Arunachal Pradesh Economy

May 12, 2009

By and large, the economy of the state of Arunachal Pradesh is dependent on agriculture. More than half of the state’s one million plus population is engaged in agriculture; however, only a small portion of the total land area is under cultivation. Many of the people still engage in the age-old, traditional practice of jhum, or what is known as shifting agriculture. In jhuming, a patch of a jungle or grassland is cleared either by cutting the existing vegetation or burning them. The patch is then cultivated and harvested for several years, in what is known as the jhum cycle. This is done until the soil loses its fertility. Once the land cannot hold the production of crops, it is left in favor of another, more fertile patch and the cycle starts again. This system of agriculture is often practiced by family units although whole tribes may engage in it as well. In recent years, however, the practice of jhum has been lessened all over Arunachal Pradesh in favor of modern methods of farming; those who still engage in jhum are the hill people, who cultivate and farm on the slopes and hills. Among the chief crops grown are rice, maize, millet and buckwheat. There are also indigenous vegetables that are being exported to neighboring districts and states and make up the major commercial crops. These include sweet potatoes, oilseeds, ginger, pumpkin, chili and the local cowpea.

Forest products were also among the most significant sectors of the state’s economy. This is logical since Arunachal Pradesh has close to about 61,000 square kilometers of forests, so logging and forestry contribute much to the gross state product. However, this has declined starting the in the 1970s, when environmental legislation were implemented. Since the turn of the 21st century, forest-related activities have been confined to just a few local industries, which are mostly small or medium sized. Most of these industries are rice mills, handloom crafts and fruit preservation units. There are also sawmills and plywood mills although these are stated as illegal by the state government.

The state also has various resources at its disposal although these have been largely unutilized until recently. The mineral resources found in Arunachal Pradesh include marble, clay, graphite and pyrite. Dolomite, limestone and quartzite can be mined there as well. In 1991, the Arunachal Pradesh Mineral Development and Trading Corporation Limited was set up; the Namchik-Namphuk coal fields are under the corporation’s control. Another natural resource that the state government is using to its full capacity is hydroelectricity; Arunachal Pradesh accounts for a significant portion of India’s untapped hydroelectric power production potential. This led to the state government to sign deals with various Indian companies in 2008 for 42 hydroelectric schemes which, upon completion, will produce more than 27,000 megawatts of electricity. The construction of the Upper Siang Hydroelectric Project started in April 2009. It is estimated that this will generate between 10,000 to 12,000 megawatts of power.

Arunachal Pradesh History

May 8, 2009

Arunachal Pradesh is India’s easternmost state, bordering the countries of Burma/Myanmar to the east, Tibet to the north and Bhutan towards the west. When viewed on a map, the state seems to be disconnected from the country, connected only by the flimsiest of land. Due to the fact that it is the easternmost portion of India, it is sometimes known as the “land of the rising sun” and “land of the dawn lit mountains”, which is actually the meaning of the state’s name.

There are practically no definitive records that relate to the history of Arunachal Pradesh except, apparently for some oral literature and several historical ruins that are mainly found in the foothills that date back to the early Christian era. What is known, however, is that the first ancestors of the tribal groups that populate the area now migrated there from Tibet during the prehistoric period and were later joined by their Thai-Burmese counterparts. The earliest references to the state can be found in the texts of Ramayana, Mahabharata and the other Vedic legends.

Only the Ahom chronicles during the 16th century provide recorded history for the state, although recent excavations of Hindu temple ruins have shed new light about the ancient history of Arunachal Pradesh. The 14th Malinithan located at the foot of the Siang Hills on West Siang have paintings of Hindu gods as well as altars that haven’t been touched by humans in years. Another temple, the heritage site Tawang monastery, which is 400 years old, also provides evidence that Buddhist tribal peoples have lived in the area. The tribal kingdoms of Monpa and Sherdukpen, the former of which flourished between 500 BC and AD 600, are recorded to have controlled the area during their times. The Ahom and the Assamese controlled a big part of the state until India was annexed by the British empire in 1858.

Parts of the state have been claimed by mainland China, Tibet and Bhutan as parts of their territory. In 1913-1914, representatives of China, Britain and Tibet negotiated the Simla Accord, whose objective was to define the borders between Inner Tibet, Outer Tiber and British India. The British administrator at that time, Sir Henry McMahon, drew up the McMahon Line, an 890 kilometer border that serves to separate British India and Outer Tibet. This line ceded Tawang as well as other Tibetan areas to the British. While there was no issue between the three representatives regarding this border, the Chinese representative had issues regarding Inner and Outer Tibet and as a consequence, China walked out of the agreement. Since then, China’s position has been that since it has sovereignty over Tibet, the line was invalid without Chinese agreement.

When Chinese power in Tibet collapsed, any serious challenges to the line disappeared and no new maps of the region were published until 1935. In 1937, the Survey of India published a map that showed the McMahon Line as the official boundary between the two countries and in 1938, the Simla Convention was published, meant to be a bilateral accord. The 1938 Survey of India showed Tawang as part of the British India. In 1944, the British established administrations in the area, but Tibet altered its position of the McMahon Line in 1947, claiming Tawang as part of their territory. This was developed further as India gained its independence and the People’s Republic of China was established late in the 1940s. With the threat of China taking over Tibet, India declared the McMahon Line to be the boundary of its lands in 1950, forcing the last remnants of Tibetan administration out of Tawang.

The North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) was finally established in 1950 in what would become Arunachal Pradesh and the relationship between the Chinese and Indians were cordial until the eruption of the Sino-Indian War of 1962, when China captured most of NEFA. However, China declared victory and voluntarily drew back to the McMahon Line in 1963 and returned Indian prisoners, although the war resulted in the termination of the barter trade with Tibet.

Arunachal Pradesh continued to be known as NEFA until 1972, when it was constituted as Union territory and was later renamed to Arunachal Pradesh. On February 20, 1987, Arunachal Pradesh became the 24th state of the Indian Union.