|This article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2007)|
Location of Meghalaya in India
Map of Meghalaya
|Coordinates (Shillong): Coordinates:|
|Established||21 January 1972|
|• Governor||K. K. Paul|
|• Chief Minister||Mukul Sangma (INC)|
|• Legislature||Unicameral (60 seats)|
|• Parliamentary constituency||2|
|• High Court||Meghalaya High Court|
|• Total||22,429 km2 (8,660 sq mi)|
|• Density||130/km2 (340/sq mi)|
|Time zone||IST (UTC+05:30)|
|ISO 3166 code||IN-ML|
|HDI rank||19th (2005)|
|Official languages||English, Khasi and Garo are additional|
Meghalaya // is a state in north-east India. The name means "the abode of clouds" in Sanskrit. As of 2011, the state has a population of 2,964,007 and is the 23rd most populous in the country. Meghalaya covers an area of approximately 300 kilometres in length and about 100 kilometres in breadth. This state is bounded to the south by the People's Republic of Bangladesh and the north by India's Assam. The capital is Shillong, known as the "Scotland of the East", and has a population of 143,007.
About one-third of the state is forested. The Meghalaya subtropical forests ecoregion encompasses the state; its mountain forests are distinct from the lowland tropical forests to the north and south. The forests are notable for their biodiversity of mammals, birds, and plants. It was previously part of Assam, but on 21 January 1972, the districts of Khasi, Garo and Jaintia hills became the new state of Meghalaya.
Meghalaya has predominantly an agrarian economy. The important crops are potatoes, rice, maize, pineapples, bananas, etc. The service sector is made up of real estate and insurance companies. The state has become a hub of illegal mining activity. Meghalaya's gross state domestic product for 2004 was estimated at $1.6 billion in current prices.
Shillong, the capital of the state, is a popular hill station. There are several falls in and around Shillong. Shillong Peak, also known as the "abode of the gods" is the highest in the state.
- 1 History
- 2 Demographics
- 3 Urban areas
- 4 Languages
- 5 Culture and society
- 6 Festivals
- 7 Geography
- 8 Districts
- 9 Climate
- 10 Economy
- 11 Power
- 12 Agriculture
- 13 Health
- 14 Transportation
- 15 Transport infrastructure
- 16 Flora and fauna
- 17 Animals
- 18 Education
- 19 Tourism
- 20 Other Important Places
- 21 Government and politics
- 22 Major issues of state
- 23 Rankings
- 24 Facts and figures
- 25 See also
- 26 References
- 27 Bibliography
- 28 External links
Meghalaya was formed by carving out two districts from the state of Assam: the United Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills, and the Garo Hills on 21 January 1972. Before attaining full statehood, Meghalaya was given semi-autonomous status in 1970.
The Khasi, Garo, and Jaintia tribes had their own kingdoms until they came under British administration in the 19th century. Later, the British incorporated Meghalaya into Assam in 1835. The region enjoyed semi-independent status by virtue of a treaty relationship with the British Crown.
When Bengal was partitioned on 16 October 1905 by Lord Curzon, Meghalaya became a part of the new province of Eastern Bengal and Assam. However, when the partition was reversed in 1912, Meghalaya became a part of the province of Assam.
On 3 January 1921 in pursuance of Section 52A of the Government of India Act of 1919, the governor-general-in-council declared the areas now in Meghalaya, other than the Khasi states, as "backward tracts." Subsequently, however, the government of India Act of 1935 regrouped the backward tracts into two categories: "excluded" and "partially excluded" areas.
At the time of Indian independence in 1947, present day Meghalaya constituted two districts of Assam and enjoyed limited autonomy within the state of Assam.
The Assam Reorganisation (Meghalaya) Act of 1969 accorded an autonomous status to the state of Meghalaya. The Act came into effect on 2 April 1970, and an autonomous state of Meghalaya was born out of Assam. The autonomous state had a 37 member legislature in accordance with the Sixth schedule to the Indian constitution.
In 1971, the Parliament passed the North-Eastern Areas (Reorganization) Act, 1971, which conferred full statehood on the autonomous state of Meghalaya. Meghalaya attained statehood on 21 January 1972, with a Legislative Assembly of its own.
|Source: Census of India|
Tribal people make up the majority of Meghalaya's population. The Khasis are the largest group, followed by the Garos then The Jaintias. These were among those known to the British as "hill tribes." Other groups include the Koch, the Biates of Saipung Constuency and Jowai,the related Rajbongshi, the Boro, Hajong, Dimasa, Hmar, Paite, Kuki, Lakhar, Karbi, Rabha and Nepali.
In Meghalaya state before 1987 there were more than 200,000 people of Nepali origin spread throughout all districts. Recent census shows that there are no more than 40,000 to 50,000 Nepalis in Meghalaya today.
The process of migration of the Nepalis in Northeast India particularly Shillong, Darjeeling, and Southern Bhutan began about two centuries ago with the recruitment of Gorkha soldiers into the British Indian Army after the treaty of Sugauli (1816).
The East Khasi and Jaintia Hills are Nepali belts. Agriculture and cattle rearing are the main occupations. A large number of retired Indian Army soldiers (Gorkha) live in Shillong.
Meghalaya is one of three states in India to have a Christian majority with 70.3% of the population practising Christianity; the other two (Nagaland and Mizoram) are also in the northeast of India. Hinduism is the next sizeable faith in the region with 13.3% of the population practising it. A sizable minority, 11.5% of the population, follow traditional indigenous religions (classified as on the 2011 census). Muslims make up 4.3% of the population. In 1991 when Christians made up 65% of the population of Meghalaya, the 1.1 million Christians made it the state in Northeast India with the most Christians. At that point more Christians lived in Meghalaya than there were people in Mizoram.
Meghalaya has recorded the highest decennial growth of 27.82% among all the seven north-eastern states, as per the provisional report of census 2011. The population of Meghalaya as of 2011 has been estimated at 2,964,007 of which females comprise 1,492,668 and males 1,471,339. As per the census of India 2011, the sex ratio in the state was 986 females per 1,000 males which was far higher than the national average of 940. The ration of females has grown steadily from a 1981 level of 954 per 1,000 males. Traditionally the female sex ratio in the rural areas has been higher than that in the urban areas. However, as per the census figures for 2001, the urban female sex ratio of 985 was higher than the rural sex ratio of 972. This has often been attributed to the belief that, unlike most other parts of India, there is no special preference for male children in Meghalaya. thumbnail As of 2012, it is estimated there are 5,782 villages in Meghalaya.
Religion in Meghalaya is closely related to ethnicity. Close to 90% of the Garo and nearly 80% of the Khasi are Christian, while more than 97% of the Hajong, 98.53% of the Koch are Hindu.
Out of the 689,639 Garo living in Meghalaya, only 49,917 follow their original religion (Songsarek) as of 2001 Census (down from 90,456 in 1991). 9,129 of the Garo were Hindu and 999 were Budhist (Up from 109 in 1991). There were also 8,980 Muslims.
Unlike the Garo, a significant number of the Khasi still follow their original religion of Niam Shnong/Niamtre (Census 2011 refers to it as Niam Khasi). Out of the 1,123,490 Khasi, 202,978 followed the indigenous religion (slightly up from 189,226 in 1991). 17,641 of the Khasi were Hindu and 2,977 were Muslim.
A number of minor tribes live in Meghalaya, including Hajong (31,381 – 97.23% Hindu), Koch (21,381 – 98.53% Hindu), Rabha (28,153 – 94.60% Hindu), Mikir (11,399 – 52% Christian and 30% Hindu), and Kuki-Chin/Zomi (10,085 – 73% Christian and 26% Hindu).
- Municipalities: Shillong, Tura, Jowai
- Municipal Boards: Williamnagar, Resubelpara, Baghmara
- Cantonment Board: Shillong Cantonment, Umroi Cantonment
- Town Committees: Nongstoi, Mairang, Nongpoh
- Census Towns: Sohra/Cherrapunjee, Mawlai, Madanrting, Nongthymmai, Nongmynsong, Pynthorumkhrah,pynursla.
- Areas under Shillong Urban Agglomoration: Shillong, Shillong Cantonment, Mawlai, Madanrting, Nongthymmai, Nongmynsong, Pynthorumkhrah
New proposal for urban areas
- Municipal Corporations: 1 Shillong (including Shillong Cantonment, Mawlai, Madanrting, Nongthymmai, Nongmynsong, Pynthorumkhrah)
- Municipalities: 2 Tura, Jowai
- Municipal Boards: 7 Williamnagar, Resubelpara, Baghmara, Nongstoin, Mairang, Nongpoh, Sohra/Cherrapunjee
|languages in Meghalaya|
Khasi is one of the chief languages of Meghalaya. Khasi (also spelled Khasia, Khassee, Cossyah and Kyi) is a branch of the Mon–Khmer family of the Austroasiatic stock and according to 2001 census, Khasi is spoken by about 1,128,575 people residing in Meghalaya. Many words in the Khasi language have been borrowed from Indo-Aryan languages such as Nepali, Bengali and Assamese. Moreover, the Khasi language originally had no script of its own. The Khasi language is one of the very few surviving Mon–Khmer languages in India today. IT Learning in Khasi is now possible with the launching of a Course on Computer Concepts (CCC) in Khasi language.
The Garo language has a close affinity with the Koch and Bodo languages. Garo, spoken by the majority of the population, is spoken in many dialects such as Abeng or Ambeng, Atong, Akawe (or Awe), Matchi Dual, Chibok, Chisak Megam or Lyngngam, Ruga, Gara-Ganching and Matabeng.
Another is the Pnar language spoken by many people of the Jaintia Hills. The language is closely related to the standard Khasi language. The Pnar, or Jaintia, language is spoken, along with Khasi, by the Khynriam, Bhoi, Pnar and War tribal groups. Another is the Biate language spoken by many people of the Saipung ConstituencyJaintia Hills. The language is closely related to the Biate of Dima Hasao, Assam Nepali is spoken in almost all parts of the state. In Meghalaya, there are around 70 Jr. basic schools and 15 Jr. high schools in Nepali medium. Meghalaya Board of School Education and North Eastern Hill University included Nepali language in their curriculum. It is taught in many high schools and colleges as well. It has a special place as a major Indian language in graduation. For the welfare of Nepali students, there is an All Shillong Gorkha Students Union.
English is spoken as a common language, enabling the ethnic and demographic groups to communicate with each other. In urban centres most of the people can speak English; rural residents vary in their ability.
Culture and society
The main tribes in Meghalaya are the Khasis, the Garos, and the Jaintias. One of the unique features of the state is that a majority of the tribal population in Meghalaya follows a matrilineal system where lineage and inheritance are traced through women. The Khasi and Jaintia tribesmen follow the traditional matrilineal norm, wherein the "Khun Khadduh" (or the youngest daughter) inherits all the property and acts as the caretaker of aged parents and any unmarried siblings. However, the male line, particularly the mother's brother, may indirectly control the ancestral property since he may be involved in important decisions relating to property including its sale and disposal.
In the Garo lineage system, the youngest daughter inherits the family property by default, unless another daughter is so named by the parents. She then becomes designated as 'nokna' meaning 'for the house or home'. If there are no daughters, a chosen daughter-in-law (bohari) or an adopted child (deragata) comes to stay in the house and inherit the property. The tribal people of Meghalaya are a part of what may be the world's largest surviving matrilineal culture.
According to legend, from the 13th century, a Shivalinga (called "Hatakeswarat") has existed in the Jaintia Hills under the reign of Ranee Singa. Several members of the Jaintia tribe even participate in the Hindu festival of Shivratri (Night of Lord Shiva).
Dance is at the very heart of Khasi life, rich in repertoire, performed often as a part of the "rites de passage" — the life-cycle of an individual in society or the annual passage of the seasons. Dances are performed at the level of individual villages (Shnong), a group of villages (Raid) and a conglomeration of Raids (Hima). Local or regional flavours and colours bring variations to the basic dance form, which is universal in Khasi folk culture. Types of (Khasi) festivals includes Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem, Ka Pom-Blang Nongkrem, Ka-Shad Shyngwiang-Thangiap, Ka-Shad-Kynjoh Khaskain, Ka Bam Khana Shnong, Umsan Nongkharai, Shad Beh Sier.
Festivals of the Jaintia Hills, like others, contribute significantly to maintaining a balance between man, his culture and his natural environment or eco-system. At the same time it seeks to revive the spirit of cohesiveness and solidarity among the people. Festivals of Jaintias includes Behdienkhlam, Laho Dance, Sowing Ritual Ceremony.
The main festivals of Garos are Den Bilsia, Wangala, Rongchu gala, Mi Amua, Mangona, Grengdik BaA, Jamang Sia, Ja Megapa, Sa Sat Ra Chaka, Ajeaor Ahaoea, Dore Rata Dance, Chambil Mesara, Do'KruSua, Saram Cha'A, A Se Mania or Tata.
Meghalaya is one of the Seven Sister States of India.
The state of Meghalaya is also known as the "Meghalaya Plateau". It consists mainly of Archean rock formations. These rock formations contain rich deposits of valuable minerals like coal, limestone, uranium and sillimanite.
Meghalaya has many rivers. Most of these are rainfed and seasonal. The important rivers in the Garo Hills region are Daring, Sanda, Bandra, Bhogai, Dareng, Simsang, Nitai and the Bhupai. In the central and eastern sections of the plateau, the important rivers are Umkhri, Digaru, Umiam, Kynchiang (Jadukata), Mawpa, Umiam or Barapani, Myngot and Myntdu. In the southern Khasi Hills region, these rivers have created deep gorges and several beautiful waterfalls.
The elevation of the plateau ranges between 150 m to 1961 m. The central part of the plateau comprising the Khasi Hills has the highest elevations, followed by the eastern section comprising the Jaintia Hills region. The highest point in Meghalaya is Shillong Peak, which is a prominent IAF station in the Khasi Hills overlooking the city of Shillong. It has an altitude of 1961 m. The Garo Hills region in the western section of the plateau is nearly plain. The highest point in the Garo Hills is Nokrek Peak with an altitude of 1515 m.
Meghalaya currently has 11 districts.
Khasi Hills Division:
- East Khasi Hills (Shillong)
- West Khasi Hills (Nongstoin)
- South West Khasi Hills (Mawkyrwat)
- Ri-Bhoi (Nongpoh)
Garo Hills Division:
- North Garo Hills (Resubelpara)
- East Garo Hills (Williamnagar)
- South Garo Hills (Baghmara)
- West Garo Hills (Tura)
- South West Garo Hills (Ampati)
The Jaintia Hills district was created on 22 February 1972. It has a total geographical area of 3,819 square kilometres (1,475 sq mi) and a population of 295,692 as per the 2001 census. The district headquarters is in Jowai. Jaintia Hills district is the largest producer of coal in the state. Coal mines can be seen all over the district. Limestone production in the state is increasing, as there is high demand from cement industries.
The East Khasi Hills district was carved out of the Khasi Hills on 28 October 1976. The district has covers an area of 2,748 square kilometres (1,061 sq mi) and has a population of 660,923 as per the 2001 census. The headquarters of East Khasi Hills are located in Shillong.
The Ri-Bhoi district was formed by further division of East Khasi Hills district on 4 June 1992. It has an area of 2,448 square kilometres (945 sq mi). The total population of the district was 192,795 in the 2001 census. The district headquarters is at Nongpoh. It has a hilly terrain, and a large part of the area is covered with forests. The Ri-Bhoi district is famous for its pineapples and is the largest producer of pineapples in the state.
The West Khasi Hills district is the largest district in the state with a geographical area of 5,247 square kilometres (2,026 sq mi). The district was carved out of Khasi Hills District on 28 October 1976. The district headquarters are located at Nongstoin.
The East Garo Hills district was formed in 1976 and has a population of 247,555 as per the 2001 census. It covers an area of 2,603 square kilometres (1,005 sq mi). The District Headquarters are at Williamnagar, earlier known as Simsangiri. Nongalbibra, a town in this district, has a large number of coal mines. The coal is transported to Goalpara and Jogighopa via NH62.
The West Garo Hills district lies in the western part of the state and covers a geographical area of 3,714 square kilometres (1,434 sq mi). The population of the district is 515,813 as per the 2001 census. The district headquarters are located at Tura.
The South Garo Hills district came into existence on 18 June 1992 after the division of the West Garo Hills district. The total geographical area of the district is 1,850 square kilometres (710 sq mi). As per the 2001 census the district has a population of 99,100. The district headquarters are at Baghmara.
With average annual rainfall as high as 1200 cm in some areas, Meghalaya is the wettest place on earth. The western part of the plateau, comprising the Garo Hills region with lower elevations, experiences high temperatures for most of the year. The Shillong area, with the highest elevations, experiences generally low temperatures. The maximum temperature in this region rarely goes beyond 28 °C (82 °F), whereas sub-zero winter temperatures are common.
The town of Cherrapunji in the Khasi Hills south of capital Shillong holds the world record for most rain in a calendar month, while the village of Mawsynram, near the town of Cherrapunji, holds the record for the most rain in a year. The best time to visit Meghalaya is during the months of March to July.
Meghalaya is predominantly an agrarian economy. Agriculture and allied activities engage nearly two-thirds of the total work force in Meghalaya. However, the contribution of this sector to the State's NSDP is only about one-third. Agriculture in the state is characterised by low productivity and unsustainable farm practices, giving rise to a high incidence of rural poverty. As a result, despite the large percentage of population engaged in agriculture, the state is still dependent upon imports from other states for most food items such as meat, eggs, food grains etc. Infrastructural constraints have also prevented the economy of the state from growing at a pace commensurate with that of the rest of the country.
Meghalaya is considered to have a rich base of natural resources. These include minerals such as coal, limestone, sillimanite, Kaolin and granite among others. Meghalaya has a large forest cover, rich biodiversity and numerous water bodies. The low level of industrialisation and the relatively poor infrastructure base acts as an impediment to the exploitation of these natural resources in the interest of the state's economy. However, in recent years two large cement manufacturing plants with production capacity more than 900 MTD have come up in Jantia Hills district and several more are in pipeline to use the rich deposit of very high quality limestone available in this district. Meghalaya has much natural beauty, and the state government has been trying to exploit this for promoting tourism. However, infrastructural constraints and security concerns have hampered the growth of tourism.
This is a chart of trends in the gross state domestic product of Meghalaya at market prices estimated by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation with figures in millions of Indian rupees.
|Year||Gross State Domestic Product|
Meghalaya's gross state domestic product for 2004 is estimated at $1.6 billion in current prices.
Incidence of poverty
Planning Commission, the apex planning body under the government of India, has estimated the percentage of population below poverty line in Meghalaya at nearly one-third the total population of the state in 2000. The incidence of poverty in rural areas at about 55% is almost double the percentage of poverty in the urban areas.
In North East India, Meghalaya has the largest hydro-electricity potential, second only to Arunachal Pradesh. According to information from the North Eastern Council sources, the region possesses a hydro-electricity potential of about 58,000 MW which is almost one-third of the total potential of the country. Out of this, Meghalaya has a potential of nearly 3,000 MW.
The proposed Garo Hills thermal project at Nangalbibra is expected to generate an additional 750 MW of power. There is a proposal for setting up a 250 MW thermal power plant in West Khasi Hills.
The generation transmission, transformation and distribution of electricity is entrusted to the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited which was constituted under the Electricity Supply Act, 1948. At present there are five hydel power stations and one mini hydel with a total installed capacity of 272 MW. These includes Umiam Hydel Project, Umtrew Hydel Project, Myntdu-Leshka-I Hydel Project and the Sunapani Micro Hydel (SESU) Project.
For the 12th five-year plan, there is a proposal to set up more hydel power projects in the state: Kynshi (450MW), Umngi −1 (54MW), Umiam-Umtru -V (36MW), Ganol (25MW), Mawphu (120MW), Nongkolait (120MW), Nongnaw (50MW), Rangmaw (65MW), Umngot (260MW), Umduna (57MW), Myntdu-Leshka-II (60MW), Selim (170MW) and Mawblei (140MW).
Meghalaya is basically an agricultural state with about 80% of its population depending entirely on agriculture for their livelihood. Nearly 10% of the geographical area of Meghalaya is under cultivation. Agriculture in the state is characterized by limited use of modern techniques and low productivity. As a result, despite the vast majority of the population being engaged in agriculture, the contribution of agricultural production to the state’s GDP is low, and most of the population engaged in agriculture remain poor. A substantial portion of the cultivated area is under the traditional shifting agriculture known locally as “Jhum” cultivation.
The total crop area in the state has increased by about 42% during the last 25 years. The food grain production sector covers an area of over 60% of the total crop area. With the introduction of different crops of high yielding varieties in the mid-1970s, remarkable increase in food grain production has been made. A major break through was achieved when high yielding varieties (HYV) of paddy such as Masuri, Pankaj IR 8 and other improved varieties series – especially IR 36 which is suitable for Rabi season – fitting in the multi-cropping system have been widely cultivated all over the feasible areas of the state. A spectacular achievement was obtained when Megha I and Megha II, which are cold tolerant rice varieties developed by the ICAR North East Region at Umroi near Shillong, was released in 1991–92 for the higher altitude regions where there was no high yielding rice varieties earlier. Today the state can claim that about 42% area under paddy have been covered with HYV with the average productivity of 2300 kg/ha. As is the case with maize and wheat where the productivity have increased tremendously with the introduction of HYV from 534 kg/ha during 1971–72 to 1218 kg/ha of maize and from 611 kg/ha to 1508 kg/ha of wheat.
Food grains are the most important crop in Meghalaya. These are grown in over 1,330 km2, nearly 60% of the state's cultivated area. The production of food grains is over 230,000 tonnes. Rice is the dominant food grain crop accounting for over 80% of the food grain production in the state. Other important food grain crops are maize, wheat and a few other cereals and pulses. Besides these, potato, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, areca nut, tezpatta, betelvine, short-staple cotton, jute, mesta, mustard and rapseed etc. are some of the important cash crops. Besides the major food crops of rice and maize, the state is renowned for its horticultural crops like orange, lemon, pineapple, guava, litchi, banana, jack fruits and temperate fruits such as plum, pear, peach etc.
Oilseeds such as rape, mustard, linseed, soybean, castor and sesame are grown on nearly 100 km2. Rape and mustard are the most important oilseeds accounting for well over two-thirds of the oilseed production of nearly 6.5 thousand tonnes.
Fibre crops such as cotton, jute and mesta had traditionally been among the only cash crops in Meghalaya, grown almost exclusively in Garo Hills. These have been losing popularity in recent years as indicated by their declining yield and area under cultivation.
Climatic conditions in Meghalaya permit a large variety of horticulture crops including fruits, vegetables, flowers, spices and medicinal plants. These are considered to be higher value crops, but traditional values and food security concerns have prevented farmers at large from embracing them.
The important fruits grown include citrus fruits, pineapples, papayas, bananas etc. The mandarin oranges grown in Meghalaya are of very high quality. In addition to this, a large variety of vegetables are grown in the state, including cauliflower, cabbages and radishes.
Areca nut plantations can be seen all over the state, especially around the road from Guwahati to Shillong. Other plantation crops like tea, coffee and cashews have been introduced lately and are becoming popular. A large variety of spices, flowers, medicinal plants and mushrooms are grown in the state.
The state has 13 state government dispensaries, 22 community health centres, 93 primary health centres, 408 sub-centres. According to 1995 data, there were 378 doctors, 81 pharmacists, 337 staff nurses and 77 lab technicians as of 2012. A special program has been launched by the state government for the treatment of tuberculosis, leprosy, cancer and mental diseases. Over 70% of the state diseases are water-related. Malnutrition and lack of potable drinking water leading to gastroenteritis are responsible for high mortality among children. Though there has been a steady decline in the death rate, improvement in life expectancy and an increase in health infrastructure, about 42.3% of the state's population is still uncovered by health care, according to the status paper prepared by the Health Department. There are numerous hospitals being set up, both private and government, some of them are Civil Hospital, Ganesh Das Hospital, K J P Synod Hospital, NEIGRIHMS, North Eastern Institute of Ayurveda & Homoeopathy (NEIAH), R P Chest Hospital, Wood Land Hospital, Nazareth Hospital, Christian Hospital etc.
The partition of the country has created severe infrastructure constraints for the Northeastern region, with merely 2% of the perimeter of the region adjoining the rest of the country. A narrow strip of land, often called the Siliguri Corridor or the Chicken's Neck connects the region with the state of West Bengal. Meghalaya is a landlocked state with a large number of small settlements in remote areas. Road is the only means of transport. While the capital Shillong is relatively well connected, road connectivity in most other parts is relatively poor. A significant portion of the roads in the state are still unpaved. Most of the arrivals into the Meghalaya take place through Guwahati in neighbouring Assam, which is nearly 103 km away. Assam has a major railhead as well as an airport with regular train and air services to the rest of the country. The state still has a large number of old timber bridges.
When Meghalaya was carved out of Assam as an autonomous state, it inherited a total road length of 2786.68 km including 174 km of National Highways with road density of 12.42 km per 100 square kilometre. Considerable achievement has since been made after attainment of statehood, and up to the end of fourth year of the 11th Five Year Plan total road length has reached up to 9,350 km (5,809.82 mi) out of which 5,857 km (3650.5 mi) is surface and remaining 3,493 (2170.45 mi) km is un-surface. The road density has increased to 41.69 km per 100 square kilometre up March 2011, which is quite significant. However, Meghalaya is still far below the national average of 75 km per 100 km2. In order to provide better services to the people of the state, the Meghalaya Public Works Department is taking steps for improvement and up-gradation of the existing roads and bridges in phased manner
- Road Network: Meghalaya has a road network of around 7,633 km (4,742 mi); out of which 3,691 (2,293 mi) km is black topped and remaining 3942 (2,387) km is gravelled. Meghalaya is also connected to Silchar in Assam, Aizawl in Mizoram and Agartala in Tripura through National Highways. Tourists can avail the services of private tourist bus and taxi operators from Guwahati to Shillong. The journey takes around 3–4 hours. Day and night bus services are available from Shillong to all major towns of Meghalaya and also other capitals and important towns of Assam and north-eastern States.
- Railway: Meghalaya does not have any railhead. The Cherra Companyganj State Railways was a former mountain railway through the state. Guwahati (103 km from Shillong) is the nearest railway station connecting the north-east region with the rest of the country through a broad gauge track network. There is a plan for extending the rail link from Guwahati to Byrnihat (20 km from Guwahati) within Meghalaya. Meanwhile, regular train service connecting Mendipathar in Meghalaya and Dudhnoi in Assam, is scheduled to start from April 1, 2014.
- Airway: It has a small airport at Umroi, 35 km from Shillong on the Guwahati-Shillong highway. The small size of the airport does not allow the operation of large aircraft, and only small aircraft operate from Kolkata and Agartala, the capital of the neighbouring state of Tripura. A new Indian Airlines flight service has started, three days a week from Calcutta to Umroi, about 20 km from Shillong. Otherwise, the nearest airport is at Borjhar in Assam about 124 km from Shillong. Indian Airlines, Jet Airlines and Sahara Airlines connect Guwahati to Delhi and Calcutta. Air India has flights connecting Bombay – Calcutta – Guwahati – Bangkok. There is air service operatde by ATR on Calcutta-Shillong-Calcutta route (Monday, Wednesday & Friday).
- Helicopter: There is also a helicopter service connecting Shillong to Guwahati and Tura.
Flora and fauna
As per the State of Forest Report 2003, published by the Forest Survey of India, Meghalaya has a forest cover of 9,496 km2, which is 42.34% of the total geographical area of the state. The Meghalayan subtropical forests are considered to be among the richest botanical habitats of Asia. These forests receive abundant rainfall and support a vast variety of floral and faunal biodiversity. A small portion of the forest area in Meghalaya is under what is known as “sacred groves” (see Sacred groves of India). These are small pockets of ancient forest that have been preserved by the communities for hundreds of years due to religious and cultural beliefs. These forests are reserved for religious rituals and generally remain protected from any exploitation. These sacred groves harbour many rare plant and animal species. The Nokrek Biosphere Reserve in the West Garo Hills and the Balaphakram National Park in the South Garo Hills are considered to be the most biodiversity-rich sites in Meghalaya. In addition, Meghalaya has three wildlife sanctuaries. These are the Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary, the Siju Sanctuary and the Bhagmara Sanctuary, which is also the home of the insect eating pitcher plant Nepenthes khasiana.
Due to diverse climatic and topographic conditions, Meghalayan forests support a vast floral diversity, including a large variety of Parasites and Epiphytes, Succulent plants and Shrubs. Two of the most important tree varieties include: Shorea robusta (sal tree) and Tectona grandis (teak). Meghalaya is also the home to a large variety of fruits, vegetables, spices and medicinal plants. Meghalayan is also famous for its large variety of orchids — nearly 325 of them. Of these the largest variety is found in the Mawsmi, Mawmluh and Sohrarim forests in the Khasi hills.
Meghalaya also has a large variety of mammals, birds, reptiles and insects. The important mammal species include elephants, bear, civets, mongooses, weasels, rodents, gaur, wild buffalo, deer, wild boar and a number of primates. Meghalaya also has a large variety of bats. The limestone caves in Meghalaya such as the Siju Cave are home to some of the nation's rarest bat species. There is an interesting population of red pandas in Garo Hills. The state has a remnant population of Wild Water Buffaloes in South Garo and West Khasi Hills districts. The hoolock gibbon still occurs in all districts of Meghalaya.
Prominent bird species in Meghalaya include the Magpie-Robin, the Red-vented Bulbul, the Hill Myna is usually found in pairs or in flocks in the hill forests of Meghalaya, the Large Pied Hornbill and the Great Indian Hornbill, which is the largest bird in Meghalaya. Other birds include the Peacock Pheasant, the Large Indian Parakeet, the Common Green Pigeon and the Blue Jay. Meghalaya is also home to over 250 species of butterflies, nearly a quarter of all butterfly species found in India.
Common reptiles in Meghalaya are lizards, crocodiles and tortoises. Meghalaya also has a number of snakes including the python, Copperhead, Green Tree Racer, Indian Cobra, King Cobra, Coral Snake and Vipers.
Meghalaya has a literacy rate of 62.56 as per the 2001 census and is the 27th most literate state in India. This however has rapidly increased to 75.5 in 2011.
Institution for higher studies like Indian Institute of Management,the University of Technology and Management which is in Shillong is the first Indian university to introduce cloud computing engineering as a field of study, in collaboration with IBM and the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies. Shillong is one of the top ranked management institutes in the country.
Earlier, foreign tourists required special permits to enter the areas that now constitute the state of Meghalaya. However, the restrictions were removed in 1955. Meghalaya is considered to be one of the most picturesque states in the country. It has enough tourism content to attract tourists of many different interests.
Meghalaya has some of the thickest surviving forests in the country and therefore constitutes one of the most important ecotourism circuits in India. The Meghalayan subtropical forests support a vast variety of flora and fauna. Meghalaya has 2 National Parks and 3 Wildlife Sanctuaries.
Meghalaya also offers many adventure tourism opportunities in the form of mountaineering, rock climbing, trekking and hiking, water sports etc. The state offers several trekking routes, some of which also afford an opportunity to encounter rare animals such as slow loris, assorted deer and bear. The Umiam Lake has a water sports complex with facilities such as rowboats, paddleboats, sailing boats, cruise-boats, water-scooters and speedboats.
Meghalaya has an estimated 500 natural limestone and sandstone caves spread over the entire state including most of the longest and deepest caves in the sub-continent. Krem Liat Prah is the longest cave, and Synrang Pamiang is the deepest cave. Both are located in the Jaintia Hills. Cavers from United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Ireland and the United States have been visiting Meghalaya for over a decade exploring these caves. Not many of these have however been developed or promoted adequately for major tourist destinations.
Important tourist spots
Cherrapunji is one of the most popular tourist locations in north-east of India. The town is well known and has guided tours of Tree Root Bridges. It lies to the south of the capital Shillong. A rather scenic 50 kilometre long road connects Cherrapunji with Shillong.
The popular waterfalls in the state are the Elephant Falls, Shadthum Falls, Weinia falls, Bishop Falls, Nohkalikai Falls, Langshiang Falls and Sweet Falls. The hot springs at Jakrem near Mawsynram are believed to have curative and medicinal properties.
Meghalaya is also known for its "sacred groves". These have been preserved by the traditional religious sanction since the ancient days. The Mawphlang sacred forest, also known as "Law Lyngdoh," is one of the most famous sacred forests. It's located about 25 kilometres from Shillong. It's a must visit for nature lovers.
Nongkhnum Island located in the West Khasi Hills district is the biggest river island in Meghalaya and the second biggest in Asia. Its 14 kilometres from Nongstoin. The island is formed by the bifurcation of Kynshi River into the Phanliang River and the Namliang River. Adjacent to the sandy beach the Phanliang River forms a very beautiful lake. The river then moves along and before reaching a deep gorge, forms a pretty waterfall about 60 meters high called Shadthum Fall.
The Mawlynnong village located near the India-Bangladesh border is known for its cleanliness. The travel magazine Discover India declared the village as the cleanest in Asia in 2003, and the cleanest in India in 2005. Some of the interesting features include the presence of a Living Root Bridges and another natural phenomenon of a boulder balancing on another rock. The emergence of the village as a new tourist spot has been one of the most remarkable developments in the last decade. Video Link 
Meghalaya also has many natural and manmade lakes. The Umiam Lake (popularly known as Bara Pani meaning Big water) on the Guwahati-Shillong road is a major tourism attraction for tourist. Meghalaya has several parks; Thangkharang Park, the Eco-park, the Botanical Garden and Lady Hydari Park to name a few. Dawki, which is located at about 96 Kilometres from Shillong is the gateway to Bangladesh and affords a scenic view of some of the tallest mountain ranges in Meghalaya and the Bangladesh border lands.
Other Important Places
- Jakrem: 64 km from Shillong, a potential health resort having gushing hot-spring of sulphur water, believed to have curative medicinal properties.
- Ranikor: 140 km from Shillong, a place of scenic beauty. Ranikor is one of Meghalaya's most popular spots for angling, with an abundance of carp and other fresh water fish.
- Dawki: 96 km from Shillong, is a border town, where one can have a glimpse of the neighbouring country of Bangladesh. The colourful annual boat race during spring at the Umngot river is an added attraction.
- Kshaid Dain Thlen Falls: Located near Sohra, meaning the falls where the mythical monster of Khasi legend was finally butchered. The axe-marks made on the rocks where Thlen was butchered are stillintact and visible..
- Diengiei Peak: Located to the west of the Shillong plateau, Diengiei Peak is just 200 feet lower than Shillong peak. On the top of Diengiei, there is a huge hollow, shaped like a cup, believed to be the crater of an extinct pre-historic volcano.
- Dwarksuid: A beautiful pool with wide, rocky sand banks located on a stream alongside the Umroi-Bhoilymbong Road is known as Dwarksuid or Devil's doorway.
- Kyllang Rock: Located about 11 kilometres off Mairang, is a several million years old steep dome of red granite rising to an elevation of about 5400 feet above sea level.
- Sacred Forest Mawphlang: One of the most celebrated sacred-groves of the State is the grove at Mawphlang about 25 kilometres off Shillong. Preserved since time immemorial, these sacred groveshave wide range of flora, thick cushion of humus on the grounds accumulated over the centuries, and trees heavily loaded with epiphytic growth of aroids, pipers, ferns, fern-allies and orchids.
Problems and constraints
The state has a relatively poor road and communication network specially NH 62. While some of the major circuits such as Shillong-Jowai, Shillong-Tura and Shillong-Sohra are well developed; the internal road networks are rather poor and inadequately maintained. There are few markets outside the state capital Shillong. Banking facilities are also limited and only a few establishments in the state accept credit cards. The Garo Hills region which has some of the most important tourist spots is not well connected with the rest of the state.
Tourism in the north-east India in general has also suffered on account of years of insurgency and the resulting security concerns. Many governments had in the past issued advisories against travelling to the Northeast of India, worsening the security perception. It may however be mentioned that Meghalaya is perhaps the least affected by insurgency in the northeast region. The current ground scenario for Shillong is one in which tourists are welcome to come and enjoy the beauty of Meghalaya. However in recent years conflicts have arisen between Garo militants and Indian security forces. The militant outfit Garo Hills Liberation Army, formed by deserting police personnel have been launching guerilla attacks against police and army personnel. Kidnapping and ransoms have become a norm in the western districts of the state. Extortion is being carried out by militants on the wealthy members of the state particularly the coal barons who own coal fields. Also ethnic tension is simering between illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and local indigenous tribals. To note this tensions are not in anyway related to religion, there is no fighting between Muslims and locals but with illegal immigrants. A large number of locals are Muslims. Also Criminal activities is a major problem in the state. Drugs like ganja, cocaine, opium,etc. are sold large amounts. Local Mafias extort local businesses. Smuggling of weapons, narcotics, black market goods, etc. is a major problem in the state. The state lies in a major smuggling route between Bangladesh and India. However most of the battles happen only in the Western part of the state. The rest of the state is particularly safe with exceptions of the border areas, both state and international. Land disputes in these areas are common. However the cities have decent amounts of securuty, buffering them from violence from the rest of the state. Cities like Shillong, Williamnagar, Jowai, etc. are safe areas. However precautions must be taken if visiting the state although violence against international tourist is almost unheard of, however tourist from within India are to be cautions and wary of certain locals. Another problem of the state is corruption and backwardness of certain districts of the state. Although literacy is not very high, large parts of the population speak English as it is a common language among the locals. There is low development in all districts and as such infrastructure is inadequate for large scale tourism. Lack of co-ordination among private companies involved in tourism and the State government is also a major problem. Although the state has many issues, it still has many interesting natural features and as such is worth visiting.
Government and politics
Since the creation of the state the Gauhati High Court has jurisdiction in Meghalaya. A Circuit Bench of the Guwahati High Court has been functioning at Shillong since 1974. However recently in March 2013 the Shillong High Court was separated from the Gauhati High Court and now the state has its own High Court.
In order to provide local self governance machinery to the rural population of the country, provisions were made in the Constitution of India and accordingly the Panchayati Raj institutions were set up. However, on account of the distinct customs and traditions prevailing in north-east region, it was felt necessary to have a separate political and administrative structure in the region.Some of the tribal communities in the region had their own traditional political systems and it was felt that Panchayati Raj institutions may come into conflict with these traditional systems. The Sixth Schedule was appended to the Constitution on the recommendations of a sub committee formed under the leadership of Gopinath Bordoloi and the constitution of Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) is provided in certain rural areas of the Northeast including areas in Meghalaya. Following are the ADC's in Meghalaya
- Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council,
- Garo Hills Autonomous District Council and
- Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council.
Traditional political institutions
All the three major ethnic tribal groups, namely, the Khasis, Jaintias and the Garos also have their own traditional political institutions that have existed for hundreds of years. These political institutions were fairly well developed and functioned at various tiers, such as the village level, clan level and state level.
In the traditional political system of the Khasis, each clan had its own council known as the "Durbar Kur", which was presided over by the clan headman. The council or the Durbar managed the internal affairs of the clan. Similarly, every village had a local assembly known as the Durbar Shnong, i.e. village Durbar or council, which was presided over by the village headman. These councils or Durbars played an administrative role in issues of common interest, such as sanitation, water supply, health, roads, education and conflict resolution. However, the inter-village issues were dealt with through a political unit comprising adjacent Khasi Villages.
This political unit was known as the raid. The raid had its own council the Raid Durbar, which was presided over by the elected headman known as Basans, Lyngdohs or Sirdars. Above the Raid was the supreme political authority known as the Syiemship. The Syiemship was the congregation of several raids and was headed an elected chief known as the "Syiem" (or the king). The Syiem ruled the Khasi state through the State Assembly, known as the Durbar Hima. Most of the elections were through adult male suffrage. No male is allowed to enter the Durbar (Assembly) without a mustache which is the rule of Khasi traditional.
The Jaintias also had a three tier political system somewhat similar to the Khasis. The supreme political authority was the Syiem. The second tier of this structure was the congregation of Jaintia villages known as Raids. These were headed by "Dolois", who were responsible for performing the executive, magisterial, religious and ceremonial functions at the Raid level. At the lowest level were the village headmen. Each administrative tier had its own councils or durbars. Most elections were through adult male suffrage.
In the traditional political system of the Garos a group of Garo villages comprised the A·king. The A·king functioned under the supervision of the Nokmas, which was perhaps the only political and administrative authority in the political institution of the Garos. The Nokma performed both judicial and legislative functions. The Nokmas also congregated to address inter-A·king issues. There were no well-organized councils or durbars among the Garos.
Frankenstein Momin, Billy Kid Sangma and Adolf Lu Hitler Marak were three men among dozens of others with equally colourful names who competed for legislative seats on 3 March 2008. There were about 60 seats up for grabs, 331 candidates vying, and no shortage of unusual names it was reported on 25 February 2008.
Major issues of state
Chief Minister Mukul Sangma called upon Government of India to take corrective measures to stop illegal migration of Bangldeshis into north-east of the country before the situation goes out of hand.
Some places in Meghalaya, such as Lad Rymbai, have become hubs of illegal mining. Balpakram National Park, located in South Garo Hills District, is constantly being encroached as forest areas are cleared for coal mining. The Garo Hills Anti-Mining and Conservation Forum is always shutting down these illegal mines and accuses the Government of ignoring the issue. In the Jaintia Hills District, illegal mining has poisoned all the rivers except for the Myntang River and Umngot River. Illegal mining is a well-kept secret of the state, but it is slowly being exposed. Recently France 24, a TV channel, exposed the use of child labour in these illegal coal mines. Local newspapers have started to expose the illegal mining activities.
The state has had 23 state governments since its inception in 1972 with a median life span of less than 18 months. Only three governments have survived more than three years. In particular, the life span of governments in the last three assemblies has fallen drastically with only a few surviving beyond six months. Given that a stable government and political institutions play an important role in the economic and social development process, this pattern in the state polity may have adversely affected the cohesion and synergy in programme formulation and implementation that are critical for development.
As of 2011 Meghalaya has been ranked:
- 15 on the list of fertility rate in India with over 3.8 which can be compared to the fertility rate of Tonga.
- 17 on the list of literacy rate in India with 72.1%.
- 23 on the list of most number of places to worship in India with over 5,771 (the third overall in North-East, only behind Assam with 90,194 number of places to worship and Tripura with 12,872 number of places to worship).
- 24 on the list of the length of national highways in India with over 810 km.
- 24 on the list of installed capacity of power utilities in India.
- 26 on the list of households in India having electricity with over 60.9%.
- 28 on the list of number of people being aware of the HIV infection.
Facts and figures
- Area: 22,429 km2
- Population: 2,964,007 (2011)
- Capital: Shillong (population 354,324)
Shilong Samay-Shillong Samay is a first Hindi Daily of the State. SHILLONG TIMES-Shillong Times is one of the oldest English newspaper of the region. The Meghalaya Guardian-The Meghalaya Guardian is one of the older newspaper of the state. Meghalaya Times-Meghalaya Times is one of the new entrants in the market and the fastest growing English newspaper in the state. In a short period of time, it has already established large readership across the state. Salantini Janera-Salantini Janera is the first Garo language Daily of the state Over the years there have been several weeklies and Dailies that have come up. To name a few; The Tura Times-The Tura Times is the first English Daily which is published out from Tura. Salantini Ku'rang-Salantini Ku'rang is the Garo edition of The Tura Times, Pringprangni Aski being the recent Garo language newspaper to come out. etc. U Nongsaiñ Hima-U Nongsaiñ Hima is the oldest circulating Khasi newspaper in Meghalaya. Established since 12 December 1960, it is now the highest circulated Khasi daily (ABC July - December 2013).
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Meghalaya.|
- Official website
- Tourism of Meghalaya (Official)
- Meghalaya at DMOZ
- Meghalaya travel guide from Wikivoyage
- Strangler fig trees made into "living bridges" in Meghalaya
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