DIPHU, Jan 29 � A visit to the Rengma locality in northern Karbi Anglong will make you feel, how well a small tribe survives depending on its own. Next moment you will be forced to consider, why our Government is so indifferent towards the development of a society which wants to live with dignity.
In a cluster of villages located in the upper stream of Kaliani river where the Rengma Nagas are living since the beginning of the 18th century, many political divisions have taken place till now but these peace-loving people are following their unique lifestyle, depending on the mother nature for most of their basic needs.
Terrace cultivation and fishing in the hilly stream is what the people of the area do to support their living. Inspired by the British missionaries, Rengmas started cultivation of oranges in the terrace of hills named after their community. They gradually expanded the size of their orchards. After the British, no State-run agency has come forward to help them market their products, not even till date. They are selling the best organic oranges produced in Assam to the Bangladeshi importers at a throwaway price, filling the coffers of the middleman.
To draw the attenuation of the mainstream society, the locals arranged the maiden orange festival of Assam at Sochen Lori, a village dominated by Rengma Naga tribes of Karbi Anglong district, of Assam, entirely at the initiative of the local growers.
The village is situated at the upstream of Kolioni river, adjoining Mikir hills Reserve Forest, at a distance of about 105km east from Diphu. The exhibition of oranges and Rengma cultural items marked both days of the celebration.
Chief Conservator of Forest Abhijit Rabha declared open the two day-long event. Rabha insisted on scientific plantation and management of orange orchards in address.
Around 100 orange cultivators of the locality took part in the festival to boost their incomes. The main objective of the orange festival was to promote and provide an opportunity to orange farmers to display their produce before potential buyers.
According to reports, the input of oranges is expected to decline drastically due to poor management of the orchards and not applying of scientific methods for management of the orchards. The all organic system of production has failed to control parasites and pests. Around 4000 bighas (533 acres) of land is covered by orange orchards; approximately 30000 fruits are produced in one bigha on an average. The cultivation of oranges was initiated by the local farmers since 1942; British administrators and Christian missionaries helped the early farmers then.
Chitu Rengma, a progressive farmer and the chief organiser of the festival said that, till date they have not received any kind of Government patronage starting from cultivation to selling. They reach the nearest markets with their produce on bamboo raft and propel through Kaliani river, after reaching nearest pier they either carry their productions on bicycle or on head load.
Rengma mentioned that, �we receive Rs 1.25 per orange on an average from the agents of the exporters who sell these to Bangladesh at a much higher price. With proper backing from the Agriculture department, we could have developed our economy. Even now we are following the most primitive methods, right from cultivation to marketing,� he said. Sochen Lori is a cluster of sixteen villages sparsely populated; almost every family grows seasonal orange and other crops during the off season.
Rabha is of the opinion that a fruit processing industry can go a long way in developing the economy of this small community struggling for survival against all odds. The area has a population of around 7000, of whom women are mostly involved in cultivation, fishing and horticulture. The Rengmas produce excellent quality woollen shawls and traditional clothing. These small tribes of Naga are among the oldest Christian settlers in this part of Assam. Due to the area�s contiguity with Golaghat district, Rengmas are familiar with Assamese language.