CHAPTER - XVII
OTHER SOCIAL SERVICES
PROHIBITION : We begin the chapter with prohibition as labour welfare measures have been discussed in some detail in the chapter on Industry. Prohibition of opium, Bhang and Ganja has been enforced in the district under the Assam Prohibition of Opium Act 1947, and Assam Ganja and Bhang Prohibition Act 1948 respectively. Liquor Prohibition has not yet been introduced in the district.
Opium : Though opium prohibition is in force since 1948, the cases of opium addicts are not rare among the hill tribes of the district specially among the Karbis. Opium is generally consumed in the form of pills or mixed with water and drunk. Pankani is made by mixing boiled opium with pieces of dried pauleaf and string it over the fire. The compound is then rolled up into pills and smoked. The total opium revenue raised per head of population in North Cachar Hills (excluding persons censused on the railways ) in the year 1902-3, was Rs.2/3/9 annas compared with Rs.1/4/- per head in the plains. The quantity of opium sold was 31 mds. 6 seers and 25 mds. 26 seers in the year 1902-3 and 1903-4 respectively.1
Prior to 1860 there was no restriction on the cultivation of poppy plant. The evil effects of unrestrained indulgence could not, however, go unnoticed and in that year poppy cultivation was prohibited in Assam and the drug was issued from the Government treasury for the use of addicts, the charges being Rs.14/- a seer. This was raised to Rs.20/- per seer in 1862 and gradually to Rs.37/-. In 1890, while Assam was under the Bengal Govt. linces for retail vending of opium were issued free of charge. In 1874, a fee of Rs.12/- per annum was charged from each licensee and in the following year it was raised to Rs.16/-. Later on, the right to sell opium in particular mahals was put-up to auction. The heavy excise-duty accompanied with the curtailment of facilities for the purchase of opium has a repressive effect on its consumption.
Now there is total opium prohibition since the enactment of the Assam Opium Prohibition Act,1948 . No person shall import, export, transfer or posses , sell or buy or consume opium , use or keep material , utensils, implements or apparatus, whatsoever for the manufacture of any opium smoking , preparation of any drug containing opium. The exception is made in case of a shop or place licensed for the sale of opium for medical purposes or to person who buys opium from a place or shop as aforesaid under a prescription from a registered medical practitioner or any hospital or dispensary. There were only 44 licenses who used to get opium for consumption on medical grounds in the North Cachar Hills. With a view to have a total prohibition, the issuing of opium to these licensees has also been stopped with effect from 1.4.59. There are two opium Addicts Treatment Centres opened in the year 1963 for providing treatment to persons addicted to opium in the district. Both the centres are in the Karbi located at Diphu and Baithalangso. In 1963, Diphu centre admitted 82 addicts out of which 66 were treated and Baithalangso centre admitted 55 addicts out of which 43 were treated and 12 absconded. Both the centres are managed by non-official bodies under the over all supervision of the Prohibition Commissioner. The expenditure of these centres are met by the Govt. under the head, Excise and Prohibition Propaganda. To enlist non-official support to exercise an affective control over smuggling of opium and eradicate the opium addiction, Opium Prohibition Committee were formed at Baithalangso in Karbi and Haflong in North Cachar Hills. Opium Treatment Centres were opened at three places and addicts were given free lodging , fooding and medical treatment there.
Ganja and Bhang : The prohibition of Bhang and Ganja is in force in the district under the Assam Ganja and Bhang Act 1958 which came into force i May 1959. Under the Act, no person shall cultivate , collect or sell and buy or posses or consume and keep or use any implement or apparatus for manufacture and consumption of Ganja and Bhang. The cases of ganja and Bhang are very few in the district . These are mostly consumed by the up-country men and local people practically have no inclination towards it . Ganja is mainly smuggled from Nagaland and Manipur.
Liquor : Liquor prohibition is not in force in the district. Prior to 1st January, 1926 when the Eastern Bengal and Assam Act 1 of 1910 was made applicable to the areas comprising the present district , there was no restriction on the consumption and distillation of liquor, but since then distillation of liquor is totally prohibited except under a licence. In 1968,there were 26 out-stills , 5 country spirit and 2 foreign shops in the district . All the outstills are located mainly in Block I and Block II Mauzas. They distill their own products and sell within the limits of their premises. Out of the five country spirit shops two were in Karbi and three in the North Cachar Hills . Foreign liquor shops were at Diphu in Karbi and Hagflong in North Cachar Hills . The consumption of the country spirit in the district is gradually on the increase.
Distillation of Laopani or rice beer which is a national drink of the unconverted tribes of the district is exempted from the above Act. It is called 'Harlong ' or 'Rohi' in Karbi and 'zu' in Naga dialects. The following is the usual system of manufacturing Laopani. The rice is boiled and spread on a mat and 'bakhar' (Thap in Karbi) is powdered and sprinkled over it. After about twelve hours, it is transferred to an earthen jar, the mouth of which is closed and left to ferment for three or four days. Water is then added and allowed to stand for a few hours and beer is at last considered to be ready. The usual proportions are 5 seers of rice and 3 Chattaks of bakhar to half a kulsi of water and the content produced is said to be much stronger than most European beers. Liquor is also sometimes illicitly distilled from Laopani or boiled rice. An earthen pot with a hole in the bottom is placed on the top of the vessel containing laopani or rice beer and the whole is set on the fire. The mouth of the upper pot is closed by a cone-shaped vessel filled with cold water and a saucer is placed at the bottom of the pot over the hole. The vapour rises into the upper of the two jars, condenses against the cold cone with which the mouth is closed, and falls in the form of spirit on to the saucer beneath. Care must of course, be taken to see that the various cracks are closed against the passage of the spiritious vapour and this can be easily done with strips of clothing.
Excise Case : There has not been a uniform trend in the number of excise cases. From 1958-59 there is a slight downward trend upto 1960-61 and then it rose almost to three times in 1965-66. Since then there is a slight fall every year.
The Excise Department is responsible for the implementation of the Prohibition Policy of the Govt. and other Excise Acts. Prior to 1956, the Excise Department in the district was under the control of one Sub- Deputy Collector with one Inspector of Excise at Diphu and another at Haflong. The post of Deputy Superintendent of Excise was created in 1956 and subsequently in 1964 upgraded to the Superintendent of Excise. The Office of the Superintendent is amalgamated with the Office of the Deputy Commissioner , The Superintendent of Excise is the head of the Department at the district and works under the direct supervision of the Deputy Commissioner . There are three Inspectors of Excise in-charge of circles and five Patrol Parties in Karbi and one Inspector of Excise and three Patrol Parties in North Cachar Hills . The Department of Excise is one of the important revenue earning department.
ADVANCEMENT OF BACKWARD CLASSES AND TRIBES:The description
'Backward classes; is commonly applied to the following sections of population :-
3.Communities formerly described as criminal tribes
4.Other socially and educationally backward classes.
There is no community known as criminal tribe in Assam. The district is predominantly inhabited by the scheduled tribes and according to the Census of 1961 both scheduled tribes and scheduled castes constituted seventy-eight percent of the total population of the district .
People belonging to Bansphor, Bhuinmali or Mali , Brittial-Bania or Bania, Dhupi or Dhobi, Hira ,Jalkeot, Jhalo, Malo or Jahao-Malo, Kaibarta or Jaliya, Mahara, Mehtar or Bhangi, Muchi or rishi, Namasudra, patni, and Sutradhar are the scheduled castes communities in the district . Of these communities , Namasudra alone accounted for 4,375. The strength of other communities were Dhubi 363, Mali 247, Muchi 195, Bania 128, Patni 103, Jhalo 83, Hira 80, Sutradhar 67, Mahara 36, Mehtar 22, Jalkeot 11 and Bansphor 10.
Among the scheduled tribes of the district were Karbi, Dimasa Kachari, garo, Hmar, Khasis and Jaintia, Kuki, Mizo , and Naga tribes. The Karbis who numbered 1,16,887, constituted more than 50 percent of the scheduled tribes population of the district . The Dimasa Kachari who comes next numbered 67,284. The other scheduled tribes of the district were Nagas 8,338, Kukis, 7,50, Hmar 4,131, Khasis and Jaintias 3,931, Garos 3,326 and Mizos 284.
Though there exists no organisation particularly for the advancement of the scheduled tribes , scheduled castes and other backward classes at the district , the economic development and social welfare schemes, undertaken during the three Plan periods in the district , have mainly benefitted the predominant population of the scheduled tribes. Though separate plans for economic and social welfare of the scheduled tribes and backward classes are provided, schemes under this head are executed along with other development schemes under the plan by the same agency.
The advancement of the scheduled tribes engaged the attention of the Britishers in the pre- Independence era. It was only to safeguard heir interests in land and save them from the exploitation of more advanced communities that the Karbi and North Cachar Hills areas were constituted into the three ''Partially Excluded Areas'' under Nowgong, Sibsagar and cachar districts. But little or no thought was given by the Govt. for the promotion of the economic and social welfare of these people. This had an adverse effect on the tribal people. This policy of isolation erected an iron curtain around them which shut-out all contact with the other people of Assam. As a result they remained less developed economically and socially. Their needs and aspirations were not known to others beyond the confines of their inhabitance. Whatever little welfare activities reached the people came from the Christian missionaries. Their activities were mostly confined to the establishment of educational institutions, particularly in the Christian villages.
It was only after Independence that attempts were made to bring an all round development of the standard of living of the people belonging to the backward classes. Incorporation of the Sixth Schedule in the Constitution of India which provides for the constitution of the autonomous Districts, with an administrative set up of its own, in itself is a great achievement especially for the hill tribes, With the formation of District Council which have been given a fair share of autonomy in the management of affairs relating to tribal upliftment, things have gradually taken a better shape for the promotion of economic and social welfare of these people. The activities of the District Councils and other developing departments have been well described in the earlier chapters.
One of the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution of India solemnly declares that the State shall promote with special care education , social and economic interests of the weaker section of the people, in particular scheduled tribes and scheduled castes and shall protect them from social injustice and exploitation . Article 275 of the Constitution of India provides for grants-in-aid from the Consolidated Fund of India to meet the cost of development schemes taken up for the welfare of the backward classes.
In pursuance of the provisions of Articles 16 (4) and 335 of the Constitution of India , the Government of Assam decided that there should be reservation of vacancies for members of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in making appointments to services in connection with the affairs of the State government .
Prior to August 1963 only five percent of posts was reserved for the Scheduled castes. This policy of reservation of vacancies has been followed by all the departments in making appointments to services or posts of the State Government subject to other terms and conditions as laid in the State Government Notification No. AAP./66/63/482 district. August 24th 1973 . Reservation of seats also exists in all other educational and technical institutions of the State. The Government of India has also prescribed certain reservation quotas for the scheduled tribes and scheduled castes in making appointments to services and posts under the Government of India and autonomous bodies etc., as well as in the technical and educational institutions under it.
Reservation of seats also exists in the State Legislative Assembly and House of the people. All the four Legislative Assembly Constituencies of the district are reserved for the tribal people. The parliamentary Constituency which the district shares with U.K. & J. Hills, is also a reserved constituency for the tribal.
Prior to Independence , there was no motorable road except some bridle paths in the district and journeys had to be undertaken on foot. With the opening of the two Public Works Divisions a number of motorable roads have been constructed , besides the village roads constructed by the District Council s Community Development Blocks on self-help basis. Agricultural Demonstration Farms have been established for dissemination of scientific methods of cultivation of food and cash crops and improved manurial practices. Schemes are taken up for reclamation of lands and terrace cultivation by the Agricultural and Soil Conservation Department for making them fit for wet rice cultvation and permanent rehabilitation of the tribes who are in the habit of moving from place to place with shifting of their jhums. Soil Conservation Department have also introduced the cultivation of permanent cash crops like coffee cashewnuts, black-pepper, rubber etc. The cultivators are also helped with a supply of improved agricultural tools ,implements, and fertilizers at subsidised rates. Minor as well as medium size irrigation schemes are under execution to provide perennial supply of water to the agricultural fields. Co-operative societies are also organised to foster the spirit of self help, thrift , and co-operation among the people in the district.
Construction of ring-wlells and tube-wells and other rural water supply schemes are under way in the various villages of the district . A number of dispensaries and public health centres have been established in the farflung areas of the district, Intensive programmes to fight malaria and leprosy are under way in the district .
The educational institutions grew up very fast in the district and percentage of literacy which was 5.87 in 1951 , went up to 16.77 in 1961. Vocational training centres besides, a Toy Production- cum-Training Centre at du , have been opened up in some of the Community Development Blocks where the trainees belonging to the scheduled tribes and scheduled castes are given stipends for the duration of the training period. A technical school is also established at Diphu . Adult education centres have been organised in the villages. A limited number of community listening sets have also been installed in the villages. Liberal grants are made to the social service organisations engaged in the welfare work of the tribal people.
Students of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are exempted from payment of fees upto the high school stage. There are provisions for the payment of lump-sum grants for the puchase of books and scholarships at all stages of education for the students of these communities depending upon merit basis. A concession of 7 percent is also given to a candidate of these communities in the construction work upto Rs.35,000/- by Public Works Department and other agencies.
The following organisations are doing extensive welfare work in the district
1.Shreemanta Sankar Mission, Nowgong.
2.Asom Seva Samity, Gauhati.
3.Mikir Hills Seva kendra, Sarihajau.
4.diphu branch of Asom Sahitya Sabha, Jorhat.