CHAPTER IV.

AGRICULTURE AND FORESTS.

Crops grown-Rice-Mustard-Pulses-Fibres-Storage and threshing of grain-Agricultural implements-Sugarcanc-Preparation of molasses-Causes affecting productiveness of land- Garden crops-Yield and value of crops- Floods and irrigation-General remarks-Live stock- Grazing-Cattle disease-Commencement of tea industry-The boom in. the early sixties-Scarcity of labour-Collapse in 1866-Expansion of the industry-Labour supply-Site of tea gardens-Soil- Varieties of plant-System of cultivation-System of manufacture-Outturn and prices-Forests- System of management-The reserved forests-Timber trees-Rubber-List of important reserves.

Crops grown

The staple food crop of the district is rice, which in 1902-03 covered 67 per cent of the total cropped area.other important crops are tea(14 per cent), and orchard and garden crops (9 per cent), but a large part of the area shown this head is occupied by the home stead, and it is doubtful whether as much as one half is actually under cultivation. Mustard occupied 5 per cent of the total cropped cropped area, miscellaneous food grains, nearly all of which are different forms of pulse, 4 per cent, sugarcane 07 per cent. Wheat, barley, and gram, the food grains of Upper India, are grown in small patches by immigrants from those parts, but the total area these three crops in 1902-03 was only 27 acres. A small quantity of maize is also grown.by foreigners. The general system of cultivation and the manner in which the staple crops are raised is described in the following paragraphs. The area under different crops will be found in Table VII.

Rice Sali

Rice falls under three main heads- Sali, ahu,and bao, the proportion of the total rice area normally occupied by cach of these three classce, being –Sali 79 per cent, ahu 18 per cent , and bau 3 per cent. Sah dhan, or transplanted winter rice, is first sown in little beds or nurseries ( kothiotoli) near the homestead. The land is broken up in April or May, is ploughed five or six times, and is generally manured with cowdung and sweepings. The seed, which has been selected from the largest ears of the previous year's crop, is sown broad east over the bed in May and June. It comes up a rich emerald green, and at the beginning of summer these patches of the brightest green herbage are a striking feature in the rural landscape. In the meanwhile the fields are being got ready for the reception of the seedlings. The husbandman starts ploughing as soon as the soil is softtened by the spring rain, and repeats the process from four to eight times,till he has reduced the land to a rich puddle of mud. After the third ploughing the field is harrowed, the little embankments, a few inches high, intended to retain the water are repaired, and if the fields adjoin the road or the village site they are fenced in with split bamboo. When the seedlings are about seven or eight weeks old, they are taken from the nursery bed and carried in large bundles (akhi) to the field. Here they are planted out in hand fuls (gocha), each of which contains four or five plants. The distance at which these are planted from one another depends upon the fertility of the soil, but the handfuls are generally placed about 18 inches apart. It is usually the practice to steep the young plants in water before they are planted out, and, unless they are weak and stunted, the tops are cut off at the time when they are removed from the nursery. Transplanting goes on from the beginning of July to the middle of September, and is generally carried out by women. The work is of a most arduous description, and involves stooping for hours in a field of liquid mud, under the rays of a burning tropical sun. Before the end of the rains the crop is fully grown, though the ears are still empty, but about the beginning of October they begin to fill, and the field to turn to a rich yellow. From the middle of November to the middle of January harvesting is going on . Women are not employed on this work in Mangaldai, but in Tezpur, as in Upper Assam, both sexes cut the grain. The reapers grasp a handful of the ears and cut them off about eight inches below the head. These handfuls (muthi) are tied up with a piece of straw and left in the field for a few days to dry. When the grain is ready to be transported to the granary, the muthis are made into large sheaves. Six and eight muthis form a thor or jhap, and five or six thors a dangari. A dangari is then affixed to either end of a sharp pointed bamboo called biriya, and the load, which is called a bhar and carried across the shoulder, is taken to the homestead by the men.

Bao dhan is sown broadcast about the beginning of May, the field having been previously prepared by four or five ploughings. It is grown in flooded tracts, and the embankment made between the fields are smaller than. In the case of Sali, and are sometimes dispensed with altogether. It ripens about the middle of Decemberwith and is harvested in the same way as Sali. Five-sixths of the bao crop is raised in the tahsils Patharughat, Mangaldai, and Tezpur.

Ahu dhan

Ahu or summer rice is grown either on irrigated land in the submontane tracts (kharma ahu)or low and near Brahmaputra. For low land cultivation the usual procedure is as follows :-

       In may the jungle is pressed down and burnt, and the land left till towards the end of the rains. The jungle that has sprung up in the interval is cleared in the same way, the process being known as gojala kata, and ploughing begins in January. The field is ploughed three times and harrowed, and the clods are broken up by a mallet.Another plouhing and harrowing follow, the sed is sown, and the land again ploughed and harrowed, to ensure that the grain becomes thoroughly mixed with the soil.when the plants are about six inches high and catch the wind botah boloah, they are harrowed again and weeded, and finally harvested about the end of August. The crop is, however, a precarious one, and is liable to be destroyed by a sudden rise of the river. The plants can live under water for as much as a week , but if after this time the floods do not retire they are permanently destroyed. Ahu is often grown on the chaporis in conjunction with mustard, and no jungle cutting is of course required when the soil has been already eleared for the oil seed crop. The same field is seldom cropped for more than three years in succession. The weeds which were unable to find a lodging under the dense growth of ikra(saccharum arundinaceum), khagari (saccharum spontaneum) and nal (phragmites roxburghii), with which the land in its natural state is covered, soon spring up when once the jungal has been removed. After the third year it is less trouble to burn fresh jungle than to clean the old fiels of weeks,and by a change of site the peasant gets the further advantage of a manure of ashes for his next year's crop

Kharma ahu is transplanted, and the system of cultivation does not differ materially from that employed in the case of Sali,except that it is both sown and harvested much earlier than winter rice. It is generally grown on land which is irrigated from the hill streams, and is extensively cultivated in the north of Mangaldai. The bulk of the ahu in Darrang is, however, chapori ahu.

Mustard

Mustard, as has already been said, is usually grown in conjunction with ahu on the riparian flats. The jungle is cut down in February and march, and , if the land cannot be prepared in time for summer rice, is allowed to rot upon the ground. What remains is burned in October, the stumps are dug out, and the land is then ploughed over four or five times. The seed is sown about the beginning of November, and the plant is ready to be pulled from the field about the middle of February. It is generally left to dry for a few days, and is then tied in bundles and carried to the homestead, where it is threshed out by the cattle. Mustard is grown all along the banks of the Brahmaputra to a greater or a less degree. The area under this crop in the Patharughat tahsil is particularly large.

Pulses

Pulse is usually grown on the alluvial flats that fringe the Brahmaputra, in conjunction with summer rice and mustard, but a crop is often taken from the land on which rice seedlings,early rice, and sugarcane have been grown, as it is generally and rightly thought to improve the quality of the soil. In the chapor is if new land is taken up the first proceeding is to cut burn the reeds and grass. Only two ploughings are required, and those are of the very lightest character, and , if the ground is naturally clear of jungle, the seed is some times simply sown on the river flats as soon as the floods subside. Pulse is also scattered broadcast amongst the rice stubble, or between the Sali plants, if the land is still soft, but this method is not generally in use. The seed is sown in September and the crop is rice about four months later. The plants are pulled up by the roots, left for a few days in the field to dry, and are then collected at the convenience of the cultivator . the seeds are threshed out by cattle, but as the grains do not separate readily from the pods , their efforts are supplemented by a man with a flail . several different kinds of pulse are grown , but nine- tenths of the crop belong to the variety known as mati-mah(phaselus mungo v. radiatus). Other kinds are magumah( phaseolus mungo). a species which has a smaller yield and requires more careful cultivation,but commands as higher price and possesses a more delicate flavour. It is seldom grown except on the river charporis. Kala-mah (phaseolus sativus), is grown, but not in any considerable quantities. It has a large yield, but does not fetch a high price. Pulse, like mustard, is usually grown on the river chaporis, but, while there is very little pulse in Gohpur, there is a certain amount of high land pulse in Balipara and Kalaigaon.

Fibres

Jute is grown in small patches as a garden crop. The seeds are generally sown in April, and the plants are cut in August and September, stripped of their leaves, tied in bundles, and left to rot in pools of water for from seven to twelve days. When they are ready a handful of stems is taken up, broken in the middle, and beaten to and fro in the water, till the inner part drops out and only the fiber remains. The bundles of fiber are then dried and are ready for use; but the area under jute is at present absolutely inconsiderable. Small patches of rhea (boehmeria nivea) are grown in the gardens of the fishing castes, where it is heavily manure. The skin is stripped off from the stem and the fiber separated from the outer covering. The thread obtained is exceptionally strong and durable, but the difficulty of decortication has hitherto prevented the growth of rhea on a commercial scale.

Storage and threshing of grains

In the Mangldai subdivision the rice is threshed as soon at it has been brought from the fields but in the Tezpur the stalk and ear are stored together in the granary (bhoral). When it is required for use the sheaves are untied and spred over the courtyard. Cattle are then driven round ahd round over the heap of grain and straw till the ears have been finally separated from the stalk.* The grain is next passed through a sieve, and placed in a flat bamboo tray called hula. It is then jerked into the air and allowed to fall slowly to the ground, till gradually the chaff is carried is carried of. After threshing the paddy is stored in huge drums, called dhols. They are made of split bamboo, and the outer surface is plastered over with clay and cowdung.

Agricultural implements- The plough

The agricultural implements in use are of a very simple character. The plough is usually made of the jack fruit tree or some other had wood, and consists of three parts, the handle and body, which are usually all in one piece, the pole, which joins the plough at the junction of the handle and the body, and the yoke, which is merely a piece of wood, fastened by rope at right angles to the pole, with pegs affixed to it to keep it from sliding from the necks of the bullock. The front portion of the body is sharpened to a point which is shod with iron, and in soft soil a piece of bamboo is sometimes substituted for the iron. This piece of iron is the only portion of the plough which the farmer has to purchase. The rest he makes for himself. The whole instrument is suited to the wretched class of animal required to draw it. It weighs as rule about 20 lbs. and when cattle are used the yoke seldom stands as much as 36 inches from the ground. When buffaloes are employed the whole plough is constructed on a larger scale. It is obvious that such an implement ean only penetrate from three to four inches into the soil, but the wretched quality of the plough cattle prohibits the use of a more effective instrument.

Other implements

The harrow (moi) is generally a bamboo ladder, about eight feet in lengh, on which a man stands as it is drawn across the field. It is used to crush the clods turned up by the plough before mustard or summer rice is sown, and to reduce the fields required for wet rice to puddle. Its place is sometimes taken by a plain log of wood. It is prepared by the cultivator himself from the bamboos browing in his garden. Clods are broken by the mallet (doli bari) which is also made at home. Hoes (kor) are used to trim the embankments (alis) which help to retain the water. The head is bought in the bazaar and costs from Re. 1 to Re. 1-4, and is fitted with a shaft by the farmer himself. Sickles (kachi), with which the rice is reaped, have also to be purcheased, and cost from two to four annas. In ahu cultivation a large wooden rake (bindha), with teeth nearly one foot in length, is dragged over the crop by a bullock,when the plants are about six inches high. The khanti, a kind of trowel With a long handle, is used for weeding ahu rice. The sugarcane mill is described in the paragraph dealing with the preparation of molasses. The ordinary implement used for husking grain is the dheki, a long beam with a pestle affixed at the end, which is supported by two posts at about two-thirds of the length from the head. The shorted end is depressed by the foot, and the pestle is thus raised into the air; the weight is then removed, ad the pestle falls into a small hole, in a piece of wood sunk level with the ground, in which the grain is placed. The dheki is the implement ordinarily employed by the Assamese to husk their rice or pulse, but the animistic tribes generally use a large wooden mortal (ural) and a pestle (meri). All of these implements are made at home.

Sugarcane

Sugarcane (saccharum officianrum) is propagated from the tops of the best canes, which are cut off at harvest time and kept in a shady place. One of these tops yields on the average about five canes, and, as they contain but little juice, the cultivator does not sacrifice much of the gross product of his fields in the cause of reproduction. Four principal varieties of the plant are recognized. The bagi or white stands about seven feet high, and has yellow canes of a soft juicy texture. The teliya is shorter, harder, and thinner, and the canes are a deep red or even purple colour. The Bangala or Bam, a foreign variety, is large and more juicy than the indigenous kinds, but yields a smaller proportion off sugar. The Molaha is a hard thin variety of the mugi, and, where grown, is planted round the edge of the field. The land is hoed up till it is reduced to a fince tilth, and the tops planted in trenches between April and June. The patch is fenced with split bamboo, and there is usually a stout hedge of arhar dal (cajanus Indicus), but constant watching is required to scare, away jackals and other animals, and an empty oil tin with a clapper is generally to be seen suspended over each field. While the crop is growing it is continually hoed and weeded, and about August the leaves should be tied up round each cluster of canes, which is a troublesome proceeding. The earth from the ridges is heaped about the roots to strengthen their hold upon the soil, and this process is continued until the relative positions of ridges trench are reversed, and the canes stand upon ridges with the trenches in between.

Preparation of molasses

The native form of mill is still very generally used by the Assamese for the extraction of the juice, but the iron mill, which is far more expeditious, is gradually coming into favor. The native mill consists of two wooden rollers fixed side by side in a trough hollowed out of a heavy block of wood. The tops of the two rollers pass through a hollow beam supported by uprights let through the lower block of wood into the ground, and are cut inot the for of screws which fit into one another. To the large of the two (mota bhim as distinguished from maiki bhim) is affixed a pole, which is driven round in a circle, and thus causes the rollers to revolve. The motive power is usually supplied by the villagers themselves, but buffaloes are occasionally used for the work. The mill requires rather more knowledge of carpentry for its production than the other implements of agriculture, nd can only be made by the more skillful of the villager. The cane is placed between the rollers and crushed as it is slowly forced through. Each handful is passed through the mill three or four times, till nothing but foam appears. The juice trickles from the trough into an earthen vessel, and is then transferred to a small boat scooped out of a log. When twelve or fifteen gallons have been collected boiling begins. The furnace is hollowed out of the ground, and has four circular openings to receive the cauldrons, which are made of the most durable kinds of potte's clay. Two of these vessels are placed about nime feet from the furnace mouth, and only sever to heat the juice before it is transferred into the other vessels to be boiled. When the juice has been reduced to the proper conditon it is ladled into a wooden vessel (gholani) shaped like a small dug out, and is stirred for half an hour. As the stirring continues the liquid loses its dark brown colour, and assumes the consistency and hue of yellow mud. It is then stored in earthen posts and the process is complete.

Causes affecting productiveness of land

The fertility of the rice fields mainly depeds upon the following five causes-the watersupply, the quality of the soil, and the liability to injury from flood, wild animals, or shade. The first named factor is probably of most importance land in the submontane tracts yields bumper from poor and and sandy soil. The soil of the district varies from pure sand near the Brahmaputra to clay so stiff utterly unfit for cultivation. The land best suited for the growth of rice is a clay loam alatia, the most fertile variety of which is called bherbheria and is particularly deep and soft. The animals which do most injury to the crop are pigs, elephants, and monkeys. Elephants leave disastrous traces of their presence, but luckily do not remain long in any one locality. Serious damage is sometimes done by insects which are called keonkata or moja, tupalia, gandhi (leptorisa acuta) (, and charaha(hispa acuesceus) The gandhi is a small bug, which injures the rice plant by feeding on the stems and sucking all the sap from the young grains. It is most prevalent in July and August , and is particularly in evidence during a spell if hot dry weather. High wind and rain drive it back into the jungle, and god results are obtained by lighting fires of vegetable refuse to windward. The best remedy of all is to collect the insect by smearing a winnowing fan with some glutinous substance and brushing it over the ears of grain, when many of the bugs will be found adhering to the fan. This remedy should be tried in the morning or late afternoon, as the insects do not feed in the heat of the day. The charaha is a tiny beetle, which eats away the outer surface of the leaves and stalks, and thus away the outturn of the leaves and stalks, and thus affects the outturn of the crops. It attacks the young plants in the nursery and can most easily be destroyed there by spraying.* smoking the fields also produces good results, but must be continued for somedays or the beetles will return. Crabs (kekora) some times damage the stems of the crop on low- lying land when under water. Rain is wanted Sali rice is sown and is transplanted, but is not needed for the sowing of ahu and bao. During every stage of its growth the plant is benefited by moderate showers, but rain is absolutely essential at the time when the ears are first appearing. Hail storms in December sometimes lay the crop and add materially to the cost of reaping, but fortunately are very local in their action.

Garden crops. The plantation

One of the most valuable of garden crops is the plantain(musa sapientum). As many as ten main varieties of this tree are recognized, but the most important are those known as athia, monohar, cheni champa, and malbhog. The fairest two groups are again subdivided into a considerable number of different species. The commonest from of athia is called bhim, a large tree which is found growing in the garden of nearly every house. The fruit is considered cool and wholesome, and is very generally used as food for infants. The monohar is a somewhat smaller tree, the pulp of the fruit is white and slightly acid in taste, and is largely used in combination with soft rice and milk at village feasts. The malbhog and cheni champa are small trees whose fruit is much appreciated by Europeans. The athia plantain is generally grown near the homestead, where it can obtain a plentiful supply of manure, but the finer varieties are planted at a little distance to protect them from the earthworms, whose attacks they are hardly strong enough to resist. Sandy soil and heavy clay check the growth of the plant, and anything in the shape of water logging is most injurious. The trees are planted in holes about a foot wide and eighteen inches deep, and are manured with cowdung, ashes, and sweepings. Young saplings take from eighteen months to two years to flower, and the flower, and the flower take from three to six months to turn to fruit. The plantain tree plays many parts in addition to that of fruit purveyor. The flower is much esteemed as a vegetable, the leaves serve as plates, and the trunks are for decorative purposes on occasions of ceremony and as food elephants. An alkaline solution distilled from the sheaths and the corm is often used as a flavouring with curry, a practice which is mentioned by the Muhammadan historians of Mir Jumla's invasion. These portions of the tree are sliced, dried, and reduced to ashes. The ashes are placed in an earthen pot in which there ares everal holes lightly plugged with straw. Water is then poured is then poured over them, which dissolves the alkali and trickles through the holes into the receiver below. The resulting product, which is known as kharoni, is used not only as a seasoning but as a hair wash and as a mordant with certain dyes.

Other garden crops

The betelnut (areca catechu)is grown almost as universally as the plantain, and with the bamboo, forms the great trinity of trees in which the houses of the Assamese are usually embedded. The plantation is hoed up and kept clear of weeds, and the trees are most liberally manured with cowdung. The pan vine (piperbetle) is frequently trained up their stems, and the leaf and nut, which are invariably eaten in conjunction, are thus grown side by side. Tobacco is plant which is to be seen growing in the majority of gardens. The seedlings are raised in carefully manured beds in August and September. At the beginning of November they are transplanted into ground which has been reduced to a fine tilth, watered for a few days, and are protected from the sun by little sections of the plantain trunk. The bed is lightly up two or three times, and not more than ten or twelve leaves are allowed to grow on each plant, the remainder being picked off as the appear. The leaves are first gathered in February and March, and there is a second but much inferior crop about two months later. If required for chewing they are either dried under a shed, or else pressed into a hollow bamboo (chunga) and allowed to ferment. When the tobacco is destined for the pipe, though this is not the use to which it is generally put, the leaves are piled up in heaps tell they ferment, cut up and mixed with molasses, and then are ready for the hookah. The commonest forms of vegetable grown are ordinary spinach pui (basella alba), lahi, a species of brassica, different kinds of armus (kachu), different kinds of yams (dioxcorea) and grounds, the country bean urahi(dolichos lablab), the common mallow lafa(malva verticillata), the radish mula(raphanus sativus), the sorrel chukka sak(rumex vesicarius), and the brinjal (solanum melongena).

Yield and value of crops

The outturn of different crops varies according to the character of the season, and also to a

  Ibs
Sali 1,000
Ahu 850
Mustard 500
Molasses 1,800

 

Great extent according to the character and level of the soil on which they are grown. The statement in the margin shows the normal yield per acre laid done by the Agricultural Department after a long series of experiments periments. These figures only represent a general the in a normal year there are many fields whose outturn varies largely from the average. The yield of rice, it may be premised, is expressed in terms of husked grain. Like the outturn, the cash value of the crop can only be approximately ascertained. The prices obtained by the raiyats vary to some extent in different parts of the district, but probably average about Re. 1 11-0 per maund of unhusked grain in Tezpur and Re. 1-7-0 in Mangaldai. Assuming that unhusked paddy yields 62 per cent of clean rice, it would appear that the value of the harvest from an acre of Sali is about Re. 33 in Tezpur and Rs. 28 in Mangaldai, while the value of the ahu crop is Rs. 28 or Rs. 24, according as it is raised in the eastern or western subdivision. For mustard the villagers generally get about 3-4 a manund, so that the yield from one acre is or western subdivision. For mustard the villagers generally get about 3-4 a manund, so that the yield from one acre is worth about Rs. 19-8-0. The price of molasses varies considerably from time to time and from place to place, and range from Rs. 5 to Rs. 10 per manud. The value of the yield of an acre of cane ranges accordingly from about Rs. 110 to Rs. 220.

Floods and irrigation

A considerable portion of the district is flooded in the rainy season by the Brahmaputra and its tributaries. The pressure on the soil is, however, very light, and there is no necessity at present of bring these submerged tracts under permanent cultivation. The Bhareli ruined a considerable area of good rice land when it changed its course some years ago, and the Gabharu, Dhansiri, Rowta, and Nanai all occasionally do a certain amount of damage. No protective works have yet been erected, but there is not as yet sufficient demand for land to render reclamation necessary. The Kacharis in the submontane mauzas combine together to dig little channels (dngs) through which they bring the water of the rivers on to their fields.

General Remarks

Beyond occasionally selecting the best ears of grain for seed the villagers do little to improve the quality of their crops, and show little tendency to adopt new staples. Manure is seldom used except for sugarcane and garden crops, and to some extent for tea. Experiments in agriculture on a scientific scale have, however, been made by several gentlemen in Tezpur. Mr. Moti Lal Holder, the manager of the Morni tea Estate, was very successful in raising different varieties of cotton, sugarcane, and tobacco. Mr. Wilde, the manager of the Bamgaon Tea Estate, opened a farm at Gamiri in 1903, and in 1905 had about 350 acres under cultivation. The crops raised included paddy, jute, khesari and mung dal, mustard, ground nut, ginger, turmeric, barley, oats, wheat, potatoes, tobacco, coriander and anise. Agricultural implements of English manufacture have been successfully and economically worked upon this farm, natbly a threshing machine and large ploughs. Agriculture experiments have also been made by Babu Syama Charan Moitra, a local pleader, who in 1905 had about 50 acres under cultivation.

Live stock Buffeloes

The buffaloes of the district belong to three distinct breeds, the Assamese, Nepalese, and Bengali.* The Assamese are the largest of the three, and are fine upstanding animals with widely spreading horns. During the cold weather they are generally grazed in jungly tracts, and a wild bull often attaches himself to the herd, and becomes the sire of many of the calves. This continual infusion of a good strain o blood does much to maintain the excellence of the breed. The Bengali buffalo is a smaller and less imposing animal, and does not command so high a price. Nepalese buffaloes are also common. They are large animals but have smaller horns and longer tails than the Assamese variety. Assamese bulls cost from Rs. 30 to Rs. 40, and cows from Rs. 40 to Rs. 60, but a Bengali buffalo can be purchased for rather less.

Buffaloes rarely get anything but grass and a little salt to eat. In the cultivated portion of the district they are usually placed in charge of a small half naked boy, whose legs can hardly stretch across the massive back of the animal he best rides and who guides it with a nose rope. In the chaporis the herd is driven out to graze in the jungle, and follows the lead of the older of cows, whose where able is indicated by the metal or wooden bells that are dangling from their necks. They are often trusted to return in the evening of their own accord, and a long line of animals is sometimes to be seen swimming across a channel of the Brahmaputra which separates them from the huts in which the graziers live.Often too, as the sun is setting, a herdsman is to be seen climbing a simul tree, which raises its head above the surrounding wastes of grass, to call his buffaloes home. At right each animal is fastened by a nose rope to a post and sleeps on the bare ground. There are a large number of mokhutis, as these grazing camps are called, in the flooded tracts along the Brahmaputra, and on the high land near the hills. A cow is said to remain in milk for about ten months, and yields at the beginning from two to four seers every day. The amount gradually decreased till a month or so before the nest calf comes, when it cease altogether. The milk is very white and rich in fatty materials, and consequently yields a large protion of ghi. The cows are said to begin breeding when three years, during which time they give birth on the average to about ten calves. The normal life of a buffalo is from 25 to 30 years. Age is judged by the incisor teeth.

* The information given in these paragraphs is taken from a note compelled by Mr. Darrah, Director of Land Records and Agriculture in 1887, and from reports received from the lo0cal Revenue Officers of Darrang.

Cattle

Half-starve, under-sized, ill-bred, and not unfrequently disesed, the Assamese cattle are but sorry creatures. The bullocks find it a difficult task to drag even the light native plough, and the cows yield but a minimum of milk. The causes of this degeneracy are not entirely clear, but are probably to be found in a total indifference to laws of breeding, in absolute neglect, and party perhaps in the want of suitable fodder in the rains. No bulls are set aside to be the sires of the herd, and the cows are generally covered by a young and immature animal, who secures the object of his desires by his superior lightness and agility. The sire is often closely related to the dam, and she her turn has had her strength exhausted by being covered when herself little more than a calf, and by subsequent breeding without the smallest intermission. The cattle are never groomed, and, when an epidemic breaks out, no attempt is made to isolate the sick. Everything, as Mr. Darrah says, is left to nature, from the moment when the most active, and therefore probably the youngest, bull of the hers has succeeded in covering a cow, until the progeny, after years of work and semi-starvation, dies neglected in some unfrequented jungle. Cows generally cost from Rs. 10 to Rs.15, and bullocks from Rs. 15 to Rs. 30. the Bhutias bring down very fine cattle in the cold weather, but they are seldom purchased by the villagers in the neighbourhood, and it is said that they donot stand the heat well.

Grazing grounds

Live stock are generally grazed on the rice patharsafter the crop been carried, on high land, and in swamps and marshes till the rises. During the rains, the villagers are said to experience some difficulty in obtaining fodder for their cattle in parts of the Mangaldai, Patharughat, and Tezpur tahsils, and rice straw is sometimes collected for the purpose.

Goats Seeps and ponies

The goats are almost as degenerate as the cattle. They yield but little milk, the whole of which is taken by the kids, and are only kept for food or sacrifice. At night they are usually shut up in a small out- house with a raised floor, which is approached by a slanting board or sloping bamboo platform as a protection against jackals. There is no indigenous breed of sheep, and though sheep are brought down by the Bhutias in the cold weather, very few seem to remain on in the district. The country ponies are, if anything, even more miserable specimens than the cattle. Few of them are as much as twelve hands in height, and they possess neither pace, endurance or stamina. The Butia ponies are, however,hardy little animals, though they have neither pace nor manners. European residents are compelled to obtain all their horseflesh from Calcutta.

Cattle disaes

A census of livestock was taken in 1904, and disclosed the following results. Bulls and bullocks, 90,000 ; cows, 82,000; bull buffaloes, 19,000 ; cow buffaloes, 13,000; young stock, 93,000; sheep, 150; goats,59,000; horses and ponies,845.

The most common forms of cattle disease are foot and mouth disease (chapka). Rinderpest (guti), a disease called kachua, the symptoms of which are flatulence and diarrhea, cholera(marki) , matikhoa, the first symptom of which is, as the name implies, the eating of earth followed by dysentery, and sukuna when the animal refuses to eat and dies after ten days or a fornight.

Commencement of of tea industry

Reference must now be made to tea, a crop which has done so much for the development of Darrang.

The indigenous tea of Assam was first brought to the notice of Government in 1826 by Mr.C.A. Bruce, a gentlemen who had been engaged in trade in the Province while it was still under rule, and who had been sent up the Brahmaputra in command of a division of gun boats in 1824. In 1834 committee was appointed by Government to enquire inti the possibility of cultivating tea on a commercial scale, who deputed three of their numbers, Drs. Wallich, McClelland , and Grittths,to visit Upper Assam. Nurseries were established, a small establishment was entertained under the general management of Mr. Bruce to Scarch the jungles for plots of indigenous tea, and cultivate them when discovered, and plants plants and seed were brought to Assam from China. Tea makers and trained Chinese were imported in 1837, and in the following year some of the manufactured product was sent to England, where it met with a most favourable reception. Assam tea was regarded as a furiosity ,and the first eight chests which were put up to auction fetched sums which at the present day seem little short of fabulous, the price paid ranging from .16 to ₤1-14-0 a pound these were' however, only fancy prices, and a short time afterwards a merchant offered to purchase tea in considerable quantities at prices ranging from 1-1012d. to 2s a pound.*

* Information with regard to the early history of the tea industry has been derived from – (1) selections from the Recodrs of the Government of Bengal No.xxxvii. parers relating to tea cultivation in Assam. Calcutta, 1861. (2) Report of the Commissoners appointed to inquire into the state and prospects of tea cultivation in Assam, Cachar and Sylhet. Calcutta, 1868. (3) Pares regarding the Tea Industry in Bengal. Calcutta,1,1873

The boom in the early sixties

The pioneer of tea in Darrang was Mr. Martin, who opened a plantation at Balipara in 1854, and three years later stared a garden at Haleswar. In 1855, the Assam Company started operations at Singri Parbat, and these were the only plantations in existence when Captain Comber submitted his report in 1859. the next four years were a period of steady but not abnormal or unwholesome expansion. About 1863, the possibility of making large forunes out of tea attracted the attention of the speculating classes, and tea planting passed through a severe crisis, which was entirely due to the action of company promoters, who endeavoured to make money, not by manufacturing tea, but by hastily opening gardens to sell at most exorbitant prices to the credulous investor. The promulgation of the fee simple rules of 1861 was followed by a rush for land, which was aggravated by the orders of the Board of Revenue, who authorized Disrict Officers to sell estates on pen and ink sketch made by the applicant, before they had been properly surveyed and demarcated. Land thus obtained was hastily cleared of jungle, a few plants, the majority of which soon died, were hurriedly put out, and the place was sold to the unsuspecting public as a flourishing tea garden. To such a pitch was this procedure carried that there is one case on record, in which a manager receved instruction from London, to clear and plant a certain area of of waste land for delivery to aCompany to whom it had been already sold as a tea plantation.

Scarcity of labour

Many of the planters, and some District Officers in Assam, thought that it was the duty of Government to stimulate the slothful Assamese , and drive them to work on the plantations, by enhancing the land revenue assessment. This point of view did not commend itself to the Commissioner, colonel Jenkins , who, while admitting that there was great want of industry and energy amonget the assamese, declined to check their social improvement , or to reduce them to the unaccustomed misery of hard work, simply to provide the planters with cheap and abundant labour.*

It naturally followed that in spite of the high prices offered,. Local labour was not obtainable in sufficient quantities, and coolies generally of the most miserable description, were sent up from Calcutta. The mortality in the depots and on the journeys was appalling. In the four years, to 1867, the annual mortality in largest depot ranged from 36 to 115 per cent of the average daily strength, th latter enormous rate being calculated on a daily average of less than 458 souls.† Between 1863 and 1868, 54352 coolies were imported to Assam, 1,712 of whom died en route. Even when the garden was reached the mortality was generally high, and was sometimes quite appalling. In the Report of the Commissioners appointed to enquire into the state and prospects of the cultivation details are given for seven ga details are given for seven gardens in Upper Assam, on which the recorded mortality for half the year in 1865 ranged from 16 to 39 per cent.

The returns submitted were declared by the Commissioners to be unsatisfactory, but in1866, 4,366 deaths were recorded in Upper Assam, which was enquivalent to a death-rate of17.9 per sent on the total number remaining plus the total number of deaths, these days, of high mortality have happily now passed away in 1902-03 the mortality amongst adult coolies in Darrang was only 39 per mille. It may, perhap, be thought that even this is a high rates for a population of adults, and in comparison with those recorded in England this is no doubt the case. But comparisons of this sort are most misleading, as though the death rate in Assam is very impertectly recorded it is certain that it largely exceeds the rate the more civiliuzed countries of western Eupope. It must, moreover, be borne in mind that many of the coolies are recruited from the ranks of the physically unfit, that they suffer from the effects of a change of climate, and that when working in new clearanceas they are exposed to especially unfavourable conditions.the Commissioners * in 1868 considered that the Bhutan field force furnished a fair analogy to garden coolies,and pointed out that the death rate amongst that force was 16 per cent, or very little less than the death rate even in those days on Assam tea gardens. The planters spare neither trouble nor expense in theirefforts to preserve the health of their employees, and many of the weakly ones who die would probably have lived no longer no longer had they been allowed to remain in their own homes.

• Letter No. 111, dated 24th October 1859
• Report of Commissioner, p. 28

Collapse in 1866

During the tea boom, large sums were paid for labour and for seed, land which was little better than jungle was sold for preposterous prices,and the tea companies which were formed under these unfavourable conditions soon collapsed : 1866,1867,and 1868 were years of great depression. Mr. A. C. Campbell, in a note written in 1873, describes how young men, who had been engaged in England,were turned adrift when the collapse came "in a most inhospitable country without a penny or a friend ; some died, others had literally to beg their way out of Assam, most had to regret impaired constitutions, and all the the loss of some of the best years of their life. In 1869, affairs began to take a more favourable turn. It was seen that properly managed gardens could be worked at a satisfactory profit,and that the estates of the bubble companies which had been bought for small prices after the great crash were doing well in the hands of their new owners. Since 1870, there has been an enormous expansion of the industry, and while the area under cultivation and the outturn have alike increased, the cost of production and the price obtained have steadily diminished. Like other industries,tea has experienced periods of prosperity and depression, but there has been no such boom with its inevitable collapse as occurred in the early sixties.

Expansion of the industry

The first tea garden was opened in Darrang in 1854, but for some years the industry did not make very rapidprogress. In 1870, the total outturn of manufactured tea was said to be 721,000 Ibs., but little weight can be attached to these early estimates of outturn, as two years later it was said to be nearly 1,500,000 Ibs. In 1882, the total area under plant was 14,289 acres with a yield of 4,356,000 Ibs. Six years later the acreage had risen to 20,000 and the reported yield had nearly doubled. The industry continued to make steady progress till 1896 when there were 31,867 acres under tea with a total outturn of 11,474,000 Ibs. Tea was at that time booming, and many of the owners of the excellent private garden round Tezpur took advantage of this opportunity to sell out to joint stock companies. The extra capital obtained was employed in the extension of the cultivated area, and within the short space of three years the area under plant increased by nearly 9,000 acres. In 1900, the outturn of manufactured tea was reported to be 15,311,000 Ibs., and the area under plant 41,708 acres. Since that date the industry has been passing through a period of depression, which was chiefly due to the abnormally rapid expansion of the outturn, to the large increase in the duty imposed in England, and to the difficutly in obtaining labour. Statistics for later years will be found in Table VII.

Labour supply

The Kacharis of Kamrup and Mangaldai are employed on the plantations in considerable numbers, but the bulk of the labour force is imported from other parts of India. During the ten years ending with 1890,38,660 person were brought up to the gardens and the total for the next decade was 79,924 1896 (10,183), 1897 (12,464), and 1900 911,358), were the years in which the largest numbers were imported. Statistics for later years will be found in the Appedix.

The abstract in the margin shows the areas from which the labour force in 1901 had been recruited. A considerable proportion of those born in Assam are the children of foreign coolies.

  Number Percentage
Total 79,513  
Assam 19,440 24
Chota Nagpur 30,477 38
Other parts Bengal 10,228 13
United Provinces 1,396 2
Central Provinces 11,662 15
Madras 2,827 4

The Lobourers

The journey from the recruit in districts is troublesome and expensive, the class of persons capable of working successfully in the damp climate of Assam is limited, and of recent years the supply of labour available has not been sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the planters. Special Acts have been passed to regulate the relations between the employers and their labour force. Careful provision is made for the welfare of the force. He is housed in neat and comfortable lines, he is provided with and excellent water-supply, generally drawn from masonry wells, and, when sick, he is cared for in a comfortable hospital by a nativedoctor working under the supervision of a European medical an. The provision of all these comforts and the importation of the labourers themselves costs large sums of money, which no one would be willing to expend without some guarantee that the coolies when imported would consent to remain on the plantation. This protection is afforded by the law (Act VI of 1901) m which lays down that a labourer, provided that he is well treated, must not leave the garden to which he is indentured before the expiry of his contract, unless he choosed to redeem it by a money payment. The simpler Act (XIII of 1859), which empowers a Magistrate to order a labour who has taken an advance to complete the work on account of which the advance was given, is also very generally used.

Site of tea gardens

Some of the best plantations are situated on what is known as the high bank, a ridge of reddish loam, which runs from Sessa about eight miles north of Tezpur to Balipara. Other good estates have been carved out of the dense forest which lies near the foot of the Aka Hills, a little to the north of Barjuli. East of the Bhareli there are a considerable number of gardens occupying the central belt of land between the Brahmaputra and the hills. Tea in Mangladai falls into two main groups. The older gardens are situated in the neighbourhood of Kalaigaon, while of recent years considerable unmber of plantations have been opened on the high land at the foot of the hills, to the west of Bengbari church.

Further information with regard to the area, size and population of each garden in the district will be found in Appendix A.

Soil required for tea

A friable red loam is the soil that proves most suitable for tea. The plant requires a heavy rainfall, but anything in the shape of waterlogging is most prejudicial to its growth, and gardens should only be planted out on land which can be will drained. Land which in its natural state is coverd with tree forest is usually considerable the most suitable, as the absence of timber generally shows eiher that the place is liable to flood, ot that the soil is sandy, or that the rainfall is deficient.

Varieties of plants

Four distinct varieties of recognized Assam indigenous, which has a leaf from 6 to 7¾ inches in length by 2 3/8 to 2 7/8 inches in width , the Manipur or Burma indigenous with a large, darker, and coarser leaf than the preceding veriety, Lushai or Cachar indigenous , whose mature leaf is from 12 to 14 inches long and from 6 to 71/2 inches wide, and the Naga in indigenous which has a long and narrow leaf. In addition to these four varieties there is the China plant, and different kinds of hybrids. The China tea is a squat and bushy shrub with small leaves, which gives a lower yield per acre than the other kinds. It is many years since China seed was planted out in new clearances, and considerableareas covered by this plant have been abandoned. In its natural state the indigenous plant attains to the dimensions of a tree, varying from 20 to 50 feet in height,Though its girth seldom exceeds two feet. It has a vigorous growth and yields a large outturn of fine outturn of fine flavoured tea, but is delicate when young. Of the hybrid variety there are many qualities ranging from nearly pure indigenous to nearly pure. China. A plant with a very small admixture of China is usually preferred , as this imparts the hardiness , the want of which is the one defect in the indigenous variety. During the boom in the nineties the price of good tea rose to as much as Rs. 150 per maund, but this was followed by a slump, when but a third of that sum became obtainable. Seed from the Ghorirali, Barjuli, and namgaom estates is much esteemed.

System

The seed is planted in nursery beds in December and January and kept under shade till the young plants are three or four inches above the ground. Transplantmg goes on between April and July , whenever there is rain, the plants being usually placed from four to five feet apart. During the first two years of their life little more is required than to keep the plantation clear of weeds. By this time the plants are from two to four feet high, and at the end of the rains they are pruned down to fifteen inches or a foot to encourage lateral growth. In the thired year the plant can be lightly plucked over, but the yield of leafe is small. Pruning is continued every year. Only about two inches are left of the wood formed since the previous pruning, and any unhealthy or stunted branches are removed. As an extreme remedy old plants, in which there is a large proportion of gnarled and twisted wood, are sawn off level with the ground,and fresh shoots are allowed to spring from the root itself. During the rains the garden is hoed over several times, in order to render the soil permeable both to rain water and the roots of the bush. At the end of the rains, the ground is hoed up to the depth of eight or nine inches. The object of this is to protect the land from drought, as the hoed up soil prevents the evaporation of water from the lower strata. It also adds to the fertility of the land by exposing it to air, light, and changes in temperature. Manure has hitherto been little used. Oil cake and cowdung are sometimes spread about the plants, and exhausted land is sometimes top- dressed with rich soil from a neighbouring marsh. The cost of these operations is considerable and they are not invariably successful from the pecuniary point of view. Matikalai (phaseolus mungo radiatus) is often sown amongst the bushes and hoed in as a green manure.

Plucking begins in April, and is continued till the beginning of December. The bud and the two top leaves are taken from each shoot, but fresh leaves soon appear, and in about five weeks' time the shoot is ready to be plucked again this throwing out of new leaves is termed a " flush," and there are usually eight to ten full " flushes" in a season, though each bush is picked over every ten days or so, as the twigs develop at different times. The plucking is usually done by women and children, while the men are engaged in hoeing up the ground around the plants. The plant is liable to be attacked by a large number of pests, the best known being the tea mosquito or blight, the green fly, and the red spider. A full account of these pests will be found in " the pests and blights of tea plant," by watt and Mann, Calcutta,1903.

System of manufacture

When the leaf has been taken to the factory it is spread out in thin layers on trays and allowed to wither. In fine weather the process takes about 18 hours, but if it is cold and wet as many as 48 hours may elapse before the left is ready. When the leaf has been properly withered it is placed in the rolling machines. The object of rolling is to break up the cellular matter andliberate the juices, and to give a twist to the leaf. Rolling takes about one hour, and after this the leaf is placed in a cool room for about three hours ferment. It is then placed on trays in the firing machines through which hot air is driven, until the last trace of moisture has been expelled, and the tea is crisp to the touch. The left is then passed through sieves of varying degrees of fineness, and the tea sorted into different grades. The beat and most expensive quality is called Broken Orange Pekoe,and is made from the bud or tip, which contains all the good qualities of tea in a more concentrated from than any of the other leaves, is atronger, and has a more delicate flavour the other grades, which are differentiated by the size of the mesh through which they pass are Orange Pekoe, Broken Pekoe, Pekoe, Souchong, and Fannings.

After the has been sorted, it is fired once to remove any moisture it may have absorbed from the surrounding atmosphere, and is paced in lead lined boxes while it is still warm. Tea loses largely in weight during the process of manufacture, and about four pounds of green leaf are required to produce one pound of the finished article.

Outturn and prices

The character of the outturn depends largely upon the season, but still more upon the garden and the system of manufacture followed. In 1868, the commissioners estimated that the average outturn was about 240 lbs. per acre, but this estimate was probably too low, as the average yield in Darrang during the five ending with 1903 was over 400 lbs acre. The introduction of machinery, and the improvement of the systems of cultivation and management have rendered it possible to effect a large reduction in the cost of the tea when placed upon the market. In 1868,it was calculated that tea must be sold at Ib.to yield a profit. Twenty years leter the sold at 2s. a Ib. to yield a profit. Twenty years later the average price obtained by tea from the Brahmaputra Valley was 8 annas 2 pies; and, though in 1894 it rose to 10 annas 5 pies, in 1898 it dropped to 6 annas 9 pies, and has since remained below that figure.

Forrests

The forests of Darrang fall into two main classes, the reserved forests, which in1902-03 covered an area of 321 square miles, and the unclassed state forests, which, in the same year, occupied the enormous area of 2,127 square miles. Unclassed State forest is, however, simply Government waste land, and does not necessarily possess any of the characteristics which are usually associated with the expression forest. It may be a sandy chur or a huge expanse of low- lying land covered with high grass and reeds, and almost totally destitute of trees. It may be a small pieceof arable land, which has been resigned by its former holer and has not yet been settled with any other person,or it may be, what its name would naturally suggest, i.e.,acual tree forest it is imposible to give theroughest estimate of the proporation of unclassed state forest which is actually timber, but where the total area is so enormous it is obvious that, in a country with a heavy rainfall like Assam, the area covered with trees must be considerable.

System of management

The general control of the Government forests is entrusted to a Deputy or Assistant Conservatot. The un classed state forest are, however , under the immediate management of the local revenue offcials, and the villqagers are allowed to remove all the forest produce needed for their own requirements free of royalty.

The reserved forests

There are altogether seven reserved forests in Darrang, but three of them are only a few acres in extent. The Charduar,l Balipara, and Nowduar reserves are a com pact mass of evergreen forest, which covers an area of 291 square miles at the foot of hills on either side of the hills on either side of the bhareli river. The khalingduar forest is situated in the north of the Mangaldai subdivision , and is 27 square miles in area. From Table VIII it will be seen that the reserves is very small, exceptin the case of the Charduar forest, where the receipts are awollen by the inclusion of the gross receipts from the rubber plantation The greater part of the reserves are evergreen forest which does not require to be protected from fire. Special measures are, however, taken for the protection of the khair fores6t in the khaligduar, and the patches of sal near Tezpur, and from table IX it will be seen that the efforts of the Department are generally crowned with success. The statement appended to this chapter give further details with regard to each of this chapter give futher details with regard to each of the principal reserves.

Timber trees

The most valuable timber trees in the district are sam (ariocarups chaplasha), gunsereai (cinamomam glanduliferum), titasapa (michelia champaca), makai (shorea assamica), hillock (terminalia bicolorata), simul(bombax malabaricum), poma (cedrela toona), khakan(duabanga soneratioides), Bola(morua laevigate), sal (shorea robusta), Nahor(mesua terrea), khair(aracia catechu),Ajhar (lagerstraemia reginae), kathal (artocarpus integrifolia)sonalu (cassia fistula), Gomari (gmelina arborea)and Uriam(bischoffia javanica). They are used for posts, planks, scantilings, and sleepers, but the timber trade of Darrang is at present unimportant. There is one saw mill at Tezpur which converts simul into tea boxes, but hitherto very little timber has been exported from the district.

Rubber

The bulk of the forest revenue is derived from the duty on imported rubber,or from the price obtained for the rubber tapped in the Government plantation at Charduar. The right rubber in the unclassed State forests in the district is put up to auction, and, till a few years ago, was frequently down for a comnsiderable sum. As, by cuistom, the purchaser was granted an exclusive monopoly of sending rubber tappers across the Inner Line into the Aka and the Dafla Hills. Experience showed that this system was liable to give rise to friction, and the issue of passes has been discontinued, the hillmen being left to tap their rubber and bring it down themselves the charduar rubber plantation was started in 1873, and in 1903 had cost altogether over Rs.2,17,000.

Tapping was first begun on a considerable scale in 1899, and the receipts under this head in 1903 amounted to Rs. 13,700. the area under rubber in that year was 2,862 acres. The tree can either be from seed or suckers.From June to September is the best time to sow the seed. When the seedlings are about two inches high they are transferred from theboxes to the nurseries. Here they are kept till the following , when they are moved again to well stockaded nurseries, where they are allowed to remain for two or three years till the plants is ten feet high. They are then put out in the forest on mounds about four feet high . the young rubber tree is readily devoured by every kind of game, and so cannot be planted out till it has attained a considerable growth.when suckers are taken a strip of bark about two inches wide is removed from a healthy branch, and the place plaistered thickly over with clay, which has to be kept moist. By the end ot two months rootswill have been thrown out into the clay, and the branch can then be cut off and planted.

Reserved forests more than ten square miles in area.

Name

Situatin and character of soil

Area in sq.miles

Date when constituted a reserve.

Name of valuable timber trees.

Route of extraction.

Balipara

 

 

 

 

 

Charduar

 

 

Nowduar

 

 

Khalingduar

Mauza Balipara.one plain and one fourth hilly containing mized forest; one fourth swampy covered with evereen forest.

 

 

 

 

 

Mauzas balipara and bargaong, swampy , plain.

Mauza Bokola. One – half plain covered with mixed; one-half swampy covered with evergreen forest.

One- fourth grass land with a few khair trees, one sixth hilly with mixed forest , one-eighth swampy, the remainder ever. Green forest.

88

 

 

 

 

 

121

 

 

82

 

 

27

1878

 

 

 

 

 

1878

 

 

1878

 

 

1878

Sal, nahor, ajhar sam, gun serai, bola, makai , kankan.

 

 

 

Nahor, ajhar, sam,gunserai, bola, makai,poma, gomari.

Khakan,sam, poma , gunserai, makai, gomari, uriam, khair,sonaru.

Makai, khair gunserai, titasapa,sida, poma , paroli and karai.

Bhareli and mansiri rivers. Tezpur-balipara railway.

Belsiri, mansiri ,Gabharu and Dipota river, Tezpur- Balipara railway.

Bhareli and Dikrai rivers.