ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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State, Community and the Agrarian Transition in Arunachal Pradesh

Following the rapid and uneven integration with the capitalist economy, the local economies and institutional mechanisms of the indigenous communities of Arunachal Pradesh have been transformed in multiple and complex ways. With the commercialisation of agriculture and the gradual emergence of private property rights, the community-based institutions for natural resource management and conflict resolutions are undergoing a multilevel transformation. This is mediated through the interactions among community, market and state institutions. With the expansion of the non-agricultural economy, a powerful class of local elites has attempted to extract rent through a variety of means, often using their membership of local communities and access to state institutions to safeguard their interests, against the backdrop of the ethnic competition between different ethnic groups.

This paper draws upon the authors’ previous works and also the collaborative research with Barbara Harriss-White and Vandana Upadhyay. Comments from the guest editors and the reviewers helped in revising the paper. Financial assistance from the ICSSR, New Delhi and JNU-UPE is gratefully acknowledged. The usual disclaimers apply.

Arunachal Pradesh, a mountainous state located in North East India, has undergone significant social and economic changes in the past few decades. There has been a robust growth of per capita income, along with some fundamental transformations in the institutional structures underpinning the economy (Planning Commission 2009: 6775). The need-based, relatively self-sufficient agrarian economies of the tribes are now closely integrated with the larger national and transnational circuits of capitalist economic development. In the post-economic reform era, policy documents on the north-eastern region often describe Arunachal Pradesh as a power house of hydroelectricity (Baruah 2017; World Bank 2007), and its potential to be a part of a potential growth corridor linking the Indian economy with its eastern neighbours is also emphasised. With the emphasis on mega infrastructure development and signing of more than 150 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) for hydropower harnessing, the economy of the state is expected to attract private capital at a massive scale (Baruah 2017).

On the other hand, for agricultural development per se, the emphasis has been on horticulture development and commercialisation of the agro-economy. There is, however, a significant mismatch between the institutional requirements of such a market-led growth strategy and the institutional diversity and complexity that characterise the economy of Arunachal Pradesh. Further, the diverse implications of the ongoing economic transformations for the different classes, social groups and communities are yet to be properly understood.

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Published On : 10th Oct, 2018

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