General Information, Arunachal Pradesh,
North East India
Climate / Vegetation
The climate is highly hot and humid at the lower altitudes and in the valleys covered by swampy dense forests particularly in the eastern section, while it becomes exceedingly cold in the higher altitudes. The rainfall is amongst the heaviest in the country. The annual average rainfall in Arunachal Pradesh is more than 300 cm! The rainfall varies from 450 cm in the foothill areas to 80 cm in the upper reaches. As can be expected, the vegetation of the whole of Arunachal varies gently in relation to the elevation of the different regions. It ranges from a wide belt of swampy rain forests along the foothills and the low lying areas to tropical and sub tropical. There's a great variety of plantation to be found. There are climbers, and an abundance of cane, bamboo and orchids. The lower altitudes are remarkable for their deciduous forests with patches of ever green tropical vegetation.
The forests of the state are its most important wealth. A huge revenue is earned from them each year. Over 22 million wood sleepers used by the Indian Railways in all the three gauges were supplied by the state. Leasing of the tribal owned forest land to the forest department of the government is a unique system in the state. In the jungles of Arunachal, a large variety of medicinal plants are also available. The natives utilize these plants for treatment and cure of a large number of diseases. Despite the fact that modern medicine is quite easily available now, the use of herbal medicines is still in vogue. Some of these herbal medicines are really quite effective.
The People and Culture
Although a number of tribal groups constitute the total population, the density of the population is only eight per sq. km. There are as many as 25 tribal groups that contribute to the human mass in the state! All the individual tribes have a rich cultural heritage and the government is making all out efforts in helping conserve their traditional heritage. The society of Arunachal Pradesh is patriarchal and primogeniture and the fundamental laws of inheritance with variations are not uncommon. They follow endogamy and strictly observe the rule of clan exogamy. Polygamy is socially sanctioned and practiced by most of them. The people are highly democratic, and each tribe has its own organized institutions that maintain law and order, decide disputes and take up all activities for the welfare of the tribes and the villages. The members constituting these organizations are selected by the people.
The entire population of the state can be divided into three cultural groups on the basis of their socio-politico-religious affinities. It has been found that the tribes of Arunachal were integrated into groups independent of each other, living there separate lives. The common denominators were that the patterns of lifestyle of each were the same and that they followed the same occupation; the societies were casteless; the societies were governed by chiefs and the adults grouped according to their age for distinct social functions and the young organized around dormitory institutions to act as the implementing instruments of the decisions and instructions of the older generation.
The population of Arunachal is 8,65 lakhs according to 1991 census and is scattered over 12 towns and 3649 Allages. There are 26 major tribes and a number of sub-tribes inhabiting the area. Most of these communities are ethnically similar, having derived from and original common stock but their geographical isolation from each other has brought amongst them certain distinctive characteristics in language, dress and customs.
Three Cultural Groups broadly, the people may be divided into three cultural groups on the basis of their socio - religious affinities. The Monpas and Sherdukpens of Tawang and West Kameng districts follow the lamaistic tradition of Mahayana Buddhism. Noted for their religious fervor, the villages of these communities have richly decorated Buddhist temples, locally called 'Gompas'. Though largely agriculturists, practicing terrace cultivation, many of these people are also pastoral and breed herds of yak and mountain sheep. Culturally similar to them are Membas and Khambas who live In the high mountains along the northern borders. Khamptis and Singphos inhabiting the eastern part of the state are Buddhists of Hinayana sect. They are said to have migrated from Thailand and Myanmar long ago and are still using ancient scripts derived from their original homeland.
The second group of people are the Adis, Akas, Apatanis, Bangnis, Nishis, Mishimis, Mijis, Tangsas etc, who worship the Sun and the Moon God, namely, Donyi-Polo and Abo-Tani, the original ancestor for most of these tribes. Their religious rituals, largely coincide with the phases of agricultural cycles. They invoke nature deities and make animal sacrifices, They traditionally practice jhurrdong or shifting cultivation.
Adis and Apatanis extensively practice wet-rice cultivation and have a considerable agricultural economy. Apatanis are also famous for their paddy-cum-pisciculture. They are specialized over centuries in harvesting crops of fish along with each crop of paddy. The third group comprises Noctes and Wanchos, adjoining Nagaland in the Tirap district. These are hardy people known for their strictly structured village society in which the hereditary village chief still plays a vital role. The Noctes also practise elementary form of Vaishnavism. .
Arunachal Pradesh is known for a rich occurrence of orchids in varying latitudinal zones from foot-hills to the snowclad peaks. There are about 450 species reported from this state and many more may be discovered. Amongst these orchids many are rare, endangered and threatened species in accordance with the Red Data book of India and fall under the category I & II od cities that are listed in the Wildlife Conservation Act of Government of India.
The economy of the people is based mainly on agriculture. The nature of the terrain has compelled the people to follow the slash and burn method of cultivation, popularly called Jhumming. Permanent cultivation is however practiced by the Apatanis, Singhos and Khamtis traditionally. While the Singphos and khamtis harness animal power in tillage, the Apatanis use hoe and spade.
Besides agriculture, the bulk of the economy of the people is connected directly of indirectly with forest and forest produce. If there is no drastic change their dependence on forest and forest produce will continue. A substantial amount of livelihood of the people is derived from the forests, edible roots, leaves and tubers, honey, wild games and fish help the people to subsist. Houses are built with timber and bamboos and cottage crafts are practiced with local raw material. Herbs and medicinal plants are used to cure diseases. Even many folk lores are woven around the spirits of the forest.
Horticulture has also a great role to play in the economy of the people. A large number of horticultural farms growing apple, pineapple and other important fruit trees have come up in some parts of the territory where soil is suitable for such plantation.
The religion of the bulk of the population of Arunachal Pradesh consists of belief in the existence of a high God or Super Natural being and a host of other spirits and deities. The high god is called differently by different groups of people. Many, however, believe in the duel existence of the high god - one in the sky and the other on earth. While the high God is always believed to be benevolent, the spirits and deities are grouped under two classes - benevolent and malevolent. The traditional religion of the people can be more conveniently understood, as a cultural system since it is one of the aspects of the cultural tradition, which makes the people live their life with unquestionable belief and with a sense of absolute dedication to the supernatural being controlling their destiny.
Construction of roads in Arunachal Pradesh is a very hard task because of the nature of the terrain. The hills are high and steep and rivers are truculent and difficult to negotiate. Inspite of these difficulties more than 6000 km of motorable roads and more than 4000 km of portar track, bridlepath etc. have been constructed. This figure is definitely encouraging in comparison to 167 km of motorable roads in 1947. In road construction the local people play a vital role. They have now learnt the art of road building and most of the roads are increasingly being built by tribal labor. These roads and bridle paths now carry goods and ideas throughout Arunachal Pradesh. Today isolation is a thing of the past and the people are learning about each other more and more. Every major center of population is now connected by regular bus services. The problem of carriage of supplies of the post independence period has been solved by this network of motorable roads.
Besides road communication, air transport also has an important role to play, particularly in the areas where road communication has not yet reached. To facilitate air transport a number of air strips have been constructed. Regular passenger service has also been introduced of late. A 12 km railway line has been constructed from Bilpara to Bhalukpong. Some other projects for extension of rail communications are in the offing.
Revival and revitalization of the traditional handlooms, handicrafts and similar industrial endeavors was the basic aim of industrial development immediately after post independence period. In view of this Objective craft centers for training and production were established, sericultural programmes taken up and small scale industrial units setup.
Inspite of the difficulties small and medium scale industries have come up most of which are forest based industries such as saw mills, veneer mills and plywood mills. Installation of large scale machinery is in the process. A number of measure have been taken to promote growth of industries.