BANKING, TRADE AND COMMERCE.
A. BANKING AND FINANCE
(a) HISTORY OF INDIGENOUS BANKING :
As in other districts of Assam, history of indigenous banking in the erstwhils United Mikir and North Cachar Hills district is also obscure. It may, hoever, be said that this district was constituted after Independence with the most backward areas and hilly tracts from the adjoining districts of Nowgong, Sibsagar, Cachar and United Khasi and Jaintia Hills, mostly inhabited by the Karbis , Kacharis and other hill tribes, who generally live on jhum cultivation and other hill products. These simple and unsophisticated tribal people lived in wanton misery for centuries in the darkness of the unexplored regions without touch of modern life and civilisation. Such an economy perhaps did not foster the growth of any banking system. The Marwari or other firms were not attracted to these areas. Neither the people had any savings to keep in safe custody while their needs for credit were met by professional money-lenders hailing from other districts and used to live in the nearby towns and business centres.
(b) GENERAL CREDIT FACILITIES :
The Rural Economic Survey of the Karbi Anglong reveals that both in the Karbi and non-Karbi villages of the district, credit was obtained only from money-lenders or friends and relatives and retail dealers while credit facilities from Co-operatives or Commercial Banks hardly existed. The professional and semi- professional money-lenders played the role of the predominant financer in the district. The Co-operative Credit Soocieties were started during the Second Plan Period and two branches of the State Bank of India opened recently at Diphu and Haflong have ushered in a new vista in this backward district providing additional cheap credit facilities
Rural indebtedness :
For dearth of materials it is not possible to assess the extent of rural indebtedness in the district as a whole. In the past there was no attempt in this regard in the areas constituting the erstwhile district which came into being after independence. The Assam Provincial Banking Enquiry Committee 1929-30 did not extend its operation to those areas. he Rural Economic Survey 1948-49 was conducted only in the Karbi Anglong and as such it does not give a total picture of rural indebtedness. It concludes : " Of the 415 sample families as many as 199 or 47.95 per cent were debt free families, the average debt per family worked out at Rs.4.3 and the average debt per indebtes family at Rs.83.2. The percentage of debt-free families was higher (52.12 percent ) in the non-Karbi villages than in the Karbi village (36.11 percent). Debt in kind constituted 30.93 percent and 14.29 percent of the total debt in the Karbi and non-Karbi villages respectively. Of the total money debt, secured debt amounted to 54.69 percent in the Karbi villages and 5.54 percent in the non-Karbi villages. "1 From the findings of the sample survey , it is seen that the percentage of indebted families to the families in the sample ws higher in the Karbi villages (63.9percent) than in the non-Karbi villages (48.9 percent ).2 On the contrary, the volume of debt in the Karbi villages was lower than that in the non-Karbi villages. The causes for higher percentage of indebtedness , secured money debt and debt in kind in the Karbi villages are attributed to their migratory habit, insufficiency of agricultural produce to meet their annual requirements as well as improvident habits of drinking rice bear. The source from which they obtain cash loans is generally the money-lenders, majority of whom are non-Karbis and outsiders who do not lendout money to the Karbi people without mortgage or security, their personal security being less assured due to their migratory habit. In the Karbi villages even short term loans are charged with interest to the extent of 20 percent or more. Thus, at the time of the survey,89 percent of the loans in the Karbi villages as against 25 percent in the non- Karbi villages bore interest above 20 percent. The burden of debt generally fall upon the small owner cultivators in the Karbi villages and upon the landless workers in the Non-Karbi villages.
Another survey was conducted in 1958 in the Mohindijua area of the district. It says : " The average debt per family was worked out at Rs.29.27 and that per indebted family at Rs.168.65. The average debt for the Kachari families was Rs.24.39 and for Karbi families was Rs.35.14. "3 These sample surveys point out to the short term and unproductive nature of the bulk of the debts incurred in the sample villages. The percentage of the debts outstanding for more than one year is very negligible as the most of the loans are generally settled in full after the harvest. Debt incurred in connection with scarcity and failure of crops as revealed by the Karbi Anglong sample accounted for 88.81 percent of the total debts in the Karbi and non-Karbi villages respectively. On the other hand, marriage, funeral, sradha and other social ceremonies and repayment of old debt together accounted foe 41.67 percent of the secured and 12.35 percent of the unsecured money debt in the non-Karbi villages against 3.75 percent and 9.39 percent respectively in the Karbi villages. The indebtedness would have been more pronouncing during the sample survey period if other credit facilities such as co-operative banks or commercial banks would have existed in addition to the professional and semi-professional money-lenders financing about 75.28 percent and 56.68 percent of the total debt in the Karbi and non- Karbi villages respectively.
We have no data to assess the extent of rural indebtedness during the period under review in the North Cachar Hills, in which similar indebtedness would have prevailed.
It is only after 1960 that the Co-operative Rural Credit Movement began to gain momentum in this district and by the end of 1968, the naumber of credit societies stood at 193 with a total outstanding loan of Rs. 230,000.00. During 1967-68 , these credit societies advanced a total loan of Rs. 75,000.00. in the Karbi Anglong alone whereas recovered Rs. 30,000.00 only in the whole district. This shows how the co-operative credit soon ran into huge arrears adding a big slice to the extent of rural indebtedness . This will be further inflated along with the expansion of commercial banking facilities.
As to urban indebtedness nothing can be said precisely for want of data authenticated by any socio-economic survey in the two towns of the Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills, where the growth of towns is only a recent phenomenon. However, it may be said that the growth of industry, business, trade and commerce and rising cost of living due to increasing prices, have resulted in the necessity of increasing credit needs of the urban people who as a matter of fact, in absence of cheap credit facilities other than those available in the rural areas have to depend largely on the professional money-lenders doing a lot of business at an exorbitant rate of interest and on retail-dealers for purchase on credit. In addition , the wholesale-dealers often extend their business by sale on credit basis. Banking facilities are yet to grow up. Only two branches of the State Bank of India have recently been opened at Diphu and Haflong mainly to cater to the needs of treasury business. Some industrialists and business concerns have also obtained loans from the Government.
The role of private money- lenders : It is already shown how the money-lenders act as the preponderate credit financier in the rural areas of the district as elsewhere in the State. According to he sample survey of the Karbi Anglong , the professional and semi-professional money-lenders financed about 75.28 percent and 56.68 percent of the total borrowed amount in the Karbi and Non-Karbi villages respectively and they charged very exorbitant rates of interest varying from 20 to 200 percent per annum. The money-lenders in absence of other alternative sources of credit in the district enjoy a privileged position in the credit business with their ready money and the people hardly can escape from being a pray of their exploitation. Extortions of interest by the money-lenders , particularly the Kabuliwallas , often take place. The number of professional money - lenders in the district cannot be ascertained for want of data. It is also difficult to say wether there is any indigenous money-lenders among the unsophisticated tribal folk. For the fear of being exposed to humiliation and control by laws and regulations under various money lending acts, nobody likes to identify himself as a money-lender. Notwithstanding this, the people when in need of credit know whom to approach. The only perceptible business of money lending is done by the Kabuliwallas who move from place to place in course of business. They provide no scope to assess the nature and volume of their transaction. It may, however, be said that the bulk of the money-lenders in the district are generally non-tribals and outsiders. With aview to control their business the Karbi Anglong District Council passed the Mikir Hills ( Money lending by Non-tribals ) Regulation , 1953 and Rules, 1955.
Rate of Interest : The rate of interest charged by the money-lenders varies between 20 percent and 200 percent , and 89 percent of the total debt in the Karbi villages and 25 percent in the non-Karbi villages bear interest above 20 percent .4 It is difficult to calculate the rates of interest on loans in kind or in cash which are issued on condition of selling the crop after harvest to the creditor. The rates of interest of such loans calculated in money value ranges from 50 percent to 200 percent . The Kabuliwallas, besides charging exorbitant rates of interest , often resort to extortions in collecting the interest monthly or annually on the principal sum. On the other hand , the loanees do not get the principal amount of loan, because Kabuliwallas, as their usual practice, deduct interest for the first month or year in advance from the principal amount of loan and pay only the balance to the loanee.
The rates of interest of loans issued by the Industries Department, Co-operative Credit Societies etc. vary between 4 percent and 71/2 per cent. Such loans are now in the initial stage in this district and can be availed through a complex procedure because of which the money-lenders retain their predominant hold upon the simple tribal folk.
1. A Survey of the Rural Economic Conditions in Mikir Hills, 1949-49, p.74
2. P.C. Goswami : The Economic Development of Assam, 1963. p.61.
3. Report on Socio-Economic Conditions of the People of Mohindijua Area in the United Mikir and North Cachar Hills District, p.13
4. P.C. Goswami : The Economic Development of Assam, 1963. p.
Joint-Stock Banks :
There is no joint-stock commercial bank incorporated either in the Karbi Anglong or in the North Cachar Hills. Even branches of such banks are precariously absent in both the sub-divisions (now districts ) except two branches of the State Bank of India rcently opened at Diphu and Haflong. The details of the business of these two branches are not yet available . Another branch of the State Bank of India has been opened at Bokajan and it is purely meant for the transactions of the Cement Factory there. " The Lead Bank Scheme" introduced by the Reserve Bank of India on 1st December, 1969 aims at a co-ordinated programme for setting up adequate banking facilities in the underbanked districts of the country. Under this scheme the districts are allotted to the State Bank group ( State Bank and its 7 subsidiaries) , the 14 nationalised banks and 2 other Indian Banks. A lead Bank is responsible for taking leading role in surveying the credit needs, development of banking and extension of credit facilities in the district alloted to it. The United Mikir and North Cachar Hills district along with other hill districts has been allotted to the State Bank of India. It is expected that banking facilities will develop in this district when the 'Lead Bank Scheme" will gather momentum
Co-operative Credit societies and Banks :
At the end of 1968, the total number of cooperative credit societies stood at 212 in the district -193 were Primary Agricultural Credit Societies and 19 Primary Non- Agricultural Credit Societies . The Karbi Anglong had 67 Primary Agricultural Credit Societies and 15 Primary Non- Agricultural Credit Societies against North Cachar Hills having 38 and 4 respectively. This shows that North Cachar Hills lags still far behina the Karbi Anglong in respect of development of co-operative credit societies .
Co-operative Banks such as Central Bank , Land Mortgage Bank etc. have recently been established in this district. Prior to this the societies of this district were financed by the Nowgong Central Co-operative Bank with financial assistance from the Assam Co-operative Apex Bank , Shillong , which now directly financed them.
It will not be inappropriate to show a brief history of the co-operative movement before dealing with the details of theco-operative credit societies of this district. The district was formed only after Independence with areas from Nowgong, Sigsagar, United Khasi and Jaintia Hills and Cachar districts and prior to it, the impact of the co-operative movement was hardly felt in these areas under their parent districts. However , to tide over food shortages after Second World War, the co-operative movement was introduced in 1944 in the Karbi Anglong portion of the Nowgong district by organising three Consumers Co-operative Stores in Duarbagari, Baithalangso and Parakhowa for distribution of controlled goods, but immediately after decontrol , these stores ceased to function. In 1949, seven trading societies were started in different places under the jurisdiction of parent districts to undertake trading business of controlled commodities. Along with the withdrawl of the control over commodities these societies had also to suspend their operation.
Soon after the formation of the erstwhile United Mikir and North Cachar Hills district, attempts were made to expand the co-operative movement in the district but the absence of the source of credit within the jurisdiction of the district and inadequacy of credit supply stood in the way. To remove the difficulty the Mikir Hills Central Banking Union Ltd. was organised and registered but it did not start its functioning . The credit movement also failed to have rooted in the district. In absence of credit societies, Government issued under a special loans of Rs. 82,800.00 to 9 trading societies during 1954- 56 for issuing loans to the poor backward members for amelioration of their economic conditions. Some societies, however, utilised the amount of loan in their business. The credit movement received momentum in the district after the establishment of the office of the Assistant Registrar of Co-operative Societies at Diphu in 1956. Attempts were made to organise Agricultural Credit Societies with unlimited liabilities, the first of its kind being the Dimacha Rindan Samabai Samiti registered on 15.9.56. But the progress of such societies was very tardy. There being no financing bank in the district these societies received agricultural loans from the Nowgong Central Co-operative Bank financed by the Assam Co-operative Apex Bank, Shillong with financial assistance from the Reserve Bank of India. Later on the Assam Co-operative Apex Bank came forward to finance the Agricultural Co-operative Credit Societies of the district through its branches at Nowgong , Golaghat and Silchar . Since then the number of credit societies both agricultural and non-agricultural began to grow up rapidly. By the end of 1968, the number of primary agricultural credit societies increased to 193 in the district, 155 in Karbi Anglong and 38 in North Cachar Hills while primary non-agricultural credit societies increased to19 only, 15 in Karbi Anglong and 4 in North Cachar Hills. The structure of these credit societies was rationalised on the basis of the Departmental programme of rationalisation of credit structure initiated during the middle of the Third Five Year Plan, stress was given on the viability of the societies and liquidation of dormant ones. In order to gear up agricultural production, rural credit was made production oriented and the crop loan system was introduced. The non-credit aspect of the movement already mentioned , preceded the credit aspect in the district. During 1955-60, a few multipurpose co-operative societies were organised. Such societies besides dealing with other business were engaged in paddy procurement. One cotton Ginning Mill was started during this period.
This non-credit aspect of the movement was assigned a wider range of activities during the Third Plan Period. All types of societies such as marketing societies, weaving societies , fishery co-operative , farming co-operative etc. were organised in the district. Notable achievements of this period were the two rice mills for Howraghat-Tarabasa Multipurpose Co-operative society organised during 1955-60 and Langhin-Dokmoka Multipurpose Co-operative society organised during 1960-65. Mention may be made that the Assam Co-operative Apex Marketing Society shouldered the tremendous responsibility of monopoly paddy procurement through the co-operative societies. Under the "Hills Co-operative Development scheme " initiated during 1965-70, 3 sub-area multipurpose co-operative societies with bigger area of operation were organised in this district. SOme societies are also affiliated to each of them. These societies , besides doing other business, deal in the credit business also. Thus the co-operative movement rapidly expanded during recent years only.
Primary Agricultural Co-operative Credit Societies : It is already pointed out that the credit movement started in the district during the Second Five Year Plan only. During 1958-59, the number of Agricultural credit societies grew up to 54 only including 3 large-sized and 51 small sized with total membership of 1,703. The Small-sized Agricultural Credit Societies advanced a total credit of Rs. 101,355 and recovered Rs. 72,039 during the year. In 1960-61, the total number of Primary Credit Societies increased to 130 with total membership of 3,727. Short-term loans advanced by these societies during the year amounted to Rs0.67 lakhs. These show the progressive trend of the credit movement in the district as a whole. Thus, by the end of June , 1968, the number of Primary Agricultural Credit Societies increased to 193 wit htotal membership of 6,379 and had a total working capital of Rs.4,41,000.00 (including paid-up capital of Rs.1,36,000.00 and borrowings of Rs.1,99,000.00) and an out standing loan of Rs. 2,30,000.00 . During 1967-68, loans advwnced and loans recovered by these credit societies amounted to Rs.75,000.00 and Rs. 30,000.00 respectively. The operation of the working societies shows that during the year the majority of them numbering 90 underwent losses amounting to Rs.11,000.00 against 45 making profit of Rs. 22,000.00.
Thus on the balance the credit societies maintained a satisfactory trend in the district. But the progress of Primary Agricultural Credit Societies in the North Cachar Hills is comparatively slower and less satisfactory than in the Karbi Anglong , their number having increased to only 38 by 1968 and having incurred loss in the balance during 1967-68.
Primary Non-Agricultural Co-opreative Credit Societies : This aspect of the credit movement in the district is of very recent growth and by 1968 only 19 Primary Non-Agricultural Co-opreative Credit Societies came to be registered, 15 in the Karbi Anglong and only 4 in the North Cachar Hills with total membership of 1,180. Their working capital amounted to Rs. 60,000.00 (including Rs. 17,000.00 paid up capital and Rs. 25,000.00 borrowings ). On the other hand , the outstanding loan incurred by these societies amounted to Rs.21,000.00 by that year. During 1967-68, loans advanced and loans recovered by the societies in the Karbi Anglong amounted to Rs.6,000.00 and Rs.1,000.00 respectively. Among the societies working during the year 9 incurred loss and only 1 made profit. In this respect also the North Cachar Hills lagged far behind the Karbi Anglong.5
The following table shows the position of the credit and other societies in the North Cachar Hills since the First Five Year Plan.6
|Period||No of societies organised credit other||No of societies liquidated credit other|| |
No of societies at the end of plan credit other
|No of Members at the end of plan credit other|
|Period||Share mount||Loan advanced||Land outstanding|
5. Figures from Statistical Abstract of Assam, 1960-60 pp. 198-301; Census of India, Vol. III ,
Assam, Part I-A , general Report, p.396 and Co-operation in Assam, 1950-51 to 1967-68; Statistical Hand Book of Assam, 1970 , pp 51-54.
6. Sub-divisional Deputy Co-operative Officer , N.C. Hills Haflong.
(c) GENERAL AND LIFE INSURANCE :
No Insurance Company had any office in the district. The Life Insurance business is conducted inthe Karbi Anglong by two Development officers at Diphu and Howraghat under the Nowgong Branch Office and in the North Cachar Hills by a Development officer at Haflong under the Silchar Branch Office of the Life Insurance Corporation of India, the Divisional office of it being situated st Gauhati. In 1959, only 416 numbers of policies with sum assured amounting to Rs. 10,34,000 were issued in the district. The following shows the progress of life insurance business in subsequent years in both subdivisions (now district ).
|No. of policies issued.||190||179||180||164||170|
| Sum assured |
(Rs. in thousand)
| Total premia collected |
(Rs. in thousand)
North Cachar Hills
|No. of policies issued.||148||153||260|
| Sum assured |
| Total premia collected |
(d) STATE ASSISTANCE TO INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT :
Due to the fact that this district lags far behind other districts of Assam in respect of industrialisation which is yet to make impact upon the agriculture-minded unsophisticated tribal people, various types of State assistance to industrial development have gone unavailed. To induce the growth of industry in the private sector the Government provide with financial assistance in the form of grants, subsidies and loans towards working capital, purchase of machineries, implements and raw materials and construction of buildings and also facilities for procuring such items on hogher purchase basis. Besides, the Government also participates in subscribing share capital. The State Bank and other 14 nationalised Banks also now advance industrial loans. But unfortunately banking facilities are not yet develop in this district. The maximum State assistance availed in this district goes to the co- operative sector in which the Cotton Ginning Mill at Diphu has so far received Rs.20,000.00 as share capital grant, Rs.2,54,740.00 as grant for purchase of machineries and building construction and Rs. 1,50,000.00 as working capital loans and two rice mills at Howraghat and Langhin Dokmoka under the respective marketing societies have received financial assistance of Rs.99,000.00 each. The weaving co-operatives receive financial help in the shape of accessories as well as guidance and training facilities provided by the Weaving Department and the Co-operative Department of the Government of Assam. The Industries Department runs on two Carpentry Production Centres at Diphu and Maibong and one Toy making centre at Diphu to train up local tribal youth in these trades.
B. TRADE AND COMMERCE :
(a) Course of Trade :
It is hardly necessary to say that trade and commerce was not of any importance in the past in the sparsely populated constityent areas of this hill district where there were no towns or industry of any size. The primitive pattern of the tribal economy might have not warranted the growth of internal trade in the hills while some external trade with the neighbouring people was done in the bordering markets in the plains. Pretty mahajans from the plains frequently visited the hills and made a considerable business in forest products such as bamboo , cane and timber in the form of logs and posts having arranged into a raftknown as bhur or mar carried down through the hill streams, the important ghats in the plains for sale. The growth of the tea industry and the opening of the Railway line and the South Trunk Road touching some points of the district facilitated some external trade in respect of import of necessities required particularly for the extra growth of outsider- population. But the tribal mode of living in the hill tracts did not materially change to effect some exportable surplus of agricultural products. While diffusion of advanced civilisation to the tribal people was slow. However, the tribal people used to come down from the hills to the weekly or biweekly 'hats' or markets in the nearby plains and made some transactions. The fact that most of these trade centres now form part of the district helps the growth of both external and internal trade. Besides, growth of towns such as Diphu and Haflong and growth of industries like the Cement Factory at Bokajan and other development activities have now enhanced the importance of trade and commerce in all directions.
The internal trade is done to a great extent in the weekly and bi-weekly markets situated mostly in the plain areas where the villagers assemble to dispose of their surplus and collect their requirements. The village mahajans, itinerants and wholesale traders also a lot of business in these markets which serve as centres for distribution of agricultural products from surplus areas to deficit areas and also of imported goods. generally wholesale business is done in the two towns of Diphu and Haflong which also serve as retail-sale centres in local and imported goods, besides the retail shops.
Exports and imports : As already mentioned, the export trade is not of much importance in this agricultural district. Diversity of climatic condition results in diversity of production. The food products having demand for local consumption are transported to deficit areas from surplus areas within the district. The main agricultural products exported outside the district are paddy, cotton , sugarcane, jute, mustard seeds, castor seeds , maize, ginger and fruits such as orange and pineapple.
The estimated production of the three types of paddy during 1970-71 in the United district was 90,563 tonnes, the main producing centres being Howraghat , Rongkhang and Bokajan wherefrom paddy was exported to the neighbouring districts of Nowgong and Sibsagar. But now restriction has been imposed on exporting paddy outside the district as a part of procurement policy of Governement. Another important food crop is maize, the estimated producing being 1,919 tonnes in 1970-71.
In a normal year, about 1000 M. tonnes of maize are exported to Bihar and other places, the valus of which would be about 1.8 lakhs. Cotton is the most important cash crop of the district , the estimated producing being 1,621 bales in 1970-71 out of 2,011 bales in the whole of Assam. Previous to the start of the co-operative Ginning Mill at Diphu , the whole of the cotton produce was exported outside the district for ginning and then exported to Calcutta. The cotton grown in Karbi Anglong is known as commilla cotton which has great demand in the world market. Another important exported product of the district is jute, the estimated production being 11,157 bales in 1970-71 and almost the entire produce except a little quanlity for local use is exported outside the district to find the Calcutta jute market. The quantity of jute exported to the Nowgong district finds way to the Jute Mill at Silghat. Mention may be made of sugarcane also which is produced in the plain areas of the district particularly in Bokajan area, the estimated production being 11,995 tonnes in 1970-71. In a normal year , about 5 to 6 thousand tonnes of dressed canes are exported to the Dergaon Co-operative Sugar Mill, the rest being locally used in preparing gur . Other agricultural products such as rape and mustard , sesamum, tobacco, castor seeds, linseeds, which are produced in small quantities have not much importance in export trade. Among fruits , oranges and pineapples have some importance in the export trade. In a normal season, about 337 tonnes of oranges and 157 tonnes of pineapples are exported to Calcutta by private traders. Among spices, ginger is commercially grown in the North Cachar Hills wherefrom about 266 tonnes of ginger are exported in a normal year to Calcutta and Lucknow. 7 According to the Supply Department at Diphu the total amount involved on the annual transaction of paddy maize, sesamum, mustard seeds, jute and cotton wopuld be more than Rs. % millions.
Apart from these , forest products such as timber , bamboo , cane , etc., are also exported outside the district. Coal is mined in the collieries of Kailajan and Silbheta and whole of it is exported outside the district. The main items of imports are rice and pulses. Rice to the extent of 10,000 Qtls. and pulses to the extent of 12,000 Qtls. are annually imported to the district. In addition to these items , sufficient quantities of wheat and wheat products , salt , sugar, mustard oil , cement , iron materials, gold, bell and brass-metals, C.I. Sheets, electrical goods, glass, medicines, cloths and yarns, kerosene oil, petrol, soaps, match boxes, vegetables ghee, tinned food , tea leaves etc., are annually imported to meet the demands of the consumers of the entire district.
Salt is imported from Calcutta and some of the other items except kerosene and petrol are imported from Bihar. The following table shows the import of wheat to this district during 1969-70.
7 Production figures are used from Statistical Hand Book Assam, 1971 pp. 32-39.
(b) TRADE CENTRES :
Centres of whole sale business : The main centres of trade in the Karbi Anglong are Diphu, Howraghat and Bokajan ; Diphu being the trade headquarter. The wholesalers and other important traders operate from this town and in co-operation with their sub-agents and retailers in other trade centres. Diphu became prominent trade centre after it was raised to district headquarters in 1951. It is well connected by road and rail wit himportant trade centres of other districts. It is mow linked with Nowgong by State Transport Service. It is connected with Bokajan by road and rail and with Howraghat by roa only. Thus the importance of Diphu as a trade centre has been gradually increasing. Bokajan besides being a rail station is also connected by the National Highway No. 39 with trade centres outside the district. Howraghat is situated at a distance of 16 Kms. from Hojai Railway station and 70 Kms. from Diphu. These centres have their main trade relations with Lumding , Hojai, Nowgong, Golaghat and Ngaland. Most of the shops are owned by Marwari traders and Nepalis who conduct both the export and import trade, besides conducting internal trade. Some other trade centres in the Karbi Anglong are Bokolia, Dillai, Dengaon, Dokmoka, Rongkhang, Baithalangso and Lenghin.
In the N.C. Hills the main centres of trade are Haflong and Maibong. Since it is now a separate district, Haflong is the district head- quarter of trade. But the growth of these trade centres has been handicapped by communication bottleneck which has also checked the growth of trade and commerce as well as other trade centres. The only means of communication is the railway that connects these trade centres with Lumding and Silchar. However, fair weather roads connect Haflong with Silchar , Lumding , Shilong and Jowai.
Wholesale business is generally done in the trade headquarters of Diphu and Haflong, where from goods are transported to other trade centres for distribution to retailers in different trade and centres and trading villages. Side by side, retail business is done by various retail dealers who distribute ,different consumer goods to the consumers. Some wholesale business is also done in Howraghat and Bokajan. Wholesale transactions are also done in some important weekly markets which are visited by wholesale dealers from the important trade centres.
The other trade centres mentioned above are the important reatail trade centres. A number of shops dealing in retail business in various items of consumer goods such as grocery, stationery and other wares are growing up in these centres. In addition , there is in almost every village a small retail shop dealing in groceries. Such small shop-keepers in remote areas generally purchase goods in small quantities at some concessional rates from the big retailers in the nearest trade centres and therefore, they charge a bit higher prices for their goods. On the other hand difficulty of communication and their small means stand in the way of their direct contact with wholesalers in the towns. Such village shopkeepers and the dealers in the retail centres do a lot of business in the village agricultural commodities. Price stipulation is generally done in giving loans and selling goods on credit to be sold immediately after harvest. Big reatailers in the retail centres generally acts as agents of wholesalers in the town in distributing various goods to the consumers and in collecting their surplus produce through their sub-agents , the village shopkeepers.
Markets : The markets or hats may be classified as primary markets and the wholesale trade centres as the secondary or terminal markets. The markets in different places generally sit on the weekend on different days for mobilisation of goods from area to area to the convenience of the villagers. A great deal of business of both wholesale and retail is done in these markets where villagers assemble to dispose of this surplus produce and collect their requirements. The petty traders who generally deal in mobile business regularly attend the weekly markets with their wares such as cotton goods , cloths and yarns, oil, salt, pulses , spices, toilets, cosmetics, utensils etc. The whole sale dealers from the towns as afore-said come to collect the agricultural produce such as paddy, jute , maize , mustard seeds etc., for the purpose of export. Thus , the markets on which the villagers generally depend for their daily necessities also serve as centres for distribution of surplus produce from surplus areas to deficit areas.
In the Karbi Anglong, Diphu, Howraghat, Langhin, Bokajan, Baithalangso, Dokmoka and Bokulia are important markets for paddy , rice (hand and dhenki pounded) jute, mustard seeds , til, maize and cotton. Large scale cattle business takes place in Howraghat market.
In the North Cachar Hills the impotant markets are held at Haflong, Langting, Mahur and Maibong. Products like til, cotton, ginger, chillies, orange, pineapple etc. are the main attractions of these markets. The table below shows the total turnover of different commodities in these markets.
|Mahur.||-||-||200.00||200.00||-||-||-||-|| 50,000.00 |
| 50,00/ |
Source - Assistant Agricultural Marketing Officer, Diphu.
Markets are generally established near railway station,s junction of roads , river sides, and thickly populated areas. In N.C. Hills , all markets are situated near railway stations except Garampani which is newly established market in the road side of Jawai-Badarpur road. In Karbi Anglong ; Diphu , Bokajan, Dhansiri and Borpathar are situated near railway stations & other either on road side or on river side. All importants markets have been connected by motorable roads except the markets of Amri Dev-Block & Block I Mauzas. The construction of road in these areas are also under progress. In the high land bridle paths are the main link with the feeder roads with the result that produce is often carried by head loads to the markets.
In the district primary markets are owned and managed by the District Council authorities. Diphu and Haflong town markets are, however,owned and managed by respective town committees of Haflong and Diphu. There is scope for improvement of these markets in regard to market yard, stalls, etc.
Most of the market do not have parmanent oe even semi- parmanent structures and therefore, are held under open air. What is more, the conditions of these markets having structures of thatched roofs over bamboo posts are deplorable. The markets do not provide the ordinary amenities for conducting trade activities. Due to lack of market information to the growers buying and selling activities are controlled by visiting traders. The surplus agricultural produces are purchased by these merchants at very low prices while their daily necessities such as salt , matches, spices, tobacco, cloths, food articles etc. are sold in the markets at exorbitantly high prices especially in the interior markets. It is also observed that the merchants take resort to various other unscrupulous trading practices such as use of false weights, unwarranted deductions and allowances etc. These circumstances tell heavily upon the economic life of the rural people in the district.
Most of the producing areas are not properly connected with the important markets with the result that the producers are compelled to dispose of their products to the itinerant merchants at a price dictated by the purchaser.
A list of the markets both rural and urban under different classifications along with their respective days of sitting is given in an appendix to this chapter.
(c) CO-OPERATION IN WHOLESALE AND RETAIL TRADE :
There is co-operation and good understanding between wholesale and retail traders in the district. Market is dominated by the wholesalers who disseminate trade news to the retailers. There is , however, no fixed area in respect of wholesale and retail trade. As already pointed out, wholesale business is done side by side retail business in the trade centres as well as in the weekly markets. But, the wholesalers generally reside in the trade headquarters of Diphu and Haflong wherefrom they operate the business and control the markets. These traders are mainly Marwaris, Bengalis and a few up country men.
The nature of cooperation between wholesale and retail-sale depends on the nature of business and volume of transactions and it differs from place to place. Financial cooperation depends upon reliability of the retailers whom the wholesalers help wit hcash and goods on credit for running the business. It is worthy to mention that both in wholesale and retail trade, the number of Karbis is almost nil.
(d) STATE TRADING :
State Trading in foods grains : With a view to arrest shortfalls of food production mainly paddy and consequent black marketing and rising prices, Government of Assam took up the scheme of State Trading in paddy in 1959 and implemented it by appointing the Assam Co-operative Apex Marketing Society as the monopoly agent for procuring paddy through its branch Co-operative Marketing Societies in different districts. Till 1960 there were only three Marketing Societies in the entire district viz., (1) Howraghat Tarabasa C.M.S. Ltd., (2) Baithalangso M.C.S. Ltd. ans (3) East Mikir Hills M.C.S. Ltd. and of these Howraghat Tarabasa C.M.S. Ltd. functioned as one of the best societies in Assam procuring 5 lakhs maunds of paddy in a year . Government fixed the price of paddy per maund in order to give a fair price to the producers for their product. However, in 1964 Government relaxed the policy and allowed millers to procure paddy side by side the Marketing societies. The monopoly procurement od paddy was restored again to the Apex Marketing Society in 1965 and since then it has been functioning as the monopoly agent of paddy procurement except for a brief period of 1966-67, in which year the Food Corporation of India obtained monopoly procurement of paddy. In this district 8 Primary Marketing Societies were functioning during 1966-67, six in the Karbi Anglong and two in the North Cachar Hills. In addition to these societies, 4 sub-area Co-operative Marketing Societies organised in the district during 1965-70 under the Hill Development Scheme, have also been functioning in collaboration with the Apex Marketing Society in carring out the state trading programme. About 30 small sized service co-operatives organised under these sub-area Marketing Societies also assist in the paddy procurement . Thus the Marketing Societies wit hthe help of the service co-operatives procured the following quantities of paddy during 1958-59 to 1965-66 in the united district.8
|Year||Quantities of paddy procured.|
During 1966-67, the value of purchases made by the Marketing Societies of the district amounted to Rs.76,95,308/- of which the Karbi Anglong shared Rs.76,86,390.00 and the North Cachar Hills Rs.8918.00. The societies in the Karbi Anglong earned commission of Rs.4,52,530.00 during the year. The procurement price of paddy is fixed by the Government of Assam with a view to give a fair price to the producers for their produce. This price has been raised upward from time to time keeping parity with the general increase in prices. The current (1974) procurement price of paddy is Rs.70.00 per quintal. The number of godowns constructed by the Marketing Societies for storage of paddy in the district increased after 1967. Government provides with grants-in-aid and loans for construction of godowns. Besides, the Assam State Warehousing Corporation has recently constructed a godown at Howraghat for storage of paddy, jute, til, mustard seeds etc., on payment of hiring charge @ 15 paise per quintal per month.
Measures were also taken to control the rising prices of various essential articles including C.I. sheets, cement etc. Prices of essential food articles were fixed by Government to regulate the trade on the basis of Assam Food Grain ( Licensing and Control ) Orders, 1961, as amended from time to time. Fair price shops were opened to distribute the food articles at controlled prices to the customers under the super vision of the Supply Department which made the allotment of the controlled goods to the fair - price shops which again lifted their quotas from the licensed wholesalers. Till 1957 rice was supplied to the fair-price shops by Central Government from their Central Depot established in some parts of the State. The policy of supplying rice to the fair-price shops has undergone changes from time to time. After the state trading in paddy came into operation , the wholesalers procured rice from the government monopoly agents as per allotment made by the Director of Supply. The District Supply Authority fixed the wholesale and retail price and then issued rice to the fair-price shops to lift from the wholesalers. Rice and other controlled food articles were also issued to the approved retailers for issuing to the consumers. The system is still in vogue but the wholesale trade in rice has now been entrusted to the Wholesale Co-operative Marketing Societies instead of licensed wholeseller. The number of fair-shops all over the district exceeds 170 by now.
8. District Hand Book of United Mikir and North Cachar Hills by U.N.Bordoloi 1972, p.84.
(e) CONSUMERS ASSOCIATION OR TRADE ASSOCIATIONS
There is no such association in the district except the Merchants Association, Haflong, the only organisation functioing since 1940 catering to the interest of the merchants and shopkeepers in the North Cachar Hills only.
(f) WEIGHTS AND MEASURES :
As in the other districts of Assam , various weights and measures were prevalent in this district . There was , however, no uniformity and accuracy of the old units for which the unsophisticated villagers were often cheated by unscrupulous traders and businessmen. To achieve uniformity in this matter , Government of India passed the standards of Weights and Measures Act., 1956, to introduce the Metric system of weights and measures all over India. Accordingly the Government of Assam passed the Assam Weights and measures (Enforcement) Act., 1958, and adopted the Metric system in phases in different districts.
Prior to the introduction of the Metric system , the units of weights used in trade transactions by the traders for weighing solid and liquid articles were named seer, powa, chatak and tolas. Solid articles such as paddy, rice , mustard seed, pulses and the like were weights in a scale called the palla while liquid articles such as milk, oil etc., were measured by Sungas made of bamboo and sometimes tins prepared on the bais of different weights ranging from seer to chatak. It may be mentioned that capacity measurement is a usance of the age old indigenous system and the different units of weights is a later infiltration. Specimens of the indigenous capacity measurement can still be found in the rural areas in the shape of doon and pachi, used in measuring paddy, rice, mustard seeds etc. The bamboo sungas were , besides measuring liquids, also used in carrying and storing water by the Karbi people. In the plain areas, earthen jars such as Kalah, tekeli etc., used for keeping gur (molasses) were counted by their respective measurement in transactions. The tulachani is yet another indigenous measuring scale made by indigenous device. The doon, made of fine bamboo strips in a conical shape contains 10 kathas = 5seers, one seer is equivalent to 0.93310 kilogram in metric weight (the smaller one 6 kathas= 3 seers), the pachi (basket) used generally in transactions contains 1 pura = 3 doons = 15 seers. A doon is called tangkaton by the Karbis and rangdon by the Dimasa Kacharis ( a rangdon contains 3 seers ).
The system of area measurement was based on lecha, katha, bigha and pura in the ascending order i.e., 20 lechas = 1kathas , 5 kathas = 1bigha and 4 bighas = 1 pura. The linear measurement was in terms of yabs, anguli , beget, hat, kathi, nal, furlong ,mile , etc., in the ascending order. Metals like gold are still measured in terms of rati, anna and tola. These systems of weights and measures were prevalent side by side with the English system till the introduction of the Metric system. The area measurements are still in practice.
The English system of weights and measures were generally not used in common transactions. Under the English system liquid capacity was in terms of pint, quart, gallon etc., weights in ounce, pound, ton etc., length in inch, foot , yard, mile etc., and area in squares of the length measurement.
The metric system of weights and measures have been enforced by phases compulsorily through out India since April , 1962. The system connotes the term metre, as the unit of measurement , its equivalent units of weights being kilogram and unit of liquid capacity being litre and based on the decimal account. Conversion tables were published and Inspectors of Weights and Measures were posted to the district , subdivisional headquarters for implementation of the new system. Though the metric system is now in full force , some esctions of the people have not been able to aquaint themselves with it. On the other hand , unscrupulous traders and businessmen still use illegal and nonstandard weights and measures. The Inspector is responsible for detection of illegal cases and verification of weights and measures. As required under the Act, the Inspector at Diphu posted in 1962 and the Inspector at Haflong posted in 1963 started verification and stamping work of weights and measures and other weighing instruments used by the traders in the district since 1965 and for such work the traders are to pay fees to the Department.
Verification and stamping cork and collection of fees since 1965.
|Period||Weights|| Capacity |
|Lenght measures||Measuring Instruments||Weighing Instruments||Other||Total Fee Revenue Collected|
|in the Karbi Anglong|
|In the North Cachar Hills|
Prosecution under the Act. during the period in the Karbi Anglong.
|Period||No of Cases Reported||Brought to trial||Acquitted||Imprisonment||Fine|
List of Markets:
|(a) Primary Markets : (Rural)||Karbi Anglong|
Name of the Market
Days on which held.
(b) Primary Markets (Rural)
(c) Secondary Wholesale Markets Days on which held.
|1.Howraghat||Thursday. Karbi Anglong.|