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Meghalaya

Meghalaya (; pronounced ) is a state in the north-east of India. The word "Meghalaya" literally means the Abode of Clouds in Sanskrit and other Indic languages. Meghalaya is a hilly strip in the eastern part of the country about 300 km long (east-west) and 100 km wide, with a total area of about 8,700 sq mi (22,720 km ). The population numbered 2,175,000 in 2000. The state is bounded on the north by Assam and by Bangladesh on the south. The capital is Shillong also known as the Scotland of the East, which has a population of 260,000.

About one third of the state is forested. The Meghalaya subtropical forests ecoregion encompasses the state; its mountain forests are distinct from the lowland tropical forests to the north and south. The forests of Meghalaya are notable for their biodiversity of mammals, birds, and plants. It was previously part of Assam, but on January 21, 1972, the districts of Khasi, Garo and Jaintia hills became the new state of Meghalaya.

Meghalaya is predominantly an agrarian economy. The important crops of the state are potatoes, rice, maize, pineapples, bananas etc. The service sector is made up of real estate and insurance companies. The state has also become a hub of illegal mining activity. Meghalaya's gross state domestic product for 2004 is estimated at $1.6 billion in current prices.

Shillong, the capital of the state, is a popular hill station. There are several falls in and around Shillong. Shillong Peak is highest in the state and is good for trekking. It is also known as the "abode of the gods" and has excellent views. If one is not in a mood for camping, the state also offers many good hotels and lodging facilities.

Contents


History

Meghalaya was formed by carving out two districts from the state of Assam: the United Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills, and the Garo Hills on January 21, 1972. Prior to attaining full statehood, Meghalaya was given semi-autonomous status in 1970.

The Khasi, Garo, and Jaintia tribes each had their own kingdoms until they came under British administration in the 19th century. Later, the British incorporated Meghalaya into Assam in 1835. The region enjoyed semi-independent status by virtue of a treaty relationship with the British Crown.

When Bengal was partitioned on 16 October 1905 by Lord Curzon, Meghalaya became a part of the new province of "Eastern Bengal and Assam." However, when the partition was reversed in 1912, Meghalaya became a part of the province of Assam.

On 3 January 1921 in pursuance of Section 52A of the Government of India Act of 1919, the Governor-General-in-Council declared the areas now in Meghalaya, other than the Khasi States, as "backward tracts." Subsequently however, the Government of India Act of 1935 regrouped the backward tracts into two categories, "excluded" and "partially excluded" areas.

At the time of Indian independence in 1947, present day Meghalaya constituted two districts of Assam and enjoyed limited autonomy within the state of Assam.

The Assam Reorganisation (Meghalaya) Act of 1969 accorded an autonomous status to the state of Meghalaya. The Act came into effect on 2 April 1970, and an Autonomous State of Meghalaya was created within the State of Assam. The Autonomous state had a Legislature in accordance with the Sixth schedule to the Constitution. The Legislature had 37 members.

In 1971, the Parliament passed the North-Eastern Areas (Reorganization) Act, 1971, which conferred full statehood on the Autonomous State of Meghalaya. Meghalaya attained statehood on 21 January 1972, with a Legislative Assembly of its own.

Demographics

Khasi]] man

Tribal people make up the majority of Meghalaya's population. The Khasis are the largest group, followed by the Garos. These were among those known to the British as "hill tribes". Other groups include the Jaintias, the Koch, the related Rajbongshi, the Boro, Hajong, Dimasa, Hmar, Kuki, Lakhar, Mikir, Rabha and Nepali.

In Meghalaya state prior to 1987 there are more than 200,000 people of Nepali origin spread in all districts. Recent census shows that there are no more than 40 to 50 thousand nepalis in Meghalaya. The East Khasi and Jayantia Hills are Nepali belts. Agriculture and cattle rearing are the main occupations. A large number of retired Indian Army soldiers (Gorkha) live in Shillong. The Nepalese of Shillong and Tura are generally inclined towards business. The majority of Nepalese are Hindus though some are Christians.

Meghalaya is one of three states in India to have a Christian majority with 70.3% of the population practicing Christianity;[1] the other two (Nagaland and Mizoram) are also in the north-east of India. Hinduism is the next sizable faith in the region with 13.3% of the population practicing it.[1] A sizable minority, 11.5% of the population, follow traditional animist religions (classified as other on the census).[1] Muslims make up 4.3% of the population.[1] In 1991 when Christians made up 65% of the population of Meghalaya, the 1.1 million (11 lakh) Christians made it the state in Northeast India with the most Christians.[2] At that point more Christians lived in Meghalaya than there were people in Mizoram.

As per the census of India 2011, the sex ratio in the state was 986 females per thousand males which was far higher than the national average of 940. The percentage of females has grown steadily from a 1981 level of 954. Traditionally the female sex ratio in the rural areas has been higher than that in the urban areas. However, as per the census figures for 2001, the urban female sex ratio of 985 was higher than the rural sex ratio of 972. This has often been attributed to the belief that, unlike most other parts of India, there is no special preference for male children in Meghalaya.

Religion

Religion in Meghalaya is closely related to ethnicity. Close to 90% of the Garo and nearly 80% of the Khasi are Christian, while more than 97% of the Hajong, 98.53% of the Koch are Hindu.

Out of the 689,639 Garo living in Meghalaya, only 49,917 follow their original religion (Songsarek) as of 2001 Census (down from 90,456 in 1991). 9,129 of the Garo were Hindu (Up from 2,707 in 1991) and 999 were Budhist (Up from 109 in 1991). There were also 8,980 Muslims.

Unlike the Garo, a significant number of the Khasi still follow their original religion (Niam Shnong / Niamtre). Out of the 1,123,490 Khasi, 202,978 followed the indigenous religion (slightly up from 189,226 in 1991). 17,641 of the Khasi were Hindu (8,077 in 1991) and 2,977 were Muslim.

A number of minor tribes live in Meghalaya, including Hajong (31,381 - 97.23% Hindu), Koch (21,381 - 98.53% Hindu), Synteng (18,342 - 80% Christian), Rabha (28,153 - 94.60% Hindu), Mikir (11,399 - 52% Christian and 30% Hindu), and Kuki-Chin (10,085 - 73% Christian and 26% Hindu).

Urban Areas in Meghalaya

New Proposal for Urban Areas

Languages

languages in Meghalaya[3]
language language family share
Khasi Austro-Asiatic 45,05 %
Garo Tibeto-Burman 31,41 %
Bengali Indo-Aryan 8,04 %
Nepali Indo-Aryan 8,26 %
Hindi Indo-Aryan 2,17 %
Marathi Indo-Aryan 1,67 %
Asamiya Indo-Aryan 1,58 %
Maram Tibeto-Burman languages 1,53 %
Rabha Tibeto-Burman languages 0,97 %
Koch Tibeto-Burman languages 0,90 %

The principal languages in Meghalaya are Khasi, Pnar and Garo with English as the official language of the State.[4]

Khasi is one of the chief languages of Meghalaya. Khasi, which is also spelled Khasia, Khassee, Cossyah and Kyi, is a branch of the Mon Khmer family of the Austroasiatic stock; and is spoken by about 900,000 people residing in Meghalaya. Many words in the Khasi language have been borrowed from Indo-Aryan languages such as Nepali, Bengali and Assamese. Moreover, the Khasi language originally had no script of its own. The Khasi language is one of the very few surviving Mon Khmer languages in India today.

The Garo language has a close affinity with the Koch and Bodo languages. Garo, spoken by the majority of the population, is spoken in many dialects such as Abeng or Ambeng,[5] Atong, Akawe (or Awe), Matchi Dual, Chibok, Chisak Megam or Lyngngam, Ruga, Gara-Ganching and Matabeng.

Another language of Meghalaya is the language spoken by the people of the Jaintia hills. This language is closely related to the standard Khasi language. The Jaintia language is spoken, along with the Khasi language, by the Khynriam, Bhoi, Pnar and War tribal groups .

Nepali is also spoken in almost all parts of the state.

Culture and society

The main tribes in Meghalaya are the Jaintias, the Khasis and the Garos. One of the unique features of the state is that a majority of the tribal population in Meghalaya follows a matrilineal system where lineage and inheritance are traced through women. The Khasi and Jaintia tribesmen follow the traditional matrilineal norm, wherein the "Khun Khadduh" (or the youngest daughter) inherits all the property and acts as the caretaker of aged parents and any unmarried siblings. However, the male line, particularly the mother s brother, may indirectly control the ancestral property since he may be involved in important decisions relating to property including its sale and disposal. In the Garo lineage system, the youngest daughter inherits the family property by default, unless another daughter is so named by the parents. She then becomes designated as 'nokna' meaning 'for the house or home'. In case there are no daughters, then a chosen daughter-in-law (bohari) or an adopted child (deragata) comes to stay in the house as well as inherits the property. The tribal people of Meghalaya are therefore a part of what may be the world's largest surviving matrilineal culture.

Spirituality

According to legend, from the 13th century, a Shivalinga (called "Hatakeswarat") has existed in the Jaintia Hills under the reign of Ranee Singa. Several members of the Jaintia tribe even participate in the Hindu festival of Shivratri (Night of Lord Shiva).

Geography

The Umiam Lake near Shillong Meghalaya is one of the Seven Sister States of India. The State of Meghalaya is also known as the "Meghalaya Plateau". It consists mainly of Archean rock formations. These rock formations contain rich deposits of valuable minerals like coal, limestone, uranium and sillimanite. Meghalaya has many rivers. Most of these are rainfed and are therefore seasonal. The important rivers in the Garo Hills Region are Daring, Sanda, Bandra, Bhogai, Dareng, Simsang, Nitai and the Bhupai. In the central and eastern section of the plateau, the important rivers are Umkhri, Digaru, Umiam, Kynchiang (Jadukata), Mawpa, Umiam or Barapani, Myngot and Myntdu. In the southern Khasi Hills Region, these rivers have created deep gorges and several beautiful waterfalls.

The elevation of the plateau ranges between 150 m to 1961 m. The central part of the plateau comprising the Khasi Hills has the highest elevations, followed by the eastern section comprising the Jaintia Hills Region. The highest point in Meghalaya is Shillong Peak, which is also a prominent IAF station in the Khasi Hills overlooking the city of Shillong. It has an altitude of 1961 m. The Garo Hills Region in the western section of the plateau is nearly plain. The highest point in the Garo Hills is Nokrek Peak with an altitude of 1515 m.

Districts

Workers outside a coalmine in the Jaintia Hills Meghalaya currently has 11 districts.

Jaintia Hills:

Khasi Hills Division:

Garo Hills Division:

The Jaintia Hills district was created on 22 February 1972. It has a total geographical area of and a population of 295,692 as per the 2001 census. The district headquarters is located at Jowai. Jaintia Hills district is the largest producer of coal in the state. Coal mines can be seen all over the district. Limestone production in the state is also increasing, as there is high demand from cement industries.

The East Khasi Hills district was carved out of the Khasi Hills on 28 October 1976. The district has covers an area of and has a population of 660,923 as per the 2001 census. The headquarters of East Khasi Hills are located in Shillong.

The Ri-Bhoi district was formed by further division of East Khasi Hills district on 4 June 1992. It has an area of . The total population of the district was 192,795 in the 2001 census. The district headquarters is located at Nongpoh. It has a hilly terrain, and a large part of the area is covered with forests. The Ri-Bhoi district is famous for its pineapples and is the largest producer of pineapples in the state.

The West Khasi Hills district is the largest district in the state with a geographical area of . The district was carved out of Khasi Hills District on 28 October 1976. The district headquarters are located at Nongstoin.

The East Garo Hills district was formed in 1976 and has a population of 247,555 as per the 2001 census. It covers an area of . The District Headquarters are located at Williamnagar, earlier known as Simsangiri. Nongalbibra, a town in this district, has a large number of coal mines. The coal is transported to Goalpara and Jogighopa via NH62.

The West Garo Hills district lies in the western part of the state and covers a geographical area of . The population of the district is 515,813 as per the 2001 census. The district headquarters are located at Tura.

The South Garo Hills district came into existence on 18 June 1992 after the division of the West Garo Hills district. The total geographical area of the district is . As per the 2001 census the district has a population of 99,100. The district headquarters are located at Baghmara.

Climate

A sign board in Cherrapunji With average annual rainfall as high as 1200 cm in some areas, Meghalaya is the wettest place on earth. The western part of the plateau, comprising the Garo Hills Region with lower elevations, experiences high temperatures for most of the year. The Shillong area, with the highest elevations, experiences generally low temperatures. The maximum temperature in this region rarely goes beyond [6], whereas sub-zero winter temperatures are common.

The town of Cherrapunji in the Khasi Hills south of capital Shillong holds the world record for most rain in a calendar month, while the village of Mawsynram, near the town of Cherrapunji, holds the record for the most rain in a year. The best time to visit Meghalaya is during the months of March to July.

Economy

Meghalaya is predominantly an agrarian economy. Agriculture and allied activities engage nearly two-thirds of the total work force in Meghalaya. However, the contribution of this sector to the State s NSDP is only about one-third. Agriculture in the state is characterized by low productivity and unsustainable farm practices, giving rise to a high incidence of rural poverty. As a result, despite the large percentage of population engaged in agriculture, the state is still dependent upon imports from other states for most food items such as meat, eggs, food grains etc. Infrastructural constraints have also prevented the economy of the state from growing at a pace commensurate with that of the rest of the country.

Meghalaya is considered to have a rich base of natural resources. These include minerals such as coal, limestone, sillimanite, Kaolin and granite among others. Meghalaya also has a large forest cover, rich biodiversity and numerous water bodies. The low level of industrialization and the relatively poor infrastructure base in the state acts as an impediment to the exploitation of these natural resources in the interest of the state's economy. However, in recent years two large cement manufacturing plants with production capacity more than 900 MTD have come up in Jantia Hills district and several more are in pipeline to utilise the rich deposit of very high quality limestone available in this district. Meghalaya also has much natural beauty, and the State government has been trying to exploit this for promoting tourism in the State. However, infrastructural constraints and security concerns have hampered the growth of tourism in the state.

View of MCL Cement plant, Thangskai, P.O. Lumshnong, Jaintia Hills

Macro-economic trends

This is a chart of trends in the gross state domestic product of Meghalaya at market prices estimated by Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation with figures in millions of Indian Rupees.

Year Gross State Domestic Product
1980 2,000
1985 3,930
1990 8,900
1995 19,950
2000 37,280

Meghalaya's gross state domestic product for 2004 is estimated at $1.6 billion in current prices.

Incidence of poverty

Planning Commission, the apex planning body under the Government of India, has estimated the percentage of population below poverty line in Meghalaya at nearly one-third the total population of the state in 2000. The incidence of poverty in rural areas at about 55% is almost double the percentage of poverty in the urban areas.

Mining

Some places in Meghalaya, such as Lad Rymbai[7], have become hubs of illegal mining. Balpakram National Park, located in South Garo Hills District, is constantly being encroached as forest areas are cleared for coal mining. The Garo Hills Anti-Mining and Conservation Forum is constantly shutting down these illegal mines, and accuses the Government of ignoring the issue. In the Jaintia Hills District, illegal mining has poisoned all the rivers except for Myntang River and Umngot River. Illegal mining is a well kept secret of the state, but it is slowly being exposed. Recently France 24, a TV channel, exposed the use of child labor in these illegal coal mines. Local newspapers have also started to expose the illegal mining activities in the state.

Agriculture

Nearly 10% of the total geographical area of Meghalaya is under cultivation. Agriculture in the state is characterized by limited use of modern techniques and low productivity. As a result, despite the vast majority of the population being engaged in agriculture, the contribution of agricultural production to the state s GDP is low, and most of the population engaged in agriculture remain poor. A substantial portion of the cultivated area is under the traditional shifting agriculture known locally as Jhum cultivation.

Food grains are the most important crop in Meghalaya. These are grown in over 1,330 km , nearly 60% of the state s cultivated area. The production of food grains is over 230 thousand tonnes. Rice is the dominant food grain crop accounting for over 80% of the food grain production in the state. Other important food grain crops are maize, wheat and a few other cereals and pulses.

Oilseeds such as rape, mustard, linseed, soybean, castor and sesame are grown on nearly 100 km . Rape and mustard are the most important oilseeds accounting for well over two-thirds of the oilseed production of nearly 6.5 thousand tonnes.

Fibre crops such as cotton, jute and Mesta had traditionally been among the only cash crops in Meghalaya, grown almost exclusively in Garo Hills. These have been losing popularity in recent years as indicated by their declining yield and area under cultivation.

Climatic conditions in Meghalaya also permit a large variety of horticulture crops including fruits, vegetables, flowers, spices and medicinal plants. These are considered to be higher value crops but traditional values and food security concerns have prevented farmers at large from embracing these crops.

The important fruits currently grown in the state include citrus fruits, pineapples, papayas, bananas etc. The mandarin oranges grown in Meghalaya are of very high quality. In addition to this, a large variety of vegetables are grown in the state, including cauliflower, cabbages and radishes.

Areca nut plantations can be seen all over the state, especially around the road from Guwahati to Shillong. Other plantation crops like tea, coffee and cashews have been introduced lately and are becoming popular. A large variety of spices, flowers, medicinal plants and mushrooms are also grown in the State.

Transportation

The partition of the country has created severe infrastructure constraints for the Northeastern region, with merely 2% of the perimeter of the region adjoining the rest of the country. A narrow strip of land, often called the Siliguri Corridor or the Chicken's Neck connects the region with the State of West Bengal. Meghalaya is a landlocked state with a large number of small settlements in remote areas. Road is the only means of transport within the state. While the capital Shillong is relatively well connected, road connectivity in most other parts of the state is relatively poor. A significant portion of the roads in the state are still unpaved. Most of the arrivals into the Meghalaya take place through Guwahati in neighboring Assam, which is nearly 103 km away. Assam has a major railhead as well as an airport with regular train and air services to the rest of the country. The state still has a large number of old timber bridges.

Meghalaya does not have any railhead. The Cherra Companyganj State Railways was a former mountain railway through the state.[8] It has a small airport at Umroi, about 40 km from Shillong on the Guwahati-Shillong highway. The small size of the airport does not allow the operation of large aircraft, and only small aircraft operate from Kolkata and Agartala, the capital of the neighboring state of Tripura.

Flora and fauna

As per the State of Forest Report 2003, published by the Forest Survey of India, Meghalaya has a forest cover of 9,496 km , which is 42.34% of the total geographical area of the state. The Meghalayan subtropical forests are considered to be among the richest botanical habitats of Asia. These forests receive abundant rainfall and support a vast variety of floral and faunal biodiversity. A small portion of the forest area in Meghalaya is under what is known as sacred groves (see Sacred groves of India). These are small pockets of ancient forest that have been preserved by the communities for hundreds of years due to religious and cultural beliefs. These forests are reserved for religious rituals and generally remain protected from any exploitation. These sacred groves harbour many rare plant and animal species. The Nokrek Biosphere Reserve in the West Garo Hills and the Balaphakram National Park in the South Garo Hills are considered to be the most biodiversity-rich sites in Meghalaya. In addition, Meghalaya has three wildlife sanctuaries. These are the Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary, the Siju Sanctuary and the Bhagmara Sanctuary, which is also the home of the insect eating pitcher plant Nepenthes khasiana. Nepenthes khasiana Due to diverse climatic and topographic conditions, Meghalayan forests support a vast floral diversity, including a large variety of Parasites and Epiphytes, Succulent plants and Shrubs. Two of the most important tree varieties include: Shorea robusta (sal tree) and Tectona grandis (teak). Meghalaya is also the home to a large variety of fruits, vegetables, spices and medicinal plants. Meghalayan is also famous for its large variety of orchids  nearly 325 of them. Of these the largest variety is found in the Mawsmi, Mawmluh and Sohrarim forests in the Khasi hills.

Animals

Meghalaya also has a large variety of mammals, birds, reptiles and insects.[9] The important mammal species include elephants, bear, civets, mongooses, weasels, rodents, gaur, wild buffalo, deer, wild boar and a number of primates. Meghalaya also has a large variety of bats. The limestone caves in Meghalaya such as the Siju Cave are home to some of the nation's rarest bat species. There is an interesting population of red pandas in Garo Hills.[10] The state has a remnant population of Wild Water Buffaloes in South Garo and West Khasi Hills districts.[11] The hoolock gibbon still occurs in all districts of Meghalaya.[12]

Prominent bird species in Meghalaya include the Magpie-Robin, the Red-vented Bulbul, the Hill Myna is usually found in pairs or in flocks in the hill forests of Meghalaya, the Large Pied Hornbill and the Great Indian Hornbill, which is the largest bird in Meghalaya. Other birds include the Peacock Pheasant, the Large Indian Parakeet, the Common Green Pigeon and the Blue Jay.[13] Meghalaya is also home to over 250 species of butterflies, nearly a quarter of all butterfly species found in India.

Common reptiles in Meghalaya are lizards, crocodiles and tortoises. Meghalaya also has a number of snakes including the python, the Copperhead, the Green Tree Racer, the Indian Cobra the King Cobra, the Coral Snake and Vipers.

Education

IIM Shillong There are lots of good schools and colleges in Shillong. As part of a developmental program in north eastern states, the Ministry of Human Resource Development opened the seventh Indian Institute of Management in Shillong, which is named as the Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of Management. This institute started admissions from the academic year 2008. Recently the National Institute of Fashion Technology Shillong and the NEIGRIHMS opened in Shillong. Shillong is fast becoming the center of learning in the North Eastern region.

Apart from Shillong, good schools and colleges are available in Jowai and Tura

Tourism

Shillong from Shillong peak. Earlier, foreign tourists required special permits to enter the areas that now constitute the state of Meghalaya. However, the restrictions were removed in 1955. Meghalaya is considered to be one of the most picturesque states in the country. It has enough tourism content to attract tourists of many different interests.

Tourism content

Meghalaya has some of the thickest surviving forests in the country and therefore constitutes one of the most important ecotourism circuits in the India today. The Meghalayan subtropical forests support a vast variety of flora and fauna. Meghalaya has 2 National Parks and 3 Wildlife Sanctuaries. Shillong Golf Course, one of the oldest golf courses of India. Meghalaya also offers many adventure tourism opportunities in the form of mountaineering, rock climbing, trekking and hiking, water sports etc. The state offers several trekking routes, some of which also afford an opportunity to encounter rare animals such as slow loris, assorted deer and bear. The Umiam Lake has a water sports complex with facilities such as rowboats, paddleboats, sailing boats, cruise-boats, water-scooters and speedboats.

Meghalaya has an estimated 500 natural limestone and sandstone caves spread over the entire state including most of the longest and deepest caves in the sub-continent. Krem Liat Prah is the longest cave, and Synrang Pamiang is the deepest cave. Both are located in the Jaintia Hills. Cavers from United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Ireland and the United States have been visiting Meghalaya for over a decade exploring these caves. Not many of these have however been developed or promoted adequately for major tourist destinations.

Important tourist spots

Nohkalikai Falls Standing stones, (Maw bin nah) below Cherrapunji. Cherrapunji is one of the most popular tourist locations in North East of India. The town is well known and has guided tours of Tree Root Bridges. It lies to the south of the capital Shillong. A rather scenic 50 kilometer long road connects Cherrapunji with Shillong.

The popular waterfalls in the state are the Elephant Falls, Shadthum Falls, Weinia falls, Bishop Falls, Nohkalikai Falls, Langshiang Falls and Sweet Falls. The hot springs at Jakrem near Mawsynram are believed to have curative and medicinal properties.

Meghalaya is also known for its "Sacred Groves". These have been preserved by the traditional religious sanction since the ancient days. The Mawphlang sacred forest, also known as "Law Lyngdoh," is one of the most famous sacred forests. It's located about 25 kilometres from Shillong. It's a must visit for nature lovers.

Nongkhnum Island located in the West Khasi Hills district is the biggest river island in Meghalaya and the second biggest in Asia. Its 14 kilometres from Nongstoin. The island is formed by the bifurcation of Kynshi River into the Phanliang River and the Namliang River. Adjacent to the sandy beach the Phanliang River forms a very beautiful lake. The river then moves along and before reaching a deep gorge, forms a pretty waterfall about 60 meters high called Shadthum Fall.

The Mawlynnong village located near the India-Bangladesh border is known for its cleanliness.[14] The travel magazine Discover India declared the village as the cleanest in Asia in 2003, and the cleanest in India in 2005.[15] Some of the interesting features include the presence of a Living Root Bridges and another natural phenomenon of a boulder balancing on another rock.

Meghalaya also has many natural and manmade lakes. The Umiam Lake (popularly known as Bara Pani meaning Big water) on the Guwahati-Shillong road is a major tourism attraction for tourist. Meghalaya has several parks; Thangkharang Park, the Eco-park, the Botanical Garden and Lady Hydari Park to name a few. Dawki, which is located at about 96 Kilometres from Shillong is the gateway to Bangladesh and affords a scenic view of some of the tallest mountain ranges in Meghalaya and the Bangladesh border lands.

Balpakram National Park with its pristine habitat and scenery is a major attraction [16] The Nokrek National Park, also in Garo Hills has its own charm with lot of wildlife.[17]

Problems and constraints

The state has a relatively poor road and communication network specially NH 62. While some of the major circuits such as Shillong-Jowai, Shillong-Tura and Shillong-Sohra are well developed; the internal road networks are rather poor and inadequately maintained. There are few markets outside the state capital Shillong. Banking facilities are also limited and only a few establishments in the state accept credit cards. The Garo Hills region which has some of the most important tourist spots is not well connected with the rest of the state.

Tourism in the North East in general has also suffered on account of years of insurgency and the resulting security concerns. Many governments had in the past issued advisories against traveling to the Northeast of India, worsening the security perception. It may however be mentioned that Meghalaya is perhaps the least affected by insurgency in the Northeast region. The current ground scenario for Shillong is one in which tourists are welcome to come and enjoy the beauty of Meghalaya.

Government and politics

State government

Like most other states in India, Meghalaya has a unicameral legislature. The Meghalaya Legislative Assembly has 60 members at present. Meghalaya has two representatives in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Parliament of India; one each from Shillong and Tura. It also has one representative in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament. The ceremonial head of the State is the Governor appointed by the Government of India. However, the real executive powers are held by the Chief Minister.

Meghalaya does not have a high court of its own. The Gauhati High Court has jurisdiction in Meghalaya. A Circuit Bench of the Guwahati High Court has been functioning at Shillong since 1974.

See also List of political parties in the state

Autonomous district councils

In order to provide local self governance machinery to the rural population of the country, provisions were made in the Constitution of India and accordingly the Panchayati Raj institutions were set up. However, on account of the distinct customs and traditions prevailing in erstwhile state of Assam (of which Meghalaya and most of the Northeast was a part), it was felt necessary to have a separate political and administrative structure in Assam. Moreover, some of the tribal communities in the region also had their own traditional political systems and it was felt that Panchayati Raj institutions may come into conflict with these traditional systems.

To provide a simple and inexpensive form of local self governance to the tribal population, the Sixth Schedule was appended to the Constitution on the recommendations of a sub committee formed under the leadership of Gopinath Bordoloi. The Sixth Schedule provided for the constitution of Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) in certain rural areas of the Northeast including some areas that now fall in Meghalaya. The Sixth Schedule carries detailed provisions for the constitution and management of Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) and laid down the powers of the ADCs. At present Meghalaya has three ADCs, viz.,

Traditional political institutions

All the three major ethnic tribal groups, namely, the Khasis, Jaintias and the Garos also have their own traditional political institutions that have existed for hundreds of years. These political institutions were fairly well developed and functioned at various tiers, such as the village level, clan level and state level.

In the traditional political system of the Khasis, each clan had its own council known as the Durbar Kur , which was presided over by the clan headman. The council or the Durbar managed the internal affairs of the clan. Similarly, every village had a local assembly known as the Durbar Shnong, i.e. village Durbar or council, which was presided over by the village headman. These councils or Durbars played an administrative role in issues of common interest, such as sanitation, water supply, health, roads, education and conflict resolution. However, the inter-village issues were dealt with through a political unit comprising adjacent Khasi Villages.

This political unit was known as the raid. The raid had its own council the Raid Durbar, which was presided over by the elected headman known as Basans, Lyngdohs or Sirdars. Above the Raid was a the supreme political authority known as the Syiemship. The Syiemship was the congregation of several raids and was headed an elected chief known as the Syiem (or the king). The Syiem ruled the Khasi state through the State Assembly, known as the Durbar Hima. Most of the elections were through adult male suffrage. No male is allowed to enter the Durbar (Assembly) without a mustache which is the rule of Khasi traditional.

The Jaintias also had a three tier political system somewhat similar to the Khasis. The supreme political authority was the Syiem. The second tier of this structure was the congregation of Jaintia villages known as Raids. These were headed by Dolois , who were responsible for performing the executive, magisterial, religious and ceremonial functions at the Raid level. At the lowest level were the village headmen. Each administrative tier had its own councils or durbars. Most elections were through adult male suffrage.

In the traditional political system of the Garos a group of Garo villages comprised the A king. The A king functioned under the supervision of the Nokmas, which was perhaps the only political and administrative authority in the political institution of the Garos. The Nokma performed both judicial and legislative functions. The Nokmas also congregated to address inter-A king issues. There were no well-organized councils or durbars among the Garos.

Frankenstein Momin, Billy Kid Sangma and Adolf Lu Hitler Marak were three men among dozens of others with equally colorful names who competed for legislative seats in Meghalaya, a remote northeast Indian state, on 3 March 2008. There were about 60 seats up for grabs, 331 candidates vying, and no shortage of unusual names it was reported on 25 February 2008.[18]

Facts and figures

Media

Shilong Samay-Shillong Samay is a first Hindi Daily Of the State.

See also

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