General Overview

eghalaya or the abode of the clouds is situated between 89.46 degree to 94.36 degree East longitude and 25.05 degree to 26.41 degree North latitude. It is bounded on the north by Goalpara, Kamrup and Nagaon districts, on the east by Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills districts, all of Assam, and on the south and west by Bangladesh. It shares a 443 kilometre-long international border with Bangladesh. Spread over a geographical area of 22429 square kilometres, Meghalaya comprises 0.68 per cent of India’s landmass and 8.55 per cent of that of the Northeast.

Meghalaya was created as an autonomous state within the state of Assam on 2 April 1970 and was declared a state of the Indian Union on 21 January 1972. Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, is located at an altitude of 1496 metres above sea level. It is currently divided into seven districts. The districts are further divided into eight sub-divisions and 39 Blocks. The Blocks are further subdivided into 15 Gram Sevak Circles. The local administration of the State is run through the Autonomous District Councils, set up under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. There are three such councils: the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council at Tura, the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council at Shillong and the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council at Jowai.

Meghalaya is home to two main tribal formations: Hynniewtreps and the Achiks. The Khasi, Jaintia, Bhoi, and War tribes, belonging to the Proto-Austroloid Monkhmer race, are collectively known as the Hynniewtrep people, who predominantly inhabit the East Meghalaya districts. The Garos, who prefer to call themselves as Achiks, predominantly inhabit the Garo Hills. They belong to the Tibeto-Burman race and are said to have migrated from Tibet. The literacy rate of Meghalaya is 63.61 per cent.

Due to its rugged terrains, the State of Meghalaya is sparsely populated. According to Census 2001, Meghalaya has a total population of 2,306,069, thus, constituting 0.22 per cent of the population of India and 5.91 per cent of the Northeast. It has a density of 103 persons per square kilometre. The people are predominantly Christians.

Agriculture is one of the basic means of subsistence in this tribal State. This sector provides employment to about 65.89 per cent of the total working population. The State has a vast potential for developing horticulture due to agro-climatic variations, which offer much scope for cultivation of temperate, sub-tropical and tropical fruits and vegetables. The per capita Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) in Rupees 20775 and the per capita Net State Domestic Product (NSDP) in 1999-2000 is Rupees 11,678. Meghalaya ranks 24th in the human resource development index and 28th in the poverty index in India, according to the Human Development Report, 2001.

Meghalaya is rich in natural resources. However, the growth of industries in the State is still in the rudimentary stage.

Insurgency movements have sprang up in the State, claiming to represent the interests of the Hynniewtreps and the Achiks. In fact, there exists a divide between the Khasis and the Garos and this is well reflected in the politics of the State. In addition, Meghalaya’s rugged mountains and its proximity with Bangladesh have been exploited by insurgents of various neighbouring states to set up transit camps and safe houses.