Assam, a strategic border state of India, witnessed the influx of migrants since the British period from then East Bengal, now Bangladesh. The influx was largely engineered by the British, given the economic rationale of cheap labour that the migrants provided for the sprawling tea estates in Assam. However, this issue of migration assumed political and communal overtones after independence, and continues to be an issue of concern. Assam the land of various social groups, are one of the eastern most state in entire north-eastern region. Various social groups are living in different condition over a period of time. Paper largely, focuses on the issues of social security related to various social groups. It divided into three parts to understand the socio-economic conditions of the social groups. In first part it analyse the main types of housing. Secondly, the sources of income and thirdly, the health conditions particularly illness and source of treatments.
As per the Assam state is concerned it is divided into 27 administrative districts viz. Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sibsagar, Dhemaji, Jorhat, Lakhimpur, Golaghat, Sonitpur, Karbi Anglong, Nagaon, Marigaon, Darrang, Kamrup Rural, Nalbari, Barprta, Bogaigaon, Goalpara, Kokrajhar, Dhubri, North Cachar Hills, Cachar, Hailakandi, Karimganj, Kamrup Metropolitan, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri. More than half of these districts were carved out during 80s and 90s from original viz. Lakhimpur, Jorhat, Karbi Anglong, Darrang, Nagaon, Kamrup, Goalpara, North Cachar and Cachar districts, delineated by the British. Earlier, during 70s, Dibrugarh was separated out from original Lakhimpur district. These districts are further sub-divided into 49 Sub-divisions or Mohkuma.1 Every district is administered from a district head quarter with the office of the District Collector, District Magistrate, and Office of the District Panchayat and usually with a District Court. The districts are delineated on the basis of the features such as the rivers, hills, forests, etc and majority of the newly constituted districts are sub-divisions of the earlier districts. The local governance system is organised under the Jila-parishad (District Panchayat) for a district, Panchayats for group of or individual rural areas and under the urban local bodies for the towns and cities. Presently there are 2489 village panchayats covering 26247 villages in Assam. The town-committee or nagar-xomiti for small towns, municipal board or pouro-xobha for medium towns and Municipal Corporation or pouro-nigom for the cities consists of the urban local bodies. For the revenue purposes, the districts are divided into revenue circles and mouzas; for the development projects, the districts are divided into 219 development-blocks and for law and order these are divided into 206 police stations or thana2.
As per the census of India 2001, total population of Assam is 26.66 million with 4.91 million households. Higher population concentration was recorded in the districts of Kamrup, Naogaon, Sonitpur, Barpeta, Dhubri, Darang and Cachar3. The Technical Group on Population Projection constituted by the National Commission on Population (India) in 2006 has estimated Assam’s population at 28.67 million in 2006 and has estimated it to be 30.57 million by 2011, 34.18 million by 2021 and 35.60 million by 2026. In 2001, the census recorded literacy in Assam at 63.30 percent with male literacy at 71.30 and female at 54.60 percents. Urbanization rate was recorded at 12.90 percent. Growth of population in Assam has experienced a very high trajectory since the mid-decades of the 20th century. Population grew steadily from 3.29 million in 1901 to 6.70 million in 1941, while during the later decades it has increased unprecedentedly to 14.63 million in 1971 and 22.41 million in 1991 to reach the present level. Particularly, the growth in the western and southern districts of Assam was of extreme high in nature.
The per capita income of Assam was higher than the national average soon after Indian Independence. But it has slipped since, and the difference has become larger since liberalization of the Indian economy in the 1980s. Economy of Assam today represents a unique juxtaposition of backwardness amidst plenty. Growth rate of Assam’s income has not kept pace with that of India’s during the Post-British Era; differences increased rapidly since 1970s. While the Indian economy grew at six percent per annum over the period of 1981 to 2000, the same of Assam’s grew only by 3.3 percent. In the Sixth Plan period Assam experienced a negative growth rate of 3.78 percent against a growth rate of six percent as compare to national level and the gapes become more widened further after 1991 in post-liberalised era4.
Amongst mineral resources, oil takes the top place. Oil was first struck more than one hundred years ago and the oil well of Digboi and other areas are a major source of fuel for not only the north-east but for the country as a whole. The economy of Assam can be broadly divided into three sectors- Primary (agriculture, mining etc.), secondary (manufacturing) and tertiary (services like electricity, water, trade, finance, banking, telecommunication etc).
In the current decade, according to recent analysis, Assam’s economy is showing signs of improvement. In the year 2001-2002, the economy grew in 1993-94 constant prices at 4.5 percent, falling to 3.4 percent in the next financial year. During 2003-2004 and 2004-2005, in the same constant prices, the economy grew more satisfactorily at 5.5 and 5.3 percent respectively. The advanced estimates placed the growth rate for the year 2005-2006 at above six percent. In the 1950s, soon after the independence, per capita income in Assam was little higher than that in India; it is much lower today. In the year 2000-2001, per capita income in Assam was Rs. 6,157 at constant prices (1993-94) and INR 10,198 at current prices, which is almost 40 percent lower than that in India. According to the recent estimates, per capita income in Assam at 1993-94 constant prices has reached INR 6520 in 2003-2004 and INR 6756 in 2004-2005, which is still much lower than the same of India. Table A mainly shows the trend of gross domestic product of Assam at market prices which is estimated by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation in figures in millions of Indian Rupees5.
Assam’s gross domestic product for 2004 is estimated at $13 billion in current prices. The average annual growth rate of agriculture, which was only 2.6 percent per annum over 1980s, has unfortunately fallen to 1.6 percent in the 1990s. Manufacturing sector has shown some improvement in the 1990s with a growth rate of 3.4 percent per annum than 2.4 percent in the 1980s. Since past five decades, the tertiary sector has registered the highest growth rates than the primary and secondary sectors, which even have slowed down in the 1990s than in 1980s6.
Social Groups (Households)
Social groups are mainly divided into three categories Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Backward Castes (OBC), constitutes a total population of 12,24,835 out of 24,96,341. Again these social groups are divided into three major regions (region 1, 2 & 3) respectively.
Housing is vital for human survival and therefore essential for socio-economic development. The need for improved housing is most acutely felt among the rural poor. As part of the efforts to meet the housing needs of the rural poor, Indira Awaas Yojana was started in May 1985 as a sub-scheme of Jawahar Rozgar Yojana. From 1st January, 1996 it is being implemented as an independent scheme. The objective of Indira Awaas Yojana is primarily to help construction of dwelling units and up-gradation of existing unserviceable kutcha houses of members of SC/ST, freed bounded labourers and also OBC rural poor below poverty line by providing them with grant-in-aid.
The study is made on the data of National Sample Survey Organization’s (NSSO) 59th round of unit level data of level 2 and block 3. The 59th round made a survey on the situation assessment of the farmer in 2003. The study mainly tries to discuss about the social conditions of the social groups with reference to the sources of income and health conditions. According to the NSSO Assam has broadly divided into three regions, eastern plains, western plains and hilly regions. Eastern plains included 10 districts, Nogaon, Sanitpur, Lakhimpur, Dhemeji, Tinsikua, Dibrugrah, Sibsagar, Jorhat, Golaghat and Cacher. Western plain included 11 districts, they are Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Goalpara, Bongaigaon, Barpeta, Kamrup, Nalbari, Darrang, Marigaon, Karimganj, and Hailakandi, and finally the Hilly region includes 2 districts of Karbi Anlong and North Cachar hill. Hilly regions are totally dominated by the ST populations. Others two are mixed of all social groups (SC/ST/OBC/Others).
The study is made largely in the rural sector of Assam. It is divided into two parts. In its first part it explained the sources of incomes of the various social groups and in second parts it included the health profile of Assam in the three regions simultaneously. In the present condition it mainly discuss about the sources of income of major social groups in the three regions of Assam. According to NSSO 59th round the sources of income are divided into nine parts for example cultivations, farming other than cultivations, others agricultural activity, wage/salaried employment, non agricultural enterprise, pension, remittances, interest and dividend, and others.
While after data extraction it has been found that there is not any income from the interest and dividend so it is excluded from the table. Table E shows that in Assam the income from the cultivations of OBC is much higher about 23.91 percent as compared to the 8.56 percent and 17.86 percent respectively from SC and ST. Across region, in eastern plain the income from cultivations of OBC is also higher as compared to the other two regions. Second position is occupied by the ST household in eastern plain. Income of the SC from the cultivations is high in the western region as compared to others region. But in hilly regions the incomes from the cultivations is totally dominated by the ST population. The main reason is due to the hilly region and totally domination by the tribal populations. This implies that in eastern plain OBC and the ST household has sufficient land for cultivation but, SC household do not have sufficient land for the cultivation that is why income from the cultivation of SC household is very low. On the other hand incomes from the cultivation of the OBC household is more than any other social groups which means OBC household has more land to cultivate. There is no income indication of the SC household from the farming others then the cultivations, but in case of OBC household the incomes from the same is much high, where of the ST household result is marginal.
Generally, more capital is required for the starting of farming. Data indicates that the income of OBC household from the farming other than cultivation is more as compare to SC and ST. Similarly, there is no income from the same of the SC household, which directly indicates that SC household has not any sufficient fund to start a firm or any kind of business. On the other hand income from the others agricultural activity in Assam of OBC household is greater than other social groups. If we analyse region wise Table (E) shows that, in Western plain the incomes of the OBC from the others agricultural activity is higher than Eastern plain, but the case is reverse in case of SC population. In case of ST population the income from the same sources is completely negative.
In case of the income from the wage and salaries of OBC household is more than double of the SC population and more than triple of the ST populations. In Assam 29.49 percent of OBC household earn their income from the wage and the salaried employment, but for the SC and ST, result is 11 percent and 5.65 percent respectively. Within Assam western plain the income of the OBC from the same was 33.13 percent as compared to the 27.16 percent of the eastern plain. Similarly, 6.60 percent of ST household has earned their income from the wage and salaries in eastern region as compared to the 2.53 percent in the western region. Here also the case is reverse for the SC household comparatively. This means that there is employment scarcity for the SC and ST household as compared to the OBC household.
The incomes from the non agricultural enterprises of SC household are far greater than any other groups. Across regions the income from the non agricultural enterprise of SC household are very high in the eastern plain as compared to the western plain. The case is also same for the OBC household. But in hilly region the income from the non agricultural enterprise of the ST household is same in percentage. The main reason behind this is hilly regions and majority of the household are of ST population. Hence, it has been is proved that SC households do not have sufficient land for cultivation and this is the reason why they move to the non agricultural enterprise to earn their income. In eastern plain 12.63 percent and 28.91 percent of ST and OBC household respectively earn their incomes from the pensions. This directly indicates that the former generation of members of the OBC household was engaged in the government sector job. But there is not any income of SC household from the pension. Study proves that not any former generation members of the SC household are engaged in the government job.
The incomes from the remittances of the SC household in both the eastern plain and in hilly region it is high as compared to the other two social groups but in case of the OBC household the income from the remittances is even lower than the ST populations. The income from the remittances of SC is very high in the Eastern plain 40.92 percent as compared to the hilly region. In cases of ST household this may be due to the reason that in eastern plain the members of SC and ST household migrate from the home for works in others area and this could be in urban areas. But the income of OBC household from remittances is very low because, they are either cultivating in their home in their own land or engage in the others activity like farming. SC household in hilly region is low and due to their poor economic condition may comes out from the regions and moved to others area for work. Hence, remittances of SC household in hilly region become high.
From the overall study it has been analysed that the income from the farming and cultivation of OBC household is more in the eastern plain as compared to the western plain. Similarly the income from the other agricultural activity and the wage and salaries of OBC in western plain is greater than the eastern plain. Similarly the income from almost all sources of incomes of the ST household is more in the hilly region and this is so because the main region is hilly and totally dominated by the ST population also the ownership of lands are under the ST household. The incomes from almost all given sources of the SC households are more in the eastern plain as compared to the eastern plain. This indicates that the conditions of SC household in the western plain are better than the western plain comparatively.
Table F shows, that in Assam 26.75 percent of household family members of the OBC’s are fall illness in last 365 days from the date of survey, which is followed by ST household family members and next to it is SC household family members. Among the regions in eastern plain the 11.90 percent and 39.18 percent SC and OBC family members respectively fall ill in more as compared to the other two regions. But in case of ST in hilly region 10.70 percent family members fall ill respectively.
Hence, it can be said that people of western plains are more conscious about their health. Relating to the issue of treatment NSSO has broadly divided six type of treatment for illness. They are sub center/dispensary, primary health center, community health center/government hospital, public clinic/doctor, traditional treatment, and others treatment. Table G discusses about the various types of treatment taken by the household among different social groups in Assam. In Assam 25.47 percent of OBC households go to the sub center/dispensary for treatment. In case of SC and ST it is 11.10 percent and 12.89 percent respectively. Among the region, in eastern plains the SC and the OBC household go to the sub center/dispensary which is higher than the western plain7.
Similarly the OBC household in the eastern plain goes more to the primary health center then the western plain. Moreover, the ST household go to the private health center in the entire region which is higher than the SC household. In region wise SC and OBC household of the western plain goes to primary health center is higher than the eastern plains. Into the community health center/government hospital the SC and the OBC household goes more in western plain as compared to the eastern plain. In case of western plains SC and OBC household goes to the private clinic/doctor more as compared to the eastern plain. But among the SC ST and OBC, OBC household largely goes to the private clinic/doctor for their treatment. This means those OBC households are richer as compared to the others to social groups.
In western plain only 6.22 percent of SC household go to the Traditional treatment but the result is very high for the OBC and the ST household. Similarly, in the eastern plain 1.07 percent of the ST household go to their traditional treatment as compared to the 12.67 of SC household and 22.35 percent of the OBC household.
In all the cases it has been found that except hilly region in both the western plain and the eastern plain the OBC household takes all types of treatment and is higher as compared to the western plain. The main reason behind this is because of the fall in illness of the OBC household in eastern plain is more than the western plain. In hilly region the same percent of the ST population goes to the treatment for their illness and it is so because this region is largely dominated by the ST populations.
In Assam 47.86 percent of OBC household are not able to take the treatment for their family members. On the other hand six percent of SC and 5.42 percent of the ST household are not able take the treatment for their family members. Across the region percentage of OBC household are not able to take treatment for their family member in western plain as compared to the eastern plain shown in table H.
In eastern plain number of household of OBC are not able to take treatment which is more than the western plain. There are various reason for not able to take the treatment out of their financial constrain. Total of 19.22 percent of SC and 51.55 percent of OBC household are not able to take their treatment because of the financial constrain. Similarly in eastern plain 78.62 percent of the OBC household are not able to take the treatment because of the same reason as compared to the 50.55 percent of the western plain. In the eastern plain 20.03 percent of SC household are again not able to take the treatment because of their financial problem. This is mainly because the financial conditions of OBC in the eastern plain are very poor and on the other hand the financial conditions of the SC in the western plain are comparatively poor.
Coming to the part of employment opportunities, Assam largely failed to generate employment opportunities for the educated youth. This is the reason why its youth shifting their choices towards insurgent groups like ULFA, SULFA, BLT etc. where they are at least getting money to fill their families’ stomach. This is so because of the states wrong policy and heavy corruption in the part of policy implementation. No doubt with the help of the Government of India the Employment Assurance Scheme (EAS) was launched on 2nd October, 1993 to identify and implement various schemes for employment generation and in this 1778 backward blocks identified in the state. The blocks selected were in the drought prone areas, desert areas, tribal areas and hilly areas. Later, the scheme was extended to the remaining blocks of the state in phased manner. At present, the scheme is being implemented in all the rural blocks of the state. The programme has been restructured from 1st April, 1999. As its name suggests, the primary objective of the EAS is to provide gainful employment during the lean agricultural season in manual work to all able bodied adults in rural areas who are in need and desirous of work, but can not find it. The work may be either on farm or on other allied operations or on the normal plan/no-plan works during such a period. The secondary objective is the creation of community, social and economic assets for sustained employment and development. What ever the case may be in reality this could not work effectively due to heavy corruption and discrimination with the social groups in the region. All the schemes and opportunities remain in paper and expired due to delay.
In conclusion one can draw an argument by saying that except cultivation the incomes of the SC household in western plain are lower than the eastern plain. Due to the financial problem most of the SC household are not able to take treatment for their illness. From the analysis it can be said that the condition of SC household of eastern plain is far better than western plain. Since, the income from the cultivation of SC household as compared to others social groups is very low, hence it could be said that SC household do not have sufficient land to cultivate. Moreover, OBC household has more land as compared to ST and SC household. Similarly the condition of ST household in hilly region is far better than two regions. Among all the social groups the sources of income of OBC household is more as compared to other social groups and due to this their social condition is far better as compared to other social groups in the regions.
As compare to OBC, SC and ST are worse of in social sector. Under Congress regime the state always had an opportunity to be stable and had also chance to do much more what people expected to do, but it failed to do anything positive in social sector for social groups. Various data shows that, how the State Government even after many decades of stable rule did not improved more as compare to other states of India. The State Government has to work seriously to improve the conditions of social groups mainly keeping social security in her forefront. There is also need of special attention in the field of health, housing, drinking water, education and employment sectors considerably.
End-notes and Additional Thinking
1 Revenue Department, Government of Assam, http://assamgov.nic.in
2 Directorate of Information and Public Relations, Government of Assam
3 Information of the districts of Assam, Government of Assam, http://assamgov.nic.in
4 See more information from, http://en.wikipedia.org
5 Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation with figures in millions of Indian Rupees (1980-2000)
6 Directorate of Economics and Statics, Assam and Central Statistical Organization, Government of India
7 NSSO 59th round, SCHEDULE, 33, visit 1, Block-3 Level-2
(Dr. Chunnu Prasad trained as a Social Scientist and Socio-Political Activist. He is associated with the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi. His interest area is Migration, Refugees, Human Rights, Dalits, Tribals, Ethnicity, Movements, Religion and Sexuality. He has contributed more then Thirty Five articles in referred journals and in edited books. He worked with various Government and Non-Government Organizations viz. NATRSS, ISSR, IIDS, and CPS/JNU New Delhi over a period of time. He has presented numbers of papers in national and international conferences/seminars/workshops in India and abroad. He has been awarded young Social Science award in collaboration with IDRC, Canada and India Social Science Research on the area related to social inclusion in India’s Northeast. Apart from it he visited many countries like Ethiopia, Senegal, and Nepal.
Mr. Gautam Kr. Das trained as an economist. He is with the Centre for the Study of Regional Development, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His area of interest is Public Distribution System, Social Security of Social Groups, Rural and Urban Development, Regional Development of India’s northeast. He did his Graduation and Master of Arts from Gauhati University, Assam and Master of Philosophy from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
The views expressed in the write-up are personal and do not re?ect the official policy or position of the organization.)