Meghalaya - Economy
Meghalaya is basically an Agricultural State with about 80% of its total population depending entirely on Agriculture for their livelihood. Nature in its generous abundance, has bestowed Meghalaya a unique array of vegetation ranging from tropical and sub-tropical to temperate or near temperate.
According to the Planning Commission there has hardly been any decline in rural poverty in Meghalaya in the last two decades, which has hovered around 40% since 1983, though for the country as a whole rural poverty declined from 45.7 to 27.1 percent between 1983 and 1999-00. However these estimates are not based on the consumption expenditure data pertaining to Meghalaya, but for Assam, hence not reliable. According to the NSS consumer expenditure data for Meghalaya and the independent surveys, rural poverty levels in 1993-94 have been assessed as between 30 to 37%, with much less destitution than in India as a whole.
Though poverty has declined in the mining areas and villages close to towns, it may have worsened in the interior due to stagnant agricultural production, soil erosion and lack of new economic opportunities. In fact falling productivity of jhum lands and the ban on timber felling may have increased destitution in the remote villages. Slow economic growth, continuously high share of population in primary sector, and declining share of primary sector contribution to NSDP do not inspire confidence that poverty would have declined in the interior areas.
At least 81% of the population depends on agriculture, the net cropped area is only about 9.87% of the total geographical area of the State. The state is deficit in foodgrains by 1.22 lakh tonnes annually to feed a population of 2.3 million. This is due to a lot of constraints, such as the undulating topography, transport and communication problem, population dispersal pattern, inadequate credit support, poor marketing system, etc. To overcome these hurdles, future programs are proposed, like increasing agricultural/horticultural production and productivity, research system on the development of economically viable and location specific technologies in rainfed, flood-prone irrigated areas, and increasing the utilisation of irrigation potential etc.
Between 1970-71 to 1999-00 Meghalaya’s foodgrain production has gone up by 74% while its population increased by 125%. Structural conditions under which land is cultivated, such as insecurity of tenure, rising tenancy and landlessness, increasing concentration of land ownership in the hands of a few (who are also the main gainers out of GOI largesse of Rs 10 billion a year), are not conducive to achieving high productivity. Other causes for low productivity are, the decline in quality and productivity of jhum lands, lack of inputs in agriculture, and inadequate market access. Roads, market yards, market information, higher volumes, government support for marketing of cash crops, and facilities for quick export of the produce outside the region are yet to be developed.
Area under shifting cultivation may have slightly increased in Meghalaya, although surprisingly area under dense forests has increased by almost 75% from 3305 to 5925 sq km in the last decade. This increase could be because of social forestry plantations on private lands, or because forest owners realising the commercial value of timber had become more responsible and were moving towards sustainable felling.
The total cropped area in the State has increased by about 42 per cent during the last twenty-five years. Food grain production sector covers an area of over 60 percent of the total crop area. With the introduction of different crops of high yielding varieties in the mid-seventies, remarkable increase in food grain production has been made. A major break through was achieved when High Yielding Varieties of paddy such as Masuri, Pankaj IR 8 and other improved varieties series especially IR 36 which is suitable for Rabi season, fitting in the multi-cropping system have been widely cultivated all over the feasible areas of the State. A spectacular achievement was obtained when Megha I and Megha II which are cold tolerant rice varieties developed by the ICAR North East Region at Umroi near Shillong was released in 1991-92 for the higher altitude regions where there was no High Yielding Rice varieties at all earlier.
Besides the major food crops of Rice and Maize, the State is also renowned for its Horticultural crops like Orange, Lemon, Pineapple, Guava, Litchi, Banana, Jack Fruits and Temperate fruits such as Plum, Pear, Peach etc. Potato, Ginger, Turmeric, Black Pepper, Areca nut, Tezpatta, Betelvine, Short-staple cotton, Jute, Mesta, Mustard and Rapseed etc. are some of the important cash crops in the State.
Apart from the above the State have achieved signal success in the cultivation of non-traditional crops like Tea, Cashewnut, Oilseeds, Tomato, Mushroom, Wheat, etc. Today the State can claim that about 42 per cent area under paddy have been covered with HYV with the average productivity of 2300 kgs/ha. So also is the case with Maize and Wheat where the productivity have increased tremendously with the introduction of HYV from 534 kgs/ha during 1971-72 to 1218 kgs/ha of Maize and from 611 kgs/ha to 1508 kgs/ha of Wheat.
New emphasis is laid on pulses, oilseeds and cash crops. An autonomous board is set up to promote plantation crops, pioneering work done in tea cultivation, with the State having 253 small tea growers at present.
Meghalaya with its wealth of mineral deposits has tremendous industrial potential. There are extensive deposits of coal, limestone, granite, clay and other minerals. Coal deposits are available in all districts and particularly in the southern slopes of the state. The coal bears a low ash content and its calorific value ranges between 6500 to 7500 K.Cal/Kg. The total estimated reserve of coal is in the region of 640 million tonnes. The coal is mainly of sub-bituminous type and can be utilised in varied industries ranging from power, fertiliser, cement and textile to paper, rubber, brick burning and also pottery based industries. The coal that is found in the State can also be converted into coke to recover value added chemicals like light, medium and heavy oil, phenol and producer gas.
Meghalaya is one of the few states in the country with surplus power generation. Industrial units in Meghalaya have the unique privilege of uninterrupted power supply. The state possesses a hydro-electricity potential of nearly 1,200 MW. The river basins of Meghalaya have a potential feature of about 2,700 MW of Hydel Power. The State is a major beneficiary of the South West Monsoon. The average annual rainfall is 11,000 mm. All the river of Meghalaya are monsoon fed. The Umiam-Umtro basins have only been partly developed during the past forty years. This system has three concrete gravity dams, one weir, six earthing dykes, four reservoirs and a network of tunnels and open channels catering to five existing Power Stations.
There are four National Highways NH 40, NH 44, NH 51, NH 62 in the State having a total length of 706.56 km. The public transport services have a sufficiently wide coverage linking the important places within the State and with places in neighboring states. The road length at the time of creation of Meghalaya in 1970 was only 2786.68 km only which has gone upto 7633.00 Km by 31st March 2003 and the road density increased from 12.35 km per 100 square kilometer to 7633 kms; out of which 3691 km is black topped and remaining 3942 km is graveled. The road density has increased to 34.03 km per 100 square.
Despite the wage difference between remote areas and towns, there is hardly any migration of unskilled poor workers to the towns. There may be many factors that distinguish Meghalaya from mainland India in this respect. Firstly, the character of the urban work force in the Northeast, unlike other urban centres, is not primarily in manufacturing, but in the services sector, implying existence of either government servants or a largely self-owned and self-managed business sector, with family labor and minimal hired labour. Secondly, opportunities for unskilled wage labour in the urban areas beyond construction are limited. In construction too, contractors prefer Oriya or Bihari labour, and the locals lose out in preference. And lastly, first generation migration requires some previous history of migration from the same village, and in its absence push factor does not work well.
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