Organic growth

Print edition : June 20, 2008

Ginger fields in Karbi Anglong. The district produces the best organic ginger in the world.-PHOTOGRAPHS: RITU RAJ KONWAR

Innovative development initiatives and good management practices have given a new image to the autonomous hill district of Assam.

For years, Karbi Anglong was in the news for all the wrong reasons. Ethnic clashes among Karbis, Kukis and Dimasas, and internecine clashes between insurgent outfits for three years from 2003 left over 200 people dead and nearly 2,000 injured and displaced 60,000. The largest district of Assam (10,434 sq km) also became infamous as a transit point for narcotics from the Golden Triangle and as an entry point of a thriving market for stolen vehicles in eastern India. The district has now acquired a new, positive image.

The turnaround of the poorest district of Assam began towards the end of 2006 after M. Angamuthu took over as the Deputy Commissioner. In October 2006, barely a month after Angamuthu assumed office, the Assam Governor, Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Ajai Singh, visited the hill district. The Deputy Commissioner who was waiting at the Diphu railway station to receive him was taken by surprise when the Governor, soon after getting down from the train, asked him about ginger cultivation in the district.

The young Indian Administrative Service officer soon realised that he has been entrusted with the responsibility of a district that produces the best organic ginger in the world. The average annual production of ginger in the district is 30,000 tonnes and it is grown by about 10,000 farmers. The ginger grown in Karbi Anglong has a low fibre content. Varieties such as Nadia and Aizol, which yield high quantities of dry rhizome and oleoresin oil, are in great demand among domestic buyers and exporters.

The information was enough to give birth to a new initiative under the Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana (RSVY), a flagship programme of the United Progressive Alliance government. Thus was formed the Ginger Growers Cooperative Marketing Federation (GIN-FED) in Karbi Anglong in April 2007 with about 3,500 shareholders. The brainchild of Angamuthu, it had the support and guidance of P.C. Sarma, Chief Secretary, and P.P. Verma, then Principal Secretary, Planning and Development Department.

Within a few months of its formation, GIN-FED was able to spice up the lives of ordinary ginger-growers and free them from the clutches of middlemen. At the first meeting of its shareholders at Diphu, GIN-FED issued to each of them a bar-coded G-Card the first commodity-based debit-cum-credit card in India for farmers to avail themselves of cash advances of up to Rs.10,000 from banks to cultivate ginger on two bighas of land.

Earlier, ginger-growers had to go in for distress sale of their produce at Rs.2.50 to Rs.3 a kg. Following GIN-FEDs market intervention, the demand for Karbi ginger has grown phenomenally and the same middlemen who once short-changed them now offer up to Rs.15 for a kg. The administrations initiative has got heaps of praise from elected representatives such as Biren Singh Engti, Member of Parliament, representing No. 3 Autonomous Constituency, Diphu.

Turmeric cultivation in the district too has got a boost. On June 24 last year, Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh, along with Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, flew to Paroli, a remote village in Hamren subdivision, to hand over a cheque of Rs.33 lakh to the Coinonya Farms Producers Company Limited. It was the Spices Boards first instalment of its 49 per cent share in the company owned by farm producers. Monsing Teron, 72, the village headman, is one of the directors of the company.

The Karbi Anglong Milk Union Limited, or KAMUL, caters to the needs of small and marginal dairy farmers, and consumers.-

The Union Minister handed over a cheque for an equal amount to the farmer-directors of the Karbi Farms Producer Company Limited in Rongmanpi. He promised all possible help from his Ministry to tribal farmers growing ginger, turmeric, chilli and various other horticultural crops.

Agriculture was not the only success story of the administrations efforts. The district needed an efficient administration that could address the grievances of the public through speedy delivery of services. Being the main instrument of development, the office of the Deputy Commissioner had to be turned into a accountable, responsive and service-oriented institution.

This became a reality on January 25 when Karbi Anglong was certified as ISO 9001:2000 compliant by Det Norske Veritas, headquartered at Rotterdam, the Netherlands, after the office of the Deputy Commissioner at Diphu established, documented, implemented and maintained a Total Quality Management system. This helped the conflict-ridden district to acquire a new image as one of the best-administrated districts with people-friendly practices. It now has the enviable record of being the first government organisation in Assam, the first district in north-eastern India and the fourth in the country after Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh, and Latur and Jalgaon districts of Maharashtra to be ISO 9001:2000 compliant.

A visit to the Deputy Commissioners office shows how a successful quality management system works. The general branch has workstations that resemble those in corporate offices. The Commissioners office offers 23 different types of services, including issuing certificates for permanent residents, licenses for selling fire-crackers, registering societies and renewing licenses and registrations. It has a single-window delivery system.

At the formal handing over of the ISO certificate at the Assam Secretariat on March 24, Gogoi said his government had adopted the policy of raijor podulit raijor sarkar (peoples government at peoples doorsteps) and that awarding the certificate to Karbi Anglong was a firm step towards achieving the State governments goal of providing an administration that is committed, accountable, responsive, efficient and serviceoriented (CARES as he put it). He urged all other districts to draw lessons from Karbi Anglong and strive to become ISO 9001:2000 compliant.

Speaking to Frontline Angamuthu said: After the successful implementation of the project at the Deputy Commissioners office we are now going to implement the system at subdivisional and block levels in keeping with the mandate given by the Chief Minister to take the administration to the doorsteps of the people of the district. The USP of the Total Quality Management project is that it aims at capacity-building of not only the officers and staff but also the public.

The cooperative movement that started in Gujarat with Amul has now spread to over 200 districts across India. Keeping up with the pace of dairy movement and the White Revolution in the country, the Karbi Anglong district administration has started the Karbi Anglong Milk Union Limited (KAMUL) to cater to the needs of small and marginal dairy farmers, and consumers. The project is aimed at efficiently collecting milk from producers and providing quality milk to consumers at affordable prices.

A state-of-the-art milk plant set up at Manja by KAMUL produces 500 litres of pasteurised milk every day by processing raw milk collected from cattle-rearing tribal and non-tribal families living in its vicinity. The overwhelming response to the venture has encouraged KAMUL authorities to increase the target production to 2,000 litres a day within a year. Apart from taking care of the livelihood of poor rural people, the dairy initiative has gone a long way in introducing the habit of milk consumption among tribal people.

This project is a refined form of a cooperative in which Joint Liability Groups collect 500 litres of milk from the dairy self-help groups or primary cooperative societies at a fixed rate. The milk is then processed and pasteurised for the next stage of consumption, said the Deputy Commissioner.

Khorsing Engti, the Minister for Animal Husbandry and Veterinary, extended the Ministrys support to the introduction of value-addition facilities in the plant. Plans are on to produce butter, ghee and ice cream in the second phase.

The dairy sector has been identified as one of the most potential areas of rapid socio-economic development in the district. Faster growth in this sector is essential not just to achieve higher productivity but also to increase rural household income.

It is revival time for sick industrial units in the district, thanks to the efforts of the government and the district administration under the RSVY. The Diphu Cotton and Other Crop Processing Unit Cooperative Society Ltd., situated in the heart of Diphu town, stands witness to a host of development initiatives taken by the district administration. Established in 1956, it is one of the oldest industrial units in the cooperative sector in Assam. It was closed for almost six years because of many reasons. Thanks to the consistent efforts of the Karbi Anglong district administration, a new management unit has been opened and production has started again. The cotton grown in Karbi Anglong is said to be good, but inadequate marketing facility has left the growers at the mercy of middlemen and a cartel.

A GIN-FED drying unit in Diphu. GIN-FEDs market intervention has freed farmers from the clutches of middlemen.-

The administrations initiative rescued the cooperative society from liquidation. The revived unit was inaugurated by Planning and Development Minister Prithvi Majhi. At the meeting, M.S. Engti, Chief Executive Member of the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, announced a grant-in-aid of Rs.5 lakh to the society. A sum of Rs.35 lakh has been earmarked in the State Budget 2008-09 for upgrading the Cotton Ginning Mill at Diphu.

Encouraged by the results of various development initiatives, the district administration is now determined to ensure that autonomy granted to the people of the hill district under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution 55 years ago empowers them in such a way as to derive maximum benefits out of the schemes and programmes meant for them.

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