such as floods, submergence as well as droughts has deteriorated the rural life and rural poverty has become rampant.
Self Sufficiency in Rice & Food Grain Production
Deficit in food grains especially rice in the NER is increasing over the years with the increasing population. Some of the important reasons for the deficit in rice production are use of low productive local cultivars, low seed and variety replacement rates, inadequate irrigation facilities, use of outdated techniques, low fertilizer use efficiency and lack of adoption of modern techniques.
The approaches and strategies to increase rice production are given below:
- Increasing seed replacement rate
- Enhancing varietal replacement rate
- Increasing cropping intensity through assured irrigation.
- Expansion of effective irrigation facilities
- Adoption of more intensive cultivation practices (SRI/ICM/ Line planting etc.).
- Maintaining soil health and providing judicious soil nutrients.
- Revisiting the extension mechanism.
- Facilitation of credit, finance and crop insurance
- Marketing and creation of rural storage infrastructure, and
- Farm mechanisation
Horticulture and Livestock Sectors in NER
Organised cultivation of crops like Kiwi, Passion fruit, off-season vegetables, Anthurium, cut flowers (rose), Patchouli, Geranium etc. has started in recent years. White food grains are grown in the valleys (plain and gentle slopes), horticulture crops are cultivated on higher hill slopes. It has been estimated that the annual compound growth rates of fruits and vegetables in the region are 11.20 percent and 14.81 per cent respectively.
According to 194 Livestock 2012, there are 132.90 lakh cattle in NER. Among the eight states in
the region, Assam being the largest state has maximum (77.56%) of total cattle, followed by Tripura (7.14%) and Meghalaya (6.74%). Maximum of the cattle population is local cows, crossbred (CB) being only 7% which is much lower than the national average of 21%. The proportion of crossbred cattle to total cattle population is very high in Sikkim (90%), Mizoram (33%) and Nagaland (55%) which is
higher than the national average.
The meat production in recognised sector has gone up by 38% in NE Region between the periods of 1999-2000 to 2012-2013 which is higher than the increase in the national level of 29%. All the states except Arunachal Pradesh have witnessed an increase in meat production. Among the eight states, the increase in meat production is significantly higher in Nagaland and Meghalaya which may be due to their large livestock base and people’s preference for meat.
Milk production has increased from 1021 thousand tonnes in 1999- 2000 to 1236 thousand tonnes in
2012-2013 which is an increase of 17% but during the same period milk production of India has increased by 41%. Milk production has increased in all NE states except Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram from 1999-2000 to 2012- 2013. It is interesting to note that Assam which has the largest cattle production
in the region has slow growth in milk production which may be because it has maximum of indigenous breed in total cattle population. The total milk production of the region is only 10.93% of total milk production of the country during 2012-2013 and per capita availability of milk in the region was only 86 gm/day which was only 29% of the national average of 299 gm/day and much lower than the ICMR recommendation level of milk consumption of 220gm/day for a person. The per capita availability of milk has declined during the same period while national average has improved by 27%. Arunachal Pradesh,
Manipur and Mizoram witnessed decline in per capita availability of milk while it has increase more HRSC states. The reason being lower average productivity of crossbred cattle in NE Region which is 6.26 litres per day as compared to the national average of 7.02 litres per day. Productivity of milk in case of buffaloes shows that the buffaloes in the region are very low yielder compared to other parts of India.
Despite the abundant natural resources, congenial climate and rich human capital, the NER has failed to reap the benefits of huge opportunities for societal welfare. In effect, the agricultural economies are falling back into the vicious cycle of low productivity, unemployment, low income and poverty and continue to limp, and this has increased the social threat perceptions. Therefore, a synergy is needed among the inter-disciplinary research community, policy planners and implementers, along with civil society to deal with the multifaceted situation. It is felt that the region needs appropriate policy and investment to boost the development process.
- The NER is the symbol of a typical rain-fed production system, which adversely affected the regional economy. In a situation of extreme diversities regionally differentiated strategies for development of agriculture and allied sectors are required. It has been observed that on account of geo-physical limitation hindering expansion of cultivable area in many States, the vertical intensification of farming system is relevant. In the rice dominated areas, improved rice plus strategy (rather than rice alone), is suggested. The flood escaping production system is required, in flood prone areas, where Boro rice is a promising crop enterprise. High value crops (such as Kala joha, Pachauli, Passion-fruits, etc.), numerous aromatic and medicinal plants can be practiced with low- cost and resource conserving practices (Zero-tillage, System of Rice Intensification, etc.), to meet the growing domestic as well as international demand. In areas where crop production is restricted by smaller size of cultivable area, but there is ample scope for allied activities, another strategy like agricultural plus is required. That is, crop production should coexist with livestock, plantation, floriculture, medicinal crops and sericulture systems. The hilly terrains suit crop diversification with high value horticulture crops accompanied by livestock and sericulture. The shifting cultivation, which has been an age-old method of cultivation practiced in such areas, requires an innovative strategy for improving productivity of rice and other crops, flowers like orchids and livestock.
- Rather than neglecting, the existing low input agriculture should be converted to opportunity as it is environmentally benign. Given the required interventions, market for organic product may be explored.
- Agro-processing sector hitherto is a neglected area but it has high potential to add value and reduce post-harvest losses. By encouraging fresh initiatives in agro-processing, packaging and exploring of newer marketing avenues, the region can take advantages of high potential cross- border trade with surrounding countries.
- The innovation on energising and sensitising the rural institutions is yet another new thrust. Capacity building through wide scale knowledge initiatives, contract farming, reviving/revitalising the village institutions such as Field Management Committees and traditional village panchayats/ councils is important. These institutions being the valuable social capital have the potential to become agents for knowledge dissemination and improving rural leadership. This is relevant as the financial institutions such as NABARD, NEDFI, SIDBI, IDBI, etc., may use community- based institutional collaterals for reflective credit delivery.
- Research and Development strategies: Continuous R&D support system for generating small and marginal farmers friendly new agricultural technology should be given. Therefore, there is a need for boosting R&D investment in agriculture, which already is a low key area in the region.
- Regional Database: Database is a serious constraint to effective policy is in the agricultural economy in the region. Therefore, agricultural database must be streamlined properly on a priority basis by taking the help of electronic revolution. Basic tool of e-governance is necessary in this regard.
Long-term Peace & Development
When NagaEd, an education technology start-up from Nagaland, was selected to join the incubation programme at Alsisar Impact, a Mumbai-based social impact incubator, it became front page news in a Naga newspaper. According to the Dimapur based NagaEd founders Kevisato Sanyü and Shiroi Lily Shaiza, they set up NagaEd after seeing their family members struggle to access quality learning resources during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Founded by Kevisato Sanyü and Shifoi Shaiza during Covid-induced school shutdown, NagaEd is providing learning and teaching solutions for students, teachers and institutions seeking a digitally- enabled educational experience. From the story of NagaEd jump to Wander Nagaland – the first travel social enterprise in Nagaland, which was launched on November 4, 2019, and is continuing in its endeavour to create livelihood opportunities for everyday Nagas through tourism.
According to the founder of Wander Nagaland, “the tourism industry is budding and still very new. And we don’t know how to articulate our value and we have not been able to explain to travellers what we have to offer.”
From Mishimi hills of Arunachal Pradesh to the Mizo hills, not to mention of Imphal Valley and broad plains of the two valleys of Assam, the young, educated and confidant entrepreneurs are coming up slowly changing the landscape of Assam.
Pushing the boundaries of the conventional enterprises, they are venturing into the world which is considered unthinkable even a decade ago. The primary reason is the long term peace.
Take the case of the Vantage Circle of Assam. In 2010, while discussing startup ideas, friends Anjan Pathak and Partha Neog stumbled upon the concept of employee engagement programmes.
Partha, who had a decade-long experience in various tech companies, observed the impact the other brands had due to the spending nature of corporate. The duo thus decided to start Vantage Circle in 2011 with a seed capital of Rs 30 lakh. It started as a deals and discounts program for employees.
Today Vantage Circle is a cloud based comprehensive employee benefit and engagement platform, providing benefit package to corporate employees through corporate offers, rewards, and engagement programs.
Last year, Vantage Circle was awarded a large contract for the Employee Rewards and Recognition platform by one of the larges enterprises in the US. Through this, Vantage Circle’s platform will provide over 90,000 employees o the clients based in the US and India an easy way to redeem their rewards! This forced Guwahati based Vantage Circle to open an office in New York also.
There are many more examples and the North East is changing as this new breed is going into unchartered territory as the region provides more opportunities than challenges.
In the past decade, there has been long term peace all over the region and that is why the ideas are flourishing and that is the reason a venture capitalist could dream of funding something in Nagaland or Assam.
That is the reason Naga youth, after pursuing higher education abroad returned to their home state to open up new vistas.
There are sporadic incidents, slow pace in achieving a Naga solution, but the peace has taken an irreversible stand and today in front of the mighty desire of peace for all the people of the region has forced even the toughest of hard nuts in the militant camp to think otherwise.
The emerging challenge is to invent new ways of ensuring the participation of states in the formulation of national policies and motivating them for effective implementation in key development areas.
Departure from the past the Prime Minister has stressed the need to leverage cooperative and competitive federalism to achieve all-round growth and move away from “one size fits all” approach towards respecting the heterogeneity of different states and addressing their local requirements.
The basic idea behind the turn of cooperative federalism is the sharing of powers and responsibilities between the three levels of government which involves participative policymaking. This further involves empowering the interested council created under Article 263 and mandated to deal with coordination between states and initialising the structural changes in the same light.
With the implementation of the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission, states are now entitled to a 10 per cent increase in the overall devolution of funds- an enhanced fiscal autonomy. This marks the beginning of the structural change in the distribution of resources and responsibilities between centre and states.
States are now entrusted with the responsibility of designing and implementing development schemes as per their priorities and needs.
To be socially and economically sustainable, India’s growth has to be inclusive. However, the country’s North East has been experiencing a comparatively slower pace of industrialisation and socio-economic growth. Though the region is blessed with abundant natural resources for industrial and social development, they haven’t been utilised to their full potential.
The region has certain distinct disadvantages. It is topographically located with access to the traditional domestic market of eastern India along with proximity to the major states in the East and adjacent countries such as Bangladesh and Myanmar. The region is also a vantage entry point to southeastern Asian markets.
But that is fast changing, thanks to the big-ticket infrastructures in the surface transport. The two single biggest fast-moving projects is the 1500 kilometer long Trans Arunachal Highway from Sessa north of Tezpur to Naharkatiya near Nagaland through Arunachal Pradesh. The project is worth $1.4 Billion.
The other one is the Jirbam-Imphal railway line, opening up Manipur to the railway network of India. Government of India has a budget of Rs. 13,809 crore for this project.
Moreover no less than five major bridges over Brahmaputra, along with the world’s longest bridge at Dhubri-Phulbari are in the various stages of construction which are going to unlock the North East India completely.
The resource rich North East with its expanses of fertile farmland andi huge talent pool could turn into one of India’s most prosperous regions.
North-East Implementation Agency
Many well-intended plans and strategies have been made for the region and as a result, we see substantial progress in many areas of the region. If the full measure of success was not achieved, it is because implementing agencies were not in sync with the plans. It is therefore of pertinent importance that we develop a plan to strengthen the implementation capacity.
This can best be achieved by setting up a North-East Regional Project Implementing Authority, which will not only handle the funding of the projects but also put together a team for hands-on monitoring of each project, coordinating with state governments and all other relevant agencies, which will implement and monitor each Vertical with select private sector partners.
The North-East region has great potential to develop not just as a self- sustaining economic unit of India but also contribute to the success story of the country, which is reflection by the Prime Minister’s focus on this region.
The stretch boasts fertile land and water resources, an ideal habitat for horticulture, and a rich cultural and natural heritage that could be explored further for development.
The emphasis on the comparative advantages which lie in horticulture handlooms and handicrafts, rural industries should not distract one from the need to boost manufacturing and create urban jobs.
In fact, ‘Make in the North-East’- The North-East’s trade with South-East Asia needs further development. Raw materials form a major part of its trade with Myanmar and Bangladesh. Meghalaya, for example, Exports stone boulders, limestone and horticulture products to Bangladesh.
These are processed and re-imported to India as stone chips and cement. There still exists scope for value addition and cross-border collaboration. There is potential for horticulture to progress as the region produces quality turmeric and ginger, exotic fruits like kivi and passion fruit, that grow easily.
But this segment is languishing because marketing arrangements are inadequate. The absence of efficient cold storage chains exposes cultivators to market fluctuations.
Tourism, too, has not made much headway due to poor infrastructure development. There are uncoordinated and fragmented efforts by individual states. The long tourism journey can start with simple, doable steps such as: creating a North- East platform for coordinated action, developing destinations, creating tourism zones, involving local people and the private sector.
Each ministry of the Union Government is required to spend at least 10 per cent of its budget in the North-East.
But so far, the pool of unspent funds has been accumulating primarily because of the lack of capacity to formulate fundable proposals.
Therefore any development strategy for the North-East should start with an incisive inquiry into why the region could not spend the earmarked some expertise from various institutions to prepare an array of doable projects.
Today the North East is insurgency free. Occasional incidents are too – insignificant in front of the greater picture. Sooner or later the last remaining accord- the Naga Accord- will be signed. Only on February 18, 2021 the Nagaland Legislative Assembly adopted four-point resolution on decades old Naga
political struggle with the 60-member a House resolving to work unitedly in facilitating ongoing negotiations for a final solution between the Centre and Naga political groups.
The union government has been holding two separate parleys with the Naga negotiators NSCN(IM) since 1997 and Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) comprising of seven groups since 2017.
To harness the full potential of these sectors, significant investments will be required in upgrading the region’s infrastructure, education and skill development. All this has to be done, keeping in mind the need for preserving the rich biodiversity of the region. In the end, development comes down to implementation.
The newly introduced initiatives of the ministry for development of the north-eastern region could energise the process. Much depends on the proactive role of the states.
- Several tourism attractions such as Blue Mountain (Phawngpui – Mizoram), Palak Lake (Mizoram), Kangla Fort (Manipur), Majuli (river island in Assam).
- Presence of an ethnic, tribal culture each with unique customs and traditions.
- Numerous tea estates
- The north-eastern region has a very well-performing gender development index.
- Rich bamboo reserves
- Handloom and weaving is a skill acquired by the local community
- The abundance of natural resources like limestone as well as water for hydropower potential.
- Ideal climate conditions
- Safe and clean, pollution-free environment.
- Lack of proper connectivity. A large part of the region comprises a hilly terrain which makes the states dependent on the road network which is not particularly good. Also, a lesser number of airports
- Limited tourism infrastructure facilities. Fewer accommodation facilities which are insufficient to cope up with the demand and are of poor quality
- Scarcity of skilled and unskilled labour
- Floods and landslides in monsoons make places inaccessible
- Laws in the state like land acquisition and transfer need to align with a vision for Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and make the environment conducive for investments.
- Projects delayed in implementation causing development lags
- Landlocked states
- Development of the handicraft industry
- Flood management system to improve accessibility to certain parts of the states during monsoons, which can be developed as tourist spots
- Linkages to existing tourism circuits and further circuit development
- Fostering coordination with other states on developing tourism
- Trade can drastically be improved by improving infrastructural facilities and accessibility.
- Overuse and commercialisation of eco-sensitive zones could lead to depletion of resources and weakening of attraction
- Regional connectivity concerns
- Land banks and land availability if not addressed will limit private sector investments
- Migration of local people to urban areas for employment prospects.
Several initiatives have been taken in the last year and progress has been made. For example, the government has announced plans of investing Rs. 92,000 crore for development of roads and railways.
Under the “Special Accelerated Road Development Programme in North-East (SARDP-NE), the Trans- Arunachal highway is being developed. Under the BBIN initiative, a sub-regional Motor Vehicle Agreement that allows buses and lhter private vehicles with a Bhutan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal (BBIN) permit to travel unobstructed through borders between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal. Similarly, bus services with Bangladesh have improved.
With little bit of more enterprising zeal, support from local and central government and most importantly long term peace will propel the future of the North East in years to come.
Translation: Window to the world
Translations open windows to worlds that otherwise will always remain closed off. They offer opportunities to build bridges of understanding between cultures and between peoples. This is vital in a country like India where multiple cultures exist cheek by jowl. In popular mainstream imagination, Northeast India is a monolith. Yet within this contiguous territory live multiple sub-nationalities. Historically, the peoples of the Northeast have a grouse that “mainland’ India does not understand them. One way to alleviate that is by translating more and more from the languages of the Northeast, especially those which do not have much representation-Nepali, Bodo, Kuki, Mizo, Kokborok, and Meitei, among others. Similarly, more and more content from other languages must travel into these.
On the highways from the plains to any of India’s many hill states, one faces a common traffic obstruction. Slow-moving trucks carrying sand from the riverbeds in the valleys to construction sites which mushroom the hillsides. As the trucks crawl uphill, some of the sand is blown away by the wind, or falls by the wayside when tyres negotiate potholes, or is washed away in a steady drip if the sand was loaded into the truck still soaking wet. Sand transforms from dust to dwelling, but not all the sand that set off from the riverbed becomes concrete.
Translation is much like that. Text transmutes from one language, one form, to another It traverses cultures. But it is impossible for the reader to ever know exactly how much of the author’s meaning, suggestion, intention, was blown away or leached by the process itself.
Our languages spring from numerous sources. From culture, history, religion, belief, geography, topography, among others. And when I translate from Hindi and Nepali into English–the three languages I know reasonably well-I feel the loss keenly. As the facilitator of this transmutation, I know exactly how much sand blew away.
We cut into our hillsides to make what look like steps or stars. Terrace farming, or step cultivation, it is called. I’ve always imagined the person who gave it this name looked from a distance and named it thus. p close, these are life-sustaining fields where we grow rice, maize, pulses, vegetables, flowers etcetera. In Nepali, there is a name for each step, garaa.
The outer lip of the step is called kanlaa. And the inner end of the step is the bhitta, the wall which forms the base of the kanlaa of the next step. Rice cultivation requires a lot of flowing water and every few years, the inner end of the step has to be cut deeper into the hillside. The process is called bhittachhilnu, quite literally shaving away the hillside to compensate for erosion and make more room for planting. The irrigation channels which run down the hillsides, bringing water from rivulets to the roots of plants, are called kulo. With little or no resonance in English, explaining these terms, pithy in themselves, bloats the text unmercifully without precisely conveying meaning.
Rural families in the hills are mostly large. Lack of literacy is a reason. So is simple economic logic. More children mean more hands to till the land. Though now, as focus shifts from agriculture to more lucrative means of livelihoods, that is changing, Usually, a generic calling name is used in households for each child. So, in the order of birth, Jetha, Maila, Sainla, Kainla, and Kanchcha for sons. And for daughters, Jethi, Maili, Sainli, Kainli, and Kanchchi. There are also names for those with more than five sons and five daughters. As people grow up, these generic names stick, and they are known in their communities after the family or clan name and the order of their birth. Indeed, it isn’t uncommon for someone’s first name to never be known till the day of her death. So, if a man is called ‘Basnet Jetha’, a
literal translation would be First-Born Son Basnet or Basnet the First-Born Son, or even First Brother Basnet, none of which sounds anything but ridiculous. So, Basnet Jetha the character remains. Yet, to the reader in English, the name will never convey the sense of a society in which the individual is so subsumed within familial and societal structures, or is so ignored by harried parents who must rear many offsprings, that he doesn’t even have the simple luxury of a first name. The name Tedhe Thami can be rendered as Cross-eyed Thami but the layers of casual, half affectionate contempt implied in using his physical deformity to address a human being are mostly leached away. A similar problem arises with a character called “Bastay, itself a contraction of ‘Basattay or one who was born in the year 1962. As translator, I have no choice but to retain ‘Bastay’. But the rich subtext of a society in which a couple has so many children that they can identify them only by the year of their birth is completely lost.
An acceptable strategy to deal with these problems is to allow the context to reveal the meaning. Yet context is fickle. When choosing a language to write in, every author makes natural assumptions about her readers. What they know, what they understand, and how well they will grasp text, subtext and meaning. So, what is perfectly clear to a particular audience can be impenetrable to another. There are, of course, also the shared experiences and culture between author and reader. These mutually shared experiences create deep pockets of meaning that are conveyed through what remains un said. The translator, however skilled, is dependent entirely on the author for context.
Footnotes are a usual strategy to provide a context in non-fiction. In fiction, footnotes are as enjoyable as biting into a mouthful of warm fluffy rice, only to find a pebble in the centre. Yet, at times, they are unavoidable.
The word syarp, immediately recognisable to each citizen of Darjeeling is gibberish to anyone from outside the district. One must take recourse to a footnote to explain that it is the local lingo for CRPF, the Central Reserve Police Force. Or take the translation of a threat which the thugs of Darjeeling are fond of issuing. Pay up,’ they might say, br I will reduce you by six inches! Here, a footnote is needed to prevent misinterpretation. To reduce by six inches’ is the colloquial expression for a beheading.
These are some of the problems I encounter every time I sit down to translate. I imagine it must be so for all translators. And we all find strategies to deal with them.
The book publishing industry in India, especially trade publishing, is opaque. For first-time authors and translators, the industry can seem like a temple whose doors are always shut. Its priests are mysterious and invisible. So are its gatekeepers. The sub-industry of book agenting, robust in the west, is miniscule in India. And while publishing houses invite submissions through their websites, sending one’s work to them can feel like tossing the manuscript into a swift river. This isn’t entirely their fault either. Most publishing companies in India are short-staffed, especially in the editorial departments. Pandemic- related layoff’s haven’t helped either. This is true even of the largest ponds. But knowing this doesn’t help any new author or translator one bit.
Publishing is a business, like any other. The pressures of the bottom-line mean that the appetite for risk, already not very high, is enormously reduced. Publishers look constantly for the next best thing. The big seller which will take the year from red to black. And more often than not, the next big things are celebrity autobiographies, both current and past. For they come pre-loaded with two precious attributes: a fanbase and ready recall. Or, in an aspirational country like ours, books that teach us how to
be leaner, fatter, smarter, faster, stronger, calmer, more spiritual, or to reach the top before anyone else occupy pride of place. And if such a book were to be written by a photogenic author, so much the better. It is a cacophonous market, in which a high profile and booming voice are virtues, Fiction, especially of the literary kind, is difficult to get noticed. Translations, for some reason, have the aura of being literary. Hence, they are at a double disadvantage.
This is not to say that translations are not published. They are big publishers maintain robust translation lists. Yet the space is shrinking. The pandemic, too, hasn’t helped. A shrinking market is faced with a crisis of existential proportions.
The other question is that of the f economics of book publishing. Unlike
as their Western counterparts, Indian publishers rarely pay the translator a one-time fee for their work. In most cases, the royalty system works in translations like it does in any other kind of books. Under the royalty system, a percentage of the cover price ranging between 8 per cent to 10 per cent, depending on whether the book is published as paperback or hardback-is paid to the author. Print runs generally remain low, between 1.500 to 3,000 copies. And prices too. Look up Amazon, rarely will you find books priced beyond 899 rupees-unless it is an academic title. Back-of-the envelope calculations will tell you how much an author makes on her book. Paltry sums. Unless of course her books become bestsellers. In case of translations, the royalty is shared between author and translator, which makes the pickings even slimmer.
So why translate?
In the face of such doom and gloom, this question takes on a special significance.
I like to think of translation as the ultimate reader’s recommendation. Reading is a solitary activity but once we finish a book, the first impulse, if we have liked it, is to recommend it to a friend. Translation is just that. It is one way of saying to the world, ‘Here, I found this book in a language I know. May you enjoy it as much as I did.
A solitary exercise, translation is also intensely satisfying. When I manage to come closest to the author’s intention, rhythm and inflection, I feel what I imagine a mathematician must feel when she works out a complex problem.
We must also translate because simply, we must. Translations open windows to worlds that otherwise
will always remain closed off. They offer opportunities to build bridges of understanding between cultures and between peoples. This is vital in a country like India where multiple cultures exist cheek by jowl.
In popular mainstream imagination, Northeast India is a monolith. Yet within this contiguous territory live multiple sub-nationalities. Historically, the peoples of the Northeast have a grouse that “mainland India does not understand them. One way to alleviate that is by translating more and more from the languages of the Northeast, especially those which do not have much representation Nepali, Bodo, Kuki, Mizo, Kokborok, and Meitei, among others. Similarly, more and more content from other languages must travel into these.
So what is the way forward? I do not think simply depending on the publishing marketplace to grow the translation ecosystem is a workable plan. More and more institutions must become involved. Language departments in universities, both public and private, must have adjunct translation departments which work actively to identify texts. Alongside, training students is crucial. It is important, also, to use the digital space more effectively. Online portals offer an effective platform to showcase translations. www.rekhta.org ably demonstrates this for Urdu writing. Literary Hub, a daily literary website launched in 2015 by Morgan Entrekin, president and publisher of Grove Atlantic, is also an excellent model. More crucially, translated works must be introduced in school and college curricula more extensively.
The Murty Classical Library of India does yeoman’s work in commissioning and publishing great works of translation. Perhaps more such corporate entities can be persuaded to fund works, not as an investment, but as grants. I firmly believe that if translators were to be reasonably well-paill for their efforts, we will see much more, and much better-quality works being transmuted from other languages.
Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Letters, has over the years, encouraged extensive translation works from Indian languages into English as well as between various Indian languages. The Sahitya Akademi Award, given in 24 languages, is still one of the country’s most prestigious literary awards. It has an India-wide network and a history going back to 1954. The Akademi is prolific too. Its website states that it publishes ‘one book every 19 hours. Yet these books don’t make their presence felt in the market. An agency with such a network and backing can certainly do more to package and marketits books effectively. Another means to promote translations and translators is to institute an annual grant in the different languages of India, which can take care of the financial uncertainty that embarking on a large project entails.
Most of all, what we must do is be curious. About our world, our neighbours, the fellow-citizens we share our country with. Over the years, we have made much of the idea that India is a melting pot of languages, cultures and people we cannot truly become one if we remain uninterested in looking through the windows that translations provide.
Seven Sisters’ Musicscape
A melting pot of hundreds of ethnic communities, the cultural mosaic of Northeast India’s Seven Sister states – Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura- is cemented by tunes, melodies, rhythms, and lyrics of various genres and flavors. Music and rhythms are part of agrarian tribal life in the region geographically characterised by blue hills and green river valleys.
The unique styles of folk, classical, rock, and contemporary music of the Northeast make it a significant entity in the country’s musical ecosystem.
Being the most populous state of the region, Assam dominates the music scenario in the region because of its rich history, an amalgamation of one thousand years old folk music tradition, about five hundred years old tradition of written dram songs, nearly three hundred years old tradition of Indian classical music.
The origin of modern music in Assam dates back to 1883 when Satyanath Bora published Geetabali, the first book on Assamese songs. During the early part of the Twentieth century Ambikagiri Rai Choudhury (born in 1885), ushered in a revolutionary trend in modern music in the state with his compositions seeped in strong national fervor. Giants like Jyotiprasad Agarwala (1903-1951), Parvati Prasad Baruah (1904-1964), and Bishnu Prasad Rabha (1909-1969) set their unique gharana of modern music in the Brahmaputra valley region of Assam. Jyotiprasad laid the base of the modern music and film sector as an industry in the region in this era only.
The most glorious chapter of the music industry in Assam started with the entry of quintessential Dr Bhupen Hazarika (in 1939) who dominated the scene till the 1980s and his songs continue to reverberate across the hills and valleys of Assam winning hearts across all communities. With a new style both in terms of composition and tune of songs of nationalism and modern music with the flavours of the West, Dr Hazarika ensured modern songs in Assam transcended its geographical boundary and were recognized in other regions of India and abroad as well. Dr Hazarika’s works expanded the scope of movie songs as well as radio songs in terms of the music-based industay in Assam. His younger brother and contemporary Jayanta Hazarika was one of the pioneers who truly westernised the music of Assam during the 1970s. The influence of western music on Assamese tunes, the inclusion of western instruments like guitar, mandolin, triple, African drups, were significant in the music of Assam during this era.
Other musical legends during this phase were Khagen Mahanta, Brazen Baruah, Dipali Borthakur, Hemanta Dutta, Jyotish Bhatacharya, Pulok Banerjee, Kula Barua, Jitu-Tapan, and many more.
Towards the latter part of the Twentieth century, a new and fresh trend started in the music scenario that brought modern hi-technology and digitised music to the region. Noted singer, composer Jitul Sonowal was the pioneer of this trend. Later in the 1990s versatile Zubeen Garg stormed into the scene with his album called ‘Anamika’ that created a new sensation in the music world of Assam. From 1992 till date, Zubeen has remained the heartthrob who has not only experimented with the fusion of Western and regional music but also contributed to reviving the traditional songs and styles of music in Assam.
Some of his popular contemporaries are singer- composer Tarali Sharma and Angarag (Papon) Mahanta, a fast-rising star in the music scenario in India. Papon introduced another style on an experimental basis called “folktronica’, a combination of folk music and electronic music. This phase of modern music is the result of globalization. Popular Assamese singer and composer Joi Barua’s music is now a part of the
Cannes best soundtrack’ award-winning animated movie “Fantasy of Companionship between Human and Inanimate’.
In the meantime, a few rock bands too have come of age in the state. Lucid Recess is an alternative metal rock band from Guwahati. One of the best Indian metal bands, it was formed in the spring of 2004 by brothers Siddharth and Amitabh Barooah. It has emerged as the most powerful metal band in Guwahati. The alternative metal band has won the Toto Award for Music 2011. Other best rock bands from Assam are Escape Velocity, Huworoni, Celestial doom, Tiprasa, and Rampazze.
Band of Hurricane Gals is an alternative/blues/Bollywood/fusion indie/jazz/metal/rock band based in Guwahati. The band was formed in 2010 under the initiative of Mamon Kalita (lead vocalist, composer, and director) and Arju Begum (drummer) The band uses traditional Assamese musical instruments like nagara, dhol and dotara with guitar, keyboards drum set, and some modern percussion instruments.
Tonmoy Krypton, the 19-year-old music producer from Sivasagar was Academy For Elite one of the first creators of the region to experiment with R&B music. One of his recent collaborations / Alakananda
has more than 3 million views on YouTube with most of his other compositions hitting popularity charts across a variety of platforms. “Project Baratalaap’, an effort by the creative duo Shankuraj Konwar and Maitrayee Patar and the other half of the Alakananda’ equation, is another fresh narrative in this scenario.
Kuldeep who goes by the stage name KoolD’ is another exceptional example, a rap artist, his track ‘XORU MANUH has some 7 million views and the numbers keep rising by the day. Another singer Shankuraj Konwar has been getting feedback from countries like Thailand, Nepal, Germany, the USA, Bangladesh, Indonesia, China along with states across India and requests to translate their music into English.
Assam has provided the Indian film industry’s one of the accomplished sound engineers Amrit Pritam as well as a fine film music scorer and director, Anurag Saikia.
An alumnus of Dr Bhupen Hazarika Film and Television Institute in Guwahati, 45-year-old Amrit Pritam has carved a niche for himself in the Indian film industry for creating a soundscape in several films including Slumdog Millionaire, Kal Ho Naa Ho, Love Sonia, Kaabil, Village Rockstars, Beautiful Times, Ishu, Man with the Binocular, Rainbow Fields and Court. Amrit Pritam has worked closely with Resul Pookutty and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Anurag Saikia (32), a man from Assam and an alumnus of the famous Swarnabhumi Academy of Music, Chennai, is now a well-acclaimed film score composer, music director both in Assam and Bollywood. He was the youngest music composer to be awarded Rajat Kamal for the best non- feature film Music Director for the film “Yugadrashta’. He has composed music for several films. He is known for his venture of syncing Borgeet (classical devotional song in Assam) to a symphonic orchestra.
For its majority Christian community, gospel singing has been part of life since anyone can remember. It was just a matter of time before the voices went from the church to the stage. The guy that dominates the scene of performing music in this picturesque hill state is Lou Majaw, a living legend who has been the constant entertainer of a class apart thereby lifting the bar for the progeny.
The Shillong Chamber Choir (SSC), founded in 2001 by Neil Nongkynrih is a multi-genre choir that won the reality TV show India’s Got Talent in 2010. The same year also saw the choir being awarded three gold awards at the 6th World Choir Games for Musica Sacra, Gospel, and Popular Music They also
performed at the Rashtrapati Bhavan for visiting US President Barak Obama and Michelle Obama during their state visit to India.
The choir’s versatility ranges from performances with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra and the Fitz William Quartet to collaborations with known icons like Amitabh Bachchan for the opening of Kaun Banega Crorepati season 6. They have also teamed up with other recognized names like Shankar Ehsaan Loy and Usha Uthup. Their Christmas album in 2011 became the highest selling in the country for non- cinematic music.
Based in Shillong, 4th Element blends the four styles of funk, jazz, R’n’B, and soul. 4th Element has performed all over the country, and abroad as well. The band has represented India at The Nisville Jazz Festival 2019 (Serbia), The Belize International Jazz Festival 2018 (Belize) The Philippines International Jazz Festival 2015(Manila), Jazzmandu Festival 2013 (Kathmandu), North East India Festival 2019 (Bangkok), The Delhi International Jazz Festival, (2016) The Hyderabad International Jazz Festival 2019, South Asian Bands Festival (2010) organised by SAARC and also performed at Sing Jazz club Singapore 2015 and Tulum, Mexico in 2018.
The rock capital of India, Shillong is also home to one of the most successful blue bands in India Soulmate. It created history by being the first and only blues band ever to represent India in the world. The north-east band was formed by lead guitarist, singer, and songwriter Rudy Wallang and vocalist Tipriti Kharbangar. Aberrant, another rock band from Shillong is crowned as “Meghalaya Icon III” at a rock music competition in Meghalaya. There are so many famous rock bands in Meghalaya some of them are Plague throat’s, Maestro, Aberrant, The Czars, Eye 2 Eye, Verbs, Dosser’s Urge, and Afflatus the only girls rock band from the city.
Talking about Nagaland, we must take the name of Alobo Naga band that was formed in the summer of 2010. Other most famous fock band from the state are Melodrama, Sunep Assemble Band, Incipit, Kronik, Eastern Hatz, Trojans, Blue Clover band, and Divine Connection.
The Tetsco Sisters is a band of four musician siblings from Naga hills. The our sisters – Mütsevelü (Mercy), Azine Vezivolü (Azi), Kuvelü (Kuku) and Alüne Tetsco (Lulu) specialise in folk songs. They generally play traditional Naga one-stringed instrument, the Tati/Heka Libuh. The sisters recently performed at Mix the City Soundfest, prganised by British Council in Delhi last month. The Tetsco Sisters started performing music at a young age. They played folk music at a time when gospel, – fock, and pop were ruling the scene.
The talented members of the Cleave rock band in Manipur want helping hands’ from all over the glove
10 CLEAVE all the evils in today’s society and to enjoy the powerful music of heavy metal with the band’s original compositions which they guarantee, will mesmerise each one until and unless they don’t stick to drugs and injustice. The band calls its original compositions Progressive Seclusion Metal.
Many new bands are emerging in Manipur and getting popular for the high-quality music they perform. Some of them are Stepping Stones, Recycle Cygnus, Dazzle City, and Angellica.
Mangka Mayanglam, a Manipuri folk for classical and contemporary song performer and a pena player, has been singing her way to glory, taking the Manipur folk music to places.
Yumlembam Gambhini Devi is an eminent dancer and singer of Manipur. She is the first female artiste in the stale to get the “Top” grade artiste of All India Radio, Imphal in Nat Sankirtan Music (Music) in 2008. The Government of India honored her with the Padma Shri in the field of dancing and singing in 2005. She is the recipient of the Sangeet Natak Academy Award for her contribution in the field of Nat Sankirtan in 1988.
Boomarang, a band of five incredible boys from Aizawl, is doing fantastic work. The splendid flow of their music is triggered by two soulful Lushan (Mizo) six-string executioners blended with metal, hip- hop, jazz, funk, punk, rock and they like to brand as “junk rock”. The band had played alongside top International and national acts like Scott Kinsey Band, Lamb of God, Intron out, Firehouse, Parikrama, Pentagram, and many more. They were also winners and runners in many awards like Nokia Lords of Music, Independence Rock, Mumbai, IIT Guwahati, NIT Silchar, etc.
Magdalene. Christian Rock Band of five Aizawl boys, was formed in 2005. Magdalene is synonymous with axneruentation when it comes to the rock genre. They were also a winner and runner in many national competitions like Great Indian Rock NIT’s, IIT’s, Hornbill National Rock, etc. Their album ‘Life beyond Death adds a whole new dimension to Indian rock music is a must-listen for all rock music fans.
The Chosen is a young bunch of six enthusiastic talented girls from Aizawl who got together by their common love for music and formed a gospel band back in 2009 after jamming many times together. The band rose to the music scene with their first-ever single “Broken Wings” later followed by “Kan fak a che”. The young girl band includes Seni (Guitarist), Fiona (Vocalist), Mawitei (Vocalist), Xoey (Bassist), Afeli (Drummer), Malsawmi (Keyboardist).
The Apples is a loud and sparkling rock ‘n’ roll girl band that was formed back in 2007. The Apples is led by Zodingliani with her retro rock style and smirking off high-energy guitar. The band includes of Jojo (Vocalist), (Drummer), Afaki (Bassist), Ding Dingi (Guitarist). They have also covered the Mizo version of the 50’s hit “Stupid Cupid” which helped them increase their popularity and fan base.
The Scavenger Project is the brainchild of Victor, former guitarist of the powerful band Magdalene. The band is a convergence of members like Jonah of 3rd Sovereign, Michael M Sailo, with a gift for composition and songwriting. They want to brand their music as “electro-rock progressive”, a blend of electronic, progressive rock, hip hop, and metal.
Frisky Pints started when Joseph and Danny met in Camden Town in London in 2010. They returned to India to team up with new bandmates Anggu and Valentino and officially started Frisky Pints Band. They have played in various venues and festivals across India like international artist Lee Ronaldo & The Dust (Sonic Youth of USA). The 7 sisters Rock Festival, The India Bike Week, New Wave Festival Goa, and more. They also participated in the competition like ‘Hard Rock Rising and stormed through the national level competition as well as the online voting system top 25 bands worldwide category, the first Indian Bands to reach this level.
The band was handpicked by Uday Benegal (Indus Creed) to jam on MTV as part of the Rayban never hide sound series and also won the Delhi leg of the Converse roads to rubber contest. The bands were nominated by The Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the 2013’s ‘best- emerging rock act’ and MTV Indies included them in the 10 Immensely Talented Young Bands That Hold Potential to Stardom’.
Juggernaut is a six-piece progressive rock band. The band got a good riposte after releasing its first Single Sacrifice’ in the year 2016.
Alien Gods is the Death Metal band from Itanagar, which was formed in 2005 with many talented members of music. Most of the members of Alien Gods band had been already involved in a local concert of music for the last many years. The other best rock bands from Arunachal Pradesh are Mangalz, Symmetry Clan, and The Vinyl Records.
Soul of Phoenix, formed in the summer of 2011, is a heavy metal/hard rock band hailing from Aalo, West Siang district, Arunachal Pradesh, and currently based in Shillong. Since their formation, the band has been performing a lot of gigs across the region. The band’s style is reminiscent of classic rock, heavy metal. The band comprises David (Vocals), Anand (Guitar), Narmee (Bass), Noah (Drums).
The Vinyl Records (TVR), is a four-piece all-female band based in New Delhi and Arunachal Pradesh. The band is made up of lead vocalist and keytarist Cheyyrian Bark, Mithy Tatak on drums and percussion, Minam Tekseng on bass guitar and Band Jini on lead guitar and vocals. They came together in February 2010 with their focus on playing post- punk rock music. Their debut album was called ‘Whims’ and featured 4 tracks. Their first internationally released song was called “Ready, set, go!’, and was aired in 2014.
Tripuri people have always been connected with music. Every festival or celebration is a platform for the people to sing songs that represent the ethos of the occasion.
Sachin Dev Burman (1 October 1906 – 31 October 1975) was a member of the Tripura royal family, who started his career with Bengali films in 1937. He later began composing for Hindi movies and became one of the most successful and influential Bollywood film music composers.
During the 1980s and 90s, Bimal Debbarma revolutionized the music scene of Tripura by writing and composing songs that the indigenous youth could identify with. His songs spoke of romance, love for the motherland, and the political alienation of the people. He died on April 14, 2021.
Bimal started his music career in the 1980s when the Kokborok (the language of the main tribe in Tripura) music scene was heavily dependent on folk songs. He and his colleagues like Jayanta Jamatia, Kwplai Jamatia, and Gautam Debbarma rejuvenated the scene by introducing new beats and modern instruments.
Horjwlai is one of the most promising Rock Bands from Tripura. The metal band was formed in mid- 2004. Shadows, Swraijak and Dabanol Band, and Twijlang an alternative Metal Rock Band are few famous Rock Bands in Tripura. In 2014, after inducting a few other boys, Koloma band was launched.
In 2015, they brought out their first album, Mwrwi. The band uses elements of other genres such as blues and rock fused with folk tunes of Tripura to tell tales of love, life, and strife in Tripura. The five membered band – all of whom belong to the Debbarma Tripuri clan – play the flute, the guitar and traditional folk instruments such as the sarinda (similar to a violin), and the chongpreng (a string instrument).
Textiles and Designs
The textiles and crafts of the Northeast are made with a deep understanding of the earth and are sustainably produced as weaving is a way of life here. To preserve this culture of textiles and to link them to the outside world a sensitive collaboration with the Governments in the form of a Guild or Collective could be the need of the day of designers, artisans, and weavers as a collective working in tandem to the needs of the markets both locally and globally to find ways to evolve and develop prevalent crafts and make them more relevant through, research and development especially for home textiles and furnishing as well as for fashion markets.
The North East of India is a bridge to understanding the other parts of Asia through its culture. There is a strong historical link that connects the North East of India with the South East of Asia like Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, and even Japan. This is essentially extremely strategic and important for bilateral relations of India with these countries. This affinity between textile craft and cultures makes it apparent that there is an untapped market for us beyond our borders.
Fashion as I studied and researched is deeply linked to history and culture and becomes a subconscious story to the collections that evolve. Coming from a mixed cultural background I delved into my personal history and found myself between worlds trying to absorb the contemporary yet balancing collections on the fulcrum of traditions that I was intuitively attuned to. In my search for the beginnings of my story, I came upon ‘Eri silk” woven in Assam.
The weaving of this textile is slow but a rich process with incredible thermal properties. Eri silk also has medicinal properties. This silk is extracted without killing the worms so has been coined “Ahimsa silk” and is used for weaving the shawl worn by monks.
The process of weaving is the journey itself. Weaving as a craft is practiced chiefly by women and needs support to thrive and can only be possible by schemes from the Government or state authorities. Weavers in the region also need support as they are mainly handloom which is slowly disappearing.
The weaving community is also fragile as the topography of the North East and this has to be sustained and markets need to be developed for their products as an urgent need especially in situations as we are facing today like Covid-19.
The investment would mean growth in livelihood through traditional craft for them. Interestingly it is working and understanding the weavers’ lives, then creating new terms in working with the weavers from the North East can be fruitful. Weaving must also be encouraged in households as a part of living cultural history.
The textiles and crafts of the Northeast are made with a deep understanding of the earth and are sustainably produced as weaving is a way of life here. In the beginning, textiles produced in this region were for local consumption (whether the Silks or or Mizoram and the Eri or Muga silks that are produced in Assam and Meghalaya and other local cotton textiles from Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh).
These were produced for festivals, marriages, and other ceremonies. The textile industry was self- sustaining at the beginning and had a way of finding its markets through the years but with economic growth, there has been a move for weavers now to be more dependent on the mainstream economy. This has also created complications maintaining their niche value and design sensibilities for commercial markets.
Today however to preserve this culture of textiles and to link them to the outside world a sensitive collaboration with the Governments in the form of a Guild or Collective could be the need of the day of designers, artisans, and weavers as a collective working in tandem to the needs of the markets both locally and globally to find ways to evolve and develop prevalent crafts and make them more relevant through research and development especially for home textiles and furnishing as well as for fashion markets.
Indigenous stories can be rendered and worked into the collection be it for home lines or fashion or furnishing. In this age of storytelling, Jesmina Zeliang from Nagaland with her Heirloom Naga has been one of the path-breakers creating contemporary styling with traditional skills in soft furnishing, basket weaving, and home products from Naga textiles rendering them for global markets sensitively.
Sustainable employment, education, and continuous work with design intervention and research is the need of the day. Apart from the Muga, Eri, and Matka silks and cottons from the Northeast, there are also many other developments brewing like the bamboo, banana, and nettle fiber, and many kinds of subtle mixed weaves between silks and wools and other blends that are slowly cropping up adding to the dimensional work slowly coming from the region which is becoming more attractive for the designer and the consumer.
The challenge is to work in the North East taking its unique yet incredible repertoire of work and bringing it to the forefront of mainstream markets individually.
Embracing the past into the future became the mainstay and foundation of my work with my label “Sanskar ‘which I started twenty years ago in 1999 as I first dabbled with recycling and upcycling of leftover fabrics recreating vintage ensembles in Indo-Asian shapes.
Sustainability combined with Eri silk further (Burrey colloquially) became an important foundation of the textile story in my line through the years as I started participating in mainstream fashion in India and abroad.
As I started my journey from 2003 with collections through the years I worked on traditional silhouettes and textiles from the North East reworking them into embroideries and shapes that reflected my mixed heritage and blended in a story of the travelogue through the silk route.
Over the years I found that they had a resonance to the discerning customer from around the world as 1 was invited to events in America- at the Asia Society in New York and other parts of Europe and Asia where I often spoke on the linkages of fashion, history, and culture.
In the year 2016 – As the first Indian designer invited to participate at the Eco fashion week in Vancouver, showed a signature line with Muga and Eri silk and prints and embroideries from the silk route. This was supported by my representative Anthropologist Gail Percy in North America which was successful and so we were invited again in 2017.
It was in 2018 that I was approached by IMG Reliance Gautam Vazirani (Creative Strategist-Sustainable fashion) who had decided on highlighting textiles, weaves, and stories from North East as a part of the 13th edition of the sustainable day at the Lakme fashion week in 2018 to represent Assam.
Tying this up to my story I created MAJULI an exquisite collection of five ensembles by Sualkuchi weavers that represented the Assamese ethos through textile form and silhouette and had a contemporary visage as an installation as a background to the main show that had a resounding success by fellow
designers- Jenjum Gadi who worked on an amazing Menswear collection in Naga textiles woven with the Loin loom representing Nagaland.
- Daniel Syiem had a rich, layered collection in indigenous Eri silk woven by the Ribhoi weavers from Meghalaya.
- Karma Sonam whose line Kuzu had a stunning display of pattern mixing in textiles for both men and women in interesting nettle weave and Cotton textures that she had worked on representing Sikkim.
- Richana Khumanthem had a delicately woven collection in cotton, a rendition of beautiful motifs by the Meitei community representing Manipur.
- Aratrik Dev Varman worked on a stunning collection with an emphasis on craft and topditional pieces with beaded necklaces and headwraps for the runway from Tripura.
This was also a wonderful collaboration between us designers and Lakme Fashion Week at the North East Mojo as we were also a part of an initiative in which IMG in partnership with the U.N. had a day when we spoke about the livelihood needs, the empowerment of women and focusing on the crafts of the North East region.
Government Authorities could take note and work on these collaborations with other states and tie-ups to go forward because textiles and fashion are the second most employers in India after agriculture. We need more link-ups and inroads with design specialists and fashion communicators who can synergise with social media to create not just awareness but sensitively educate people on our textiles and lifestyle in mainstream India and globally.
The North last region has a unique indigenous Textile culture and this has to be protected yet made relevant to modern times today. This has started with many collaborative inroads, one of the most interesting work today is that of the Label 7 weaves, as an integrated textile- garment manufacturing facility in partnership with local communities dependent on the forest in Assam’s Lohargat Forest range founded by Mandakini Gogoi, Uma Madhavan and Riquraj Dewan.
There is more need for this kind of collaboration and collectives between the craft sectors and the Fashion industry. We need to find a more democratic way of working with a much more open way for growth so that there is an easier supply chain for raw materials and finished products and helping the area.
As a revivalist designer, I think the most important thing that we have to understand and appreciate is the sustainable livelihood that is prevalent in the Northeast of India and learns from it. The entire world is moving towards sustainability which has been a way of life in the North East innately linked to nature. This needs to be amalgamated today between development and our natural habitat especially in our metropolitan cities amidst changing worlds.
Waste and Climate Change
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges being faced by the present world. A number of factors including clean energy, forest protection, adaptive habitat and natural resources are attributed to climate change mitigation and adaptation. With high pace urbanisation, solid waste is a ferociously growing concern especially for the developing countries like India. Amount and complexity of wastes is growing rapidly but the equivalent demands of technology and resources are still inadequate. Wastes and climate change are closely interrelated and are severely impacting each other but, however, less recognised in the domains of climate change mitigation, adaptation and disaster risk reduction.
Beyond the industrial revolution, the rate by which global surface temperature is rising has almost been doubled. In the last 40 years, it is increasing by 0.18″ Celsius per decade. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (carbon dioxide, methane, – and nitrous oxide) majorly emitted – by the anthropogenic activities are accumulating in the atmosphere and absorbing solar radiations and, thereby changing atmosphere’s chemical composition. This is further leading to the rise in extreme weather events all around the globe, e.g., severe droughts, devastating floods, scorching heat-waves, heavier and persistent rainfall, ferocious forest fires, etc. The resulting loss in snow- cover, rise in sea-level and increasing temperature is endangering human settlements, animal lives and forest cover.
The solid waste generated by various human activities is another major contributor to climate change, and simultaneously getting alleeted by it as well. There is a wide variety of wastes being generated, viz.
municipal solid waste, commercial and industrial waste, construction and demolition (C&D) waste, agricultural waste, biomedical waste, electronic waste and hazardous waste. All these wastes generate GHGs during various stages of their life cycle. During waste collection and waste incineration (energy consumption in transportation and furnace) carbon dioxide (CO) gas is emitted.
Anaerobic decomposition of organic waste in landfills is responsible for the emission of methane (CH) with 20-year Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 72. GWP is the amount of heat that is absorbed by a GHG, expressed in relation to that absorbed by a same mass of CO,. Composting and biological treatment of waste emits nitrous oxide (NO) gas which has a long lifetime of 114 year with GWP of 289. An extremely short- lived component called Black Carbon (BC) with a very high GWP (3200) is emitted from uncontrolled and open waste burning. On the other hand, approximately 70% waste globally ends up in open dumps and landfills which renders huge land-surfaces useless, decreasing the green cover and, hence, reducing the natural carbon sinks. Also, the highly poisonous leachate (wastewater sludge) seeps down, polluting groundwater and soil. The toxicity of hazardous waste and the landslides incidences of waste dumps also pose life threats especially to poor and underprivileged people having no options than to live around such sites.
Globally, around 2.01 billion tonnes of municipal waste generated annually, more than one third (34%) of which is only contributed by high-income countries.Waste generation per person varies between 0.11 and
4.54 kg. By the year 2050, waste generation globally is expected to rise to 3.40 billion tonnes, which is no less than a disaster for health, environment and economy. are India with a global population share of 18.05% contributes 11.95% to the global waste generation.
Globally, solid waste is composed significantly of food and green waste followed by plastic and cardboard waste (Figure 1). A serious concern comes from a significant proportion of waste ending up in open dumping (Figure 2). The role of economy is clearly visible as low-income countries such as the countries in sub-Saharan Africa are disposing more than 70% of their waste in uncontrolled open
dumpsites whereas for high-income countries this share is as low as 2%. Quantity, quality and composition of waste may vary from region to region pertaining to the factors such as climate, population size, urbanisation, standard of living, economical condition and level of education and awareness.
Climate change, disasters and wastes have multilayer cyclic relationships and one leads to another. Extreme weather events like heavy rainfall, dust storms, cyclones, heat wave, etc, which are known aggravated may lead to disastrous consequences. Flooding which is common result of heavy rainfall, on one hand creates voluminous quantities of waste converting resources including infrastructure and property into debris and litter, and adds to the burden as well as, on the other hand, hinder the process of waste management. Storms and cyclones are known for causing huge debris and disaster wastes. Heat- waves enhance dust and odour from landfill sites and rising sea levels are responsible for the erosion and flooding of coastal dumpsites. This manifests the two-way implications between climate change and solid waste management.
Effective waste management pathway consists of a systematic approach with collection of maximum amounts of waste generated, segregation of waste in different categories, treatment of wastes in each category, transfer to the market or the disposal site, and finally disposal of the remnants.
Effect of Climate Change on Solid Waste Management
A series of extreme weather events, viz., temperature fluctuations and extremes, disturbance in rainfall pattern, wind storms, etc. are known results of climate change which are affecting the waste management processes to a significant level.
Changes in Precipitation Patterns
Climate change has led to significant alterations in the precipitation patterns. Increased average global surface temperature may lead to hotter and drier summers and shorter winter and can increase duration and frequency of extreme weather events like drought, hurricanes and cyclones. These events cause severe damage to property, infrastructure and human lives, affecting water availability and, hence, complicating the solid waste management procedure even more.
There has been an increase in daily precipitation rate as well as in the number of days. The average moisture content is generally high during these times. This elevates the risk of flooding which further leads to infrastructural damage, hindered supply system, creation of bulk household waste, inaccessibility of waste storage facilities, over flooding of site drainage systems and water logging in open waste storage containers. Management structures are protected by capping layers and bunds, which can be at higher risk of erosion and can become unstable because of the heavy rainfall. Also, frequency and rate of waste decomposition is severely affected by heavy rainfall and the flow, concentration and volume of leachate is also enhanced at the landfill sites. The entire hydrology of the waste management system can be altered because of the fluctuations in seasonal rainfall patterns. The clay substrate areas are at high risk of collapsing and can have huge impact on the adjoining infrastructure.
With reduction in rainfall, chances of droughts and water scarcity situations may prevail. Mainly in summers, reduced availability of water affects various processes of waste management as well as the canal and river in waste transportation system. The concentration of organic wastes in the streams are increased during these times and the restoration of landfill sites through screening landscaping, etc. is also affected because of the increased stress on vegetation.
Changes in Temperature Patterns
In the last 40 years, huge fluctuations in daily minimum average and maximum temperatures have been recorded. Frequent occurrences of very high atmospheric temperatures and heat waves are taking place. This is fastening the rate of degradation and decomposition of the waste for which the contemporary infrastructure of waste management is not competent enough. In other instances, high temperatures can cause drying up of the compostable wastes and hinders the decomposition process as microbes fail to sustain.
Workers’ safety and health is also at a great risk from the strong unpleasant odour, discomfort from extreme temperature and air pollution. Maintenance cost shoots up because in high temperatures, mechanical parts used in waste management machinery are gravely destroyed and a burden of additional costs for cooling system in buildings.
Increase in Sea Level and Storm Surges
With the increase in global mean temperature, the snow covers are melting and, thereby, increasing the mean sea-levels. This is leading to high risks of inundation, flooding, bund erosion and seawater intrusion of the dumpsites and waste management sites in coastal areas leading to coastal water pollution. Increased sea level may also aggravate the impacts of storm surges, hurricanes, cyclones, etc., which are known to damage infrastructure and destroy human lives can extensively. These disasters also leave huge debris and disaster wastes as result of destructions and emergency relief operations.
Effect of or Solid Waste on Climate Change
Municipal solid waste be broadly classified into organic (biodegradable) and inorganic (non- biodegradable) waste. When organic waste is decomposed anaerobically it produces landfill gas (LFG), which is a mixture of 45-60% methane (CH), 40-60% carbon dioxide (CO) and 2-9% other gases. GHGs can be emitted from municipal solid waste management either directly or indirectly. Direct emissions take place when anaerobic decomposition of organic waste takes place or when the biological treatment of wastes (incineration/composting) is carried out. Indirect emissions are caused due to the fuel consumption in vehicles used for waste collection and transportation. Globally, domestic solid waste alone is responsible for the emission of 153.41 tonnes per day of CO, equivalent gases.
There are three modes, viz., upstream, direct and downstream through which the waste sector is contributing to the GHG emissions. In order to understand the interrelation between climate change and solid waste, it is very important to take into account these modes of contribution.
The upstream contributions are emerging from the energy input provided during manufacturing distribution of the product. When the product is in its operating mode it accounts for the direct contributions and the downstream contributions are arising during the disposal of that product. Solid waste management activities are adversely affected because of the climate change, with varying level of disruption in one or more of its processes.
In less developed nations, the rate of generation of waste is rising exponentially as the municipalities do not have enough budgets or the appropriate infrastructure to process and dispose municipal waste.
Climate Change and Effluent Treatment Plants (ETP)
Effect on hydrological cycle is one of the main alteration climate change has brought to the earth’s environment. Changing precipitation patterns have increased the evaporation (surface heating, and so is the water vapour load of the atmosphere. Higher moisture content of the atmosphere is liable to stronger
rainfall. The effect of various components of climate change on effluent treatment plan is explained as follows:
Various treatment processes are enhanced with warmer temperatures such as the conversion and removal processes or the usage of anaerobic reactors to treat domestic wastewater). Whereas lower temperatures are favourable for stabilisation ponds, activated sludge process and aerobic biofilm reactors are temperature independent
Rising Sea Level
The untreated water from a waste water facility might get released and damage the ecosystem in the event of a flood. In case there is structural damage to waste water facility, the untreated water might keep seeping for a long duration until the costly repairs are undertaken by the municipalities.
Storm brings along the danger of flooding and causing infrastructural damage to WWTPs in coastal regions or flood prone regions. In the long run, increasing sea level also poses a serious threat to ETPs in coastal areas. High intensity tropical storms have the potential to cause further damage to infrastructure like effluent pipes. Overwhelming flow in the pipes during storms can cause pollutants enter the system directly and contaminate supplies.
The retention time in treatment system might get affected by increased flow rate caused by the floods thus impacting the nitrogen removal process. This will lead to a higher Total Nitrogen concentration in the output. It is understood that Coliforms, Giardia and Cryptosporidium will be produced in high concentrations as a result of increased influent issues from sewage overflows. In areas with low rainfall the water quality will deteriorate because, the lower flow will also decrease the capacity of systems to dilute pollutant concentrations.
There is a risk of higher discharge of poisonous gases emitted into the atmosphere from sewage treatment plants as well. Various toxic and harmful gases produced during different processes in ETPs with their reasons are mentioned in Table I.
It is very important to understand the waste composition in different regions to chalk out an effective mitigation strategy for its environment friendly treatment and disposal. Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM) encompassing waste management hierarchy is the dire need of the time to be inculcated in various international and national plans dealing with waste management. In this hierarchy, before landfilling, waste prevention, reuse, recycling and transformation of waste to energy is kept on priority (Figure 3).
Waste Management Hierarchy
Conventional waste management did not consider reducing, recycling or reuse of the waste as part of its system. Thus, a paradigm shift is required from conventional practices to ISWM. ISWM is a comprehensive approach for reducing the quantity of waste reaching the landfill sites.
It introduces a four R’s principle viz. Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, in order to lower the GHG emissions from the waste sector. This principle can be explained as: the things that are not necessary can be “refused”, the things that are required can be “reduced” to some extent, the things already in use can be “reused” and the things that cannot be reused can be “recycled”. When this approach is followed fervently, a significant reduction in solid waste generation can be achieved, which will evidently lead to a decrement in the cost and demand of transportation and hence in the greenhouse gas emissions.
Role of Policy
In 2008, India came up with a comprehensive National Action Plan for Climate Change (NAPCC). Out of the eight exclusive missions encompassing and addressing various issues related to climate change, the National Mission on Sustainable Habitat was made accountable for the management of Municipal Solid Waste of the country. This part of the mission is focused on enhancing resource recovery and recycling, reducing waste to be disposed in landfills or open dumpsites and maximizing reuse/recycling of sewage, as much as possible. In 2015, four additional missions were added to NAPCC, out of which one entire mission was dedicated to the theme of Waste-to- Energy conversion. The focus of this recent mission is to harness energy from maximum possible waste to & minimize the dependence on non- renewable/ resources power generation:
Swachh bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission was launched in 2014 by the Prime Minister of India with primary aims of making the country open-defecation free and improving the status of solid waste management.
This mission has definitely ignited the awareness regarding the basic cleanliness regimes and sown a seed of a hygienic, clean and safe behaviour among the people. The current status of Swachh Bharat Mission is that entire urban areas of 35 states/union territories have become open defecation free and the waste processing rate has increased from 18% to 60%.
There is an urgent need for a robust policy formulation which is inclusive of all major factors associated with climate change and solid waste management. Also, a thorough plan of action in an affordable budget is required to be prepared that takes into account the future projection of the outcomes.
Rooting for Resilient Bamboo
“To unleash your true potential, look within,’ goes a popular saying. When it comes to unlocking new avenues in India’s rural economy, this would entail rejuvenation of a key resource-Bamboo—as a catalyst for socio-economic sustainability.
One of the quickest growing plants in the world, Bamboo can survive and thrive in a range of climate conditions. Used in both the agricultural and the industrial sectors, bamboo’s adaptability, resilience, cost- effectiveness and easy handling makes it an ideal material for resource- efficient livelihoods. The use of bamboo cuts across several spheres of life. Its soft shoots are used as a delicacy in some regions, while many use bamboo for construction of dwellings and houses. Bamboo can be used to create handicrafts such as mats, furniture and baskets, to toys, decorative items and even tools and implements. Also known as a ‘poor man’s timber,’ Bamboo’s versatility and vitality make it a precious agro-forestry resource.
According to Global Industry Report 2019-2025, the global bamboos market’ size was valued at USD
68.8 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.0 percent from 2019 to 2025. Modern technologies allow use of bamboo as a durable and high-quality wood substitute.
In India, bamboo is an important plant in terms of forest coverage and diversity. It is grown in over 13.96 million hectares across the country-thriving majorly in Madhya Pradesh and the North Eastern states. In fact, the Northeast region alone comprises 60 per cent of India’s Bamboo reserve, and India is reportedly home to about 125 indigenous and 11 exotic species of Bamboo, making the country a significant player in international bamboo export.
However, despite India being the second largest producer of Bamboo, the sector’s growth has left a lot
to be desired. Over the past several years, more bamboo products have been imported in India rather than exported -according to estimates, the market share of bamboo cultivation in India is only 6 per cent. The domestic Bamboo industry has been held back owing to a wide variety of issues in its value chains, including regulatory and legislative barriers to cultivation and harvesting of Bamboo, challenges in its procurement, lack of technical know-how among the primary users of Bamboo, lack of market linkages and insufficient market demand.
In this context, the post Covid-19 economic reboot offers an excellent opportunity to explore out-of-the- box ideas to give a fillip to the bamboo sector, in support of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ and the Government of India’s rural push with ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’.
The multipurpose and environment-friendly use of bamboo has made it a universal resource for the rural population and its demand is ever-increasing. To support this demand, the Government of India has launched the restructured ‘National Bamboo Mission’, under the Ministry of Agriculture. The aim is to foster growth in the sector, create jobs and help increase farmers’ income. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda is also to double farmers’ income by 2022-23, to promote rural welfare, reduce agrarian distress and bring parity between income of farmers and those working in non- agricultural professions.
The growth of Bamboo cultivation and its marketability is key to making this possible.
Demand drivers under Bamboo industry in India
- Population and income growth increasing exports and favourable demographics
- Hybrid and genetically modified seeds, Favourable climate for agriculture and wide variety of crops, Mechanisation Irrigational facilities and Green revolution in Eastern India
- A strong demographic dividend and extensive labour force available in India.
- Growing institutional credit, Increasing MSP, Introduction of new schemes like Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, Pradhanmantri Krishi, Sinchai Yojana, and Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana and opening exports of wheat and rice.
- Initiatives like Kisan Rath (mobile app for farmers FPOs and traders), 200+ Kisan Rails and Krishi Udaan Scheme for produce transportation, and Perishable Cargo Centres, cold storage facilities at Airports and Inland Container Depot as well as cargo terminals and warehouses.
The development of the bamboo sector in India involves collective multi- stakeholder efforts. At the national level, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MOEFCC), Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), Ministry of Development of North East Region (MODONER) and Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) drive strategic initiatives to this end.
On September 2020, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare inaugurated by virtual mode 22 bamboo clusters in nine States–namely Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Assam, Nagaland, Tripura, Uttarakhand and Karnataka, 4 logo, for the National Bamboo Mission was also released. The Cane and Bamboo Technology Centre (CBTC) has designed a project for the sustainable development of the bamboo industries to create a livelihood for people in the North Eastern India. Ministry of Tribal Affairs initiated the 4P 1000 Initiative: The Tribal Perspective through Bamboonomics’ at COP 14 UNCCD 2019.NITI Aayog in July 2020 urged the state governments to carry bamboo and sandalwood tree plantation drives in a first-of-its- kind initiative of Khadi and Village
Industries Commission (KVIC) towards monetisation of available vacant land resources and financial sustainability for farmers.
Such initiatives can bring an organised bamboo cultivation structure within the country and facilitate more income for the rural population as well as contribute enormously to the national economy.
The Government of India is committed to enhance rural livelihoods and infrastructure development opportunities through the bamboo sector, using a holistic approach. This includes creating strong mechanisms of knowledge dissemination and exchange of good practices, improving technical standards, capacity building and skills development of cultivators, supporting bamboo startups and facilitating commercialisation of bamboo products.