Arunachal's 'economic development' does not bode well for women
FOR many observers, Arunachal Pradesh is an 'island of peace' in India's conflict-prone northeast. In recent years, however, the state has seen a spurt in violence. All sections of people in Arunachal have not been equal participants in the state's development and the resultant disquiet has boiled over. The shift from a natural resource-based economy to one based on the market has also led to significant changes in resource utilisation, with another significant repercussion women's control over resources has declined.
Women, of course, are not an undifferentiated category and impacts of development would be uneven not only among different sections of the society but also within women as a group. That said, women played a significant role in the traditional economy of the indigenous communities agriculture, forest-related activities like gathering forest products of a wide variety and household-based manufacturing.
Land in Arunachal is largely community-held and there aren't clear-cut private property rights. This worked fine when agriculture was practiced in the traditional ways. But commercialisation has encouraged powerful people to bring more land under their control. The transition from need-based to market-based processes does not bode well for women. Their control over household income is imperilled.
At present marketisation is low and participation of households in businesses quite limited. But horticulture and cultivation of vegetables and fruits is increasing, and men are getting a toehold in trading and business, though women are the main producers.
Changes in the production pattern due to commercialisation might also lead to decline in per capita production of staple foods and a decline in per capita availability of food grains at the local level. Arunachal Pradesh Human Development Report 2005 shows that gender-discrimination in intra-family distribution of food is not very significant in Arunachal Pradesh, but these egalitarian aspects are now under threat.
Occupational diversification among women in Arunachal Pradesh is abysmally low. Literacy rate has improved, but women generally are confined to agriculture and the few who have moved out have mostly taken up low-paid jobs in the service sector. It's true that this means women are moving from unpaid household work to wage work but it is difficult to asses whether this implies opportunity or distress. The only silver-lining seems to be the entry of large number of tribal women into retail trading of various kinds.
Besides, the ecological impact of uncontrolled mass tourism could be substantial for the rural people who depend a lot on these resources, for food, fodder, fuel wood, medicines and a large number of other products. Similarly much depends on the kind of technology that is used for hydro-power generation.
If the rich biodiversity and environmental wealth of the state is not properly taken into account in the cost-benefit analyses, the result could be more destructive than progress of any kind.
Aparimita Mishra is an independent researcher
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.