GENERAL OVERVIEW

ssam is the gateway to the northeastern states and has been aptly described as the sentinel of Northeast India. Seven Indian states and two countries, Bhutan and Bangladesh, surround Assam that lies between 89.5 degree to 96.1 degree East longitude and 24.3 degree to 28.0 degree North latitude. The State is also strategically close to India's international borders with China and Myanmar. Assam is contiguously surrounded by Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh on the north, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh on the east and Bangladesh, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram on the south. The State shares a 262 kilometre long international boundary with Bangladesh.

In olden times, Assam was known as Pragjyotishpura or the ‘land of the eastern lights’. In medieval times, it became known as Kamrupa. The present name Assam is the anglicized name for the State. Spread over an area of 78,438 square kilometers, Assam is the second largest state in the northeastern region. It represents 2.39 per cent of the Indian landmass and 29.92 percent of the Northeast. The State has two distinct natural regions: the Brahmaputra Valley and the Barak Valley (also known as Surma valley). The Brahmaputra Valley comprises a total area of 71,516 square kilometres and the Barak Valley is spread over 6,922 square kilometres. For administration and revenue purposes, Assam is divided into 27 districts.

According to the Census 2011, Assam has a total population of 311,69,272, constituting 2.2 percent of India’s total population and 68.37 per cent of the entire Northeast. Ranked 14th in terms of total population in India, the State has a population density of 397 (persons per square kilometre). There are 16 Scheduled Castes and 25 Scheduled Tribes constituting 7.40 and 12.82 per cent respectively of the State’s population. Bodos are the largest plains tribes in the State. The other tribes include the Karbis, Dimasas, Rabhas etc.

Assamese is the major language of the State. Other recognized Indian languages spoken in the State include Bengali and Hindi. Languages including Odia, Mundari, Santhal, Tamil and Telegu are mostly spoken mostly by the five million workers in the 800 odd tea gardens spread across the length and breadth of the State, bracketed as the Tea Tribes. The literacy rate of Assam is 72.19% and it holds the 26th position in this regard among the Indian states. According to the Human Development Report 2001, Assam ranks 26th in human resource development index and 21st in poverty index in India.

The economy of Assam is predominantly agrarian, providing employment to more than half of the State’s working class. Assam produces more than half of the country's total tea. According to the Economic Survey, Assam, 2011-12, the State’s agriculture sector provides employment to more than 50% of the rural people and the net cultivated area of the State is 28.11 lakh hectares (2009-10) which is about 88% of the total land available for agricultural cultivation in the State. Assam's per capita Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) in 2009-10 is Rupees 27464 and the per capita Net State Domestic Product in 2010-2011 is Rupees 30413.

As per Census 2011, out of total population of 311,69,272 in Assam, 8687123 are main workers (7034642 male, 1652481 Female), 3282567 are marginal workers (1506918 Male, 1775649 Female) and 19235886 are non-workers (7397883 Male, 11838003 Female). Similarly, out of total 11969690 workers in Assam, 3138554 are cultivators, 903294 are agricultural labourers, 242071 work in household industries and 4403204 belong to the other workers category.

Assam is very rich in natural resources such as oil and natural gas, coal, rubber, tea and minerals. Abundant water resources in the State form the potential for irrigation and generation of hydroelectricity. Its forests too are the storehouses for quality timber. However, the State is a classic case of high potential and low achievement. Underutilization of the resources has resulted in the underdevelopment of the State and its poor economy. The State, on the other hand, has struggled to equally distribute the available limited resources equitably among the populace of the State. The problem has further contributed to the rise of several insurgency movements in the State based on ethnicity.