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Karimganj District

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About the Karimganj district

Click on the following link to download district statistics as per NITI Ayog website
http://niti.gov.in/file/249/download?token=yNamTm4H

Brief About Karimganj District
Early period

The early history of present district of Karimganj, Assam, is hazy and obscure. With available source materials and evidences, it is difficult to construct a chronologically comprehensive account of early history of the region. Only a broad outline, with major gaps, can be attempted.

From the Nidhanpur copper inscriptions issued by King Bhaskarbarman, it is learnt that the region has been within the Kamrupa Kingdom for about a hundred years since A.D. sixth century. The Aryanisation of the region under the leadership of the pioneer immigrant Brahmins with plough-based agriculture as economic basis had its beginning during this period. From the Kalapur copper plates issued by Samata Marundanatha, it is learnt that in the 7th Century A.D., this region, along with foothills of North Cachar Hills had passed on to the Samatata Kingdom of the Eastern Bengal. Of ourse, there is no direct evidence to prove it. In the 10th Century A.D., King Srichandra of the renowned Chandra Dynasty of Eastern Bengal incorporated the entire region within his Vanga Kingdom. During this period, the Chandrapura Matha or monastery, situated at Panchakhanda (8 miles From Karimganj town, now in Bangladesh), became a very reputed centre of learning. According to the renowned historian D.C. Sarkar, the Chandrapura Matha was the greatest centre of Hindu-learning in the entire Eastern India of the early period. From two Bhatera inscriptions of Govindakeshava Deva and Ishana Deva, it is learnt that there was an independent Srihatta Rajya in the 12th Century within which the entire Karimganj District along with a major portion of the Cachar plains were incorporated.

Middle Age
When Hazarat Shah Jalal, a warrior Muslim Saint from Yemen, conquered Sylhet in 1328 A.D., Srihatta, along with a major portion of Karimganj district passed on to the Bengal Sultanate. A portion of Karimganj district comprising the present thana area of Patherkandi was under the control of the Tripura King at that period. However, during the reign of Hussain Shah (1483-1519), this region - at that time known as Pratapgarh - also came under the Sultanate. We have two inscriptions - one of Hussain Shah, and another of his son Mahmud Shah, found respectively at Kaliganj and Suprakandi, to show that Bengal Sultanate had complete sway over this entire region. The region, along with other parts of Sylhet, was incorporated within the Mughal Empire in 1576 during the reign of Akbar. According to Ain-I-Akbari, most of the areas of the district were placed under the Pratapgarh Revenue Mahal of the Silhat Sarkar of the Mughals. The district continued to be part of the Silhat Sarkar and Bangla Suba of the Mughals.

British Era and Freedom Movement
In 1765, the diwani of the Bangla Suba was taken over by the British East India Company and the District of Sylhet, of which Karimganj was a part, passed on to the British. However, upto 1786, the British could not establish their hegemony over the entire region. A local Zamindar, Radharam, brought under his administrative control, a vast region of Southern Karimganj, and local people started calling him Nawab Radharam. His blatant defiance of British authority brought the matters to a head, but Radharam could survive two successive expeditions of the British contingents. Ultimately, a reinforced contingent succeeded in capturing him after defeating his native force. While he was being carried to Sylhet by the Company soldiers, Radharam reportedly committed suicide. It is only with his fall in 1786 that the British could establish their complete authority in the region around Karimganj.

In November 1857, three companies of the 34th Native Infantry stationed at Chittagong mutinied and they subsequently emerged in the south-east of the Sylhet District. At Latu village of present Karimganj district, these rebel soldiers encountered a contingent of the Sylhet Light Infantry under the command of Major Byng. The sepoys were defeated, but Major Byng was killed. At Malegar hillock of Latu village, the graves of the fallen rebels are still venerated by the local peple.

The Sub-division of Karimganj under the Sylhet District was created in 1878 with Karimganj town as its headquarters. The sub-division played an important role in the freedom movement. The famous Chargola exodus, one of the earliest organised labour movements of the country, had its origin in the Chargola valley tea-belt of Karimganj sub-division.

Partition & post-partition period
At the time of partition of the country, in 1947, the district of Sylhet was transferred to East Pakistan barring three-and-half thana areas (Ratabari, Patherkandi, Badarpur and half of Karimganj thana) of the Karimganj sub-division. This truncated Karimganj sub-division was incorporated in the Cachar District of Assam as a full-fledged sub-division. This sub-division was upgraded to a district on the 1st of July, 1983, vide Govt. Notification no. GAG15/83/1 dated June 14, 1983.

Geography of Karimganj District

General
Karimganj District is located in the Southern tip of Assam - a state in the North-eastern corner of India. Together with two other neighbouring districts - Cachar and Hailakandi - it constitutes the Barak Valley zone in Southern Assam. Total area of the district is 1809 Sq.Kms. which comprises varied geographical features like agricultural plains, shallow wetlands, hilly terrains and forests. As in 1997-98, total forest cover in the district is more than 54 thousand hectares. That is about 30% of total geographical area is covered by forest.

The geographical location of Karimganj district is between longitudes 92°15' and 92°35' east and latitudes 24°15' and 25°55' North.

The district is bounded on the North by Bangladesh and Cachar district; on the South by Mizoram and Tripura states, on the West by Bangladesh and Tripura and on the East by Hailakandi district.

Located strategically, the district shares 92 Kms. of International Border with the neighbouring country of Bangladesh. 41 Kms of this is demarcated by the river Kushiara while 51 Kms is land border. On some stretches, there is no natural geographical demarcation for the border which cuts across open agricultural or grazing fields. However, on most parts, the international border with Bangladesh is marked by either the river Kushiara, or the sub-mountain tracts of the Adamail range. In a sense, Karimganj, along with the neighbouring district of Cachar demarcates the frontier between the plains of the Padma-Meghna basin and the hilly North-east India.

Hilly terrains
Karimganj district is actually shut in between two hill ranges, whereas there is a third hill that runs through the southern part of the district.

The Chhatachura range that starts from the south-east border, forms the whole length of border with Hailakandi district. The summit of the range is called the Chhatachura peak and its height is 2087 feet above the sea-level. The hills gradually decline in height and in the middle section, which bears the name Sarashpur, are only 1000 feet above the sea-level near the Barak river. At the lowest level, where they are known as the Badarpur hills, the average height is about 500 feet. The Chhatachura range is about 50 miles from north to south and at some parts, 13 miles in breadth.

The Adamail or Patharia range marks the western border of the district forming the international border with Bangladesh. Running from the south to the north, its length is about 28 miles and breadth about 7 to 8 miles. The highest point of the range is about 800 feet above sea-level.

The third hilly range crossing through the district is the Duhalia range, also called the Pratapgarh range. It runs through the mid-south of the district demarcating the Longai Valley and the Chargola valley. The length of the range in the district is about 28 miles with highest peak at 1500 feet above sea-level,

Besides these main ranges, the plains of the district are also dotted with hillocks and forests. The north and north-eastern portion of the district are mainly plains whereas the South and South-western parts are mainly covered with forest.

Rivers and Their Courses
Kushiara, Longai and Shingla are the main rivers flowing through the district.

The river Barak enters the district through its north-eastern corner near Badarpurghat and after traversing a length of seven miles upto a place called Haritikar near Bhanga, is divided into two branches - namely, the Kushiara and the Surma. From the point of bifurcation, the Kushiara flows westwards to Bangladesh forming the northern boundary of the distict. The town of Karimganj is situated on the bank of this river. The old name of the Kushiara near Karimganj town was Bagali. In Bangladesh, the river is again divided near Bahadurpur in Moulavi Bazar district, the northern branch assuming the name Bibiyana and the southern branch, Shakha Barak. The Bibiyana is later merged with the Surma rver near Markuli steamer station in Habiganj district of Bangladesh, assuming the name Kalni, and then Bhera Mohana, and ultimately this huge combined stream merges with the great river Meghna of Bangladesh. The southern stream of Kushiara resumes the original name Barak or Shakha Barak and flows in a south-westerly direction through Habiganj district and finally falls into the old bed of the Brahmaputra near Bhairab Bazar in Maimansingh District (Bangladesh).

The Longai river originates in the Jampai Hills of Tripura state and travelling a course of northerly direction, turns south-west near Longai Railway station near Karimganj town. Near Latu village, it enters Bangladesh and then flows to meet the Hakaluki Haor (Haor = Atoll-like span of water) which absorbs the entire inflow during the winter. During the rainy season, an outlet springs out which ultimately merges with the Kushiara near Fechuganj in Sylhet district (Bangladesh).

The Singla river originates from Mizoram state and taking a northward direction, it falls in Sonbill Haor wherefrom the stream emerges bifurcated forming two rivulets - Kachua and Kakra.

The Kushiara and the Longai are perennial rivers, whereas the others dry up during the winter.

Population Census of 2001
As per the last population census held in 2001, the population of Karimganj District is 10,07,976.

Caste Distribution : A fairly large percentage (13%) of the population belongs to the Scheduled Caste community largely comprising Kaibarta and Namashudra castes. Total Scheduled Tribe population of the district was put at only 2901 by the 2001 Census Report - a figure largely disputed by many, according to whom the ST population was grossly under-enumerated in the census. The tribal population of the district largely comprises Dimasas, Khasis, Barmans, Tripuras, Halams and many others.

Language : The predominant language of the district is Bengali (particularly, Sylheti, a dialect of Bengali spoken by the people of Sylhet, now in Bangladesh, to which Karimganj once belonged). The other important languages spoken in the district are Hindi (used largely by the tea-plantation workers who migrated from Bihar, eastern UP and other states), Manipuri, Assamese, Dimasa, Khasi and so on.

Urbanisation : As much as 93% of the district population lives in rural areas. Urban population accounts for only about 7% compared to 11% for the state (Assam) and 26% for the country (India). Of course, the rural area includes many semi-urban localities like small townships which can boast of many of the urban facilities, though yet to be notified as towns. There are only two notified Urban areas in The District - Karimganj Town (administered by Karimganj Municipal Board with a population of 43,883) and Badarpur Urban Area (administered by Badarpur Town Committee and Badarpur Railway Town Committee with a combined population of 16,498). Other semi-urban localities are Ramkrishna Nagar, Patharkandi, Nilambazar etc.

Population Density
Population density of Karimganj district, is one of the highest in India. With a total population of 1007976 (in 2001) and a total land area of 1809 Sq.Km., the density stands at 557 persons per sq.km. This far outstrips the corresponding state figure of 286 and the national figure of 273. In fact, this is the second highest district level density in the whole of North-east. With the further growth of population in the last few years, the density has gone up further.

Literacy : Despite a lot of progress in the field of education on post-independence era, more than 45% of the district population is still illiterate as per Census-2001. Somewhat comforting, however, is the fact that the literacy rate of the district at 55.78% is marginally higher than the State (Assam) average of 52.89% and also the national (Indian) average of 52.21%. In the area of Female literacy also, the district average (44.76%) is significantly ahead of the corresponding national figure of 39.24%.

(note : For calculating % of literacy, the population of age 6 years and above only has been taken into consideration.)

Economy and Development

Development status
Developmental scenario of Karimganj district is not very bright. In fact, it is one of the most backward districts of India in terms of socio- economic development. The CMIE index (a comparative index of development generated by the Centre for Monitoring of Indian Economy with index for India as base of 100) for Karimganj District stands at 39 in comparison to 54 for state (Assam) and 100 for India. Geographical remoteness from the main part of the country coupled with poor communication and other infra-structural facilities are the main factors behind the low level of development.

Workforce and Employment
As per 2001 census, out of the total population of 1007976, only 235,016 (23%) persons constitute the main work-force, 68,278 (7%) account for marginal workers, leaving the rest 70% population non-workers and hence, economically non-productive.

Distribution of Workforce
Out of the 235,016 main workers again, 153,321 (68%) are engaged in agriculture and allied activities like farming, fishing, forestry, horticulture etc. Industries (household as well as non-household), mining & quarrying, construction works etc. all combine account for only 16,859 (8%) of main workers. Trade, commerce, transportation, communication etc. account for another 26,730 (12%). The rest 25,750 (12%) are engaged in the service sector.

Primary Sector
Agriculture : Econony of Karimganj district is agrarian in character with as much as 60% of the active workforce engaged in cultivation. Together with Farming, Livestock, Fishery, Forestry etc, the Primary sector of economy engages a total of 68% of active workforce. But the net area sown at around 35% of the total land area has remained more or less stagnant for years due to low rate of multiple cropping, which again, is the result of poor irrigation facility, even though the district is fed by three perennial rivers, large swamps and watersheds. As a consequence, the productivity is rather low. For example, in 1997-98, winter Rice - the main farm product - registered a productivity of 1,759 Kg/Ha. Sugarcane, areca nut, vegetables etc are also significant farm products. Sugarcane production in 1995-96 was put at 121,355 M.T. while areca nut production was 1,083 M.T. Other cultivated crops are large in variety, but low in quantity having little marketable surplus. Leaving 30% of total land area under forest, the remaining 35% is either barren, fallow or uncultivable wasteland.

Plantation : Among plantation crops, Tea and Rubber are the major ones with the turnover of the former being 77 Lakh Kg. and the latter, about 1 Lakh Kg. The total land area under 27 tea gardens in the district is about 25,000 Hectares, although only about one-third of this land is under actual tea plantation. Rubber plantation in the district is relatively new and occupies only a fraction of the land under tea plantation. Most of tea and almost whole of the rubber output is exported to other states/countries.

Fishing : Karimganj District has huge potential for fishery, being endowed with a large number of rivers, swamps, ponds and other natural water bodies. There are 49 registered beels covering a total area of 4,420 Hectares and about 23,535 smaller ponds and lakes covering another 3,545 Hectares. Besides, there are 7 river based fisheries in operation. Total Fish production in the district in 1997-98 was 8372.97 M.T. Besides, about 176.338 Million fry and fingerlings were also produced in the same year. In spite of this, the district is far from being self-sufficient in fish production, particularly, owing to the huge consumption of the item. Large quantities of fish is imported from distant states of Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and also neighbouring country of Bangladesh.

Farming : Livestock and Poultry occupy an important place in the rural economy and also act as household assets. Cattle, buffalo, goat, sheep, pig etc are the most common livestock animals while hen and duck comprise the poultry birds. However, egg production is very much deficient and therefore imported from other states in large quantity.

Forestry : Timber, Bamboo, Cane, Stone, Sand are the major forest products of the district. The district has about 54 thousand hectares of forest area covering almost 30% of the total area. The forests are rich in various costly timbers like teak, sundi, gamari etc. Huge quantity of bamboo is harvested and supplied regularly to paper mill in the neighbouring Hailakandi District. However, in the last few years, restrictions have been imposed on cutting of trees to prevent large scale deforestation and as a result, timber production has gone down considerably.

Secondary Sector
Industry : There is no large or medium scale industry in the district. The only sugar mill located at Chargola near Ratabari is closed for more than a year. A nunber of industries like textiles, polythene etc. set up in the Badarpur Industrial Estates a few years back have mostly closed down due to infra-structural problems. All existing industries in the district are in the small or cottage sector. Tea processing, Food Products, Bamboo & Cane Products, Saw & Plywood, Weaving etc. are the industries comprising the entire Secondary Sector of economy. Cane furniture, mats, decoration pieces manufactured in the cottage industries of Karimganj are supplied to all over india and are in great demand all over.

Oil & Natural Gas exploration : Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has been engaged in exploration works at several drilling sites in the district. There are indictions of large reserve of natural gas in the region. Already natural gas is being drilled on commercial basis from one drill site at Adamtilla in Patharkandi Block. A small gas-turbine based power station with an installed capacity of 15 MW has been set up at that location by DLF Corporation to generate and distribute eletricity, which has been functioning for the last 3 years.


Tertiary Sector
The Tertiary Sector of Economy is a key sector constituted by
(a) Construction (engaging 2.30% of Active Workforce),
(b) Trade & Commerce (9%),
(c) Transport & Communication (3.30%),
(d) Other Services (11.60%)

Trade & Commerce : As per last general Census held in 2001, around 9% of the active workforce in Karimganj district is engaged in trade and commerce. Before independence, Karimganj towm was an important centre for trade and commerce in the entire region due to good communication links both by rail and by steamer services through what is now Bangladesh. Direct trade links with Calcutta snapped after partition of the land in 1947 and gradually the importance of Karimganj as a trading centre also lost its glory. The direct rail service was totally stopped and the steamer service continued in a limping manner. Presently the rail link through Badarpur-Lumding-Guwahati-New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri is the only railway link, albeit a very long one, connecting Karimganj to the rest of the country. Similarly, the national highway through Badarpur-Shillong-Guwahati is the only viable road link available. In view of the immense importance of this road link on the entire economy of this region, the road has been considerably improved, making it more stable, wider and less landslide prone.

Karimganj has to has to depend on the supply from rest of India for most of the items of daily need, such as food grains, spices, sugar and other food items, textiles & garments, construction materials, automobiles & auto-parts, stationery items and so on. The supply of Kerosene, Petrol, diesel, L.P.G., paper etc comes from other parts of Assam.
Among the export items, tea, bamboo & bamboo products, cane & cane products, forest products like timber & stone, areca nut (betelnut) are the major ones.

Internal trade in the district has been seriously hampered by very bad road conditions, border area restrictions on trade, low productivity of agricultural sector, poverty of mass population keeping down demand, low credit disbursement from banks and so on.
However, international trade with Bangladesh has picked up considerably in the recent years and promises to grow further. At present a large number of items like food items, fruits, coal and other products of daily use, mostly sourced from outside the district are exported to Bangladesh through two border points in Karimganj. While Kalibari Ghat on River Kushiara in Karimganj town is utilised for supplying goods by boats and small steamers, Sutarkandi border point - about 12 Km. away from Karimganj Town is extensively used for direct road tranportation of export items. An International Trading Centre and Free Trade Zone in Sutarkandi is proposed to be set up raising great expectations about a new boost to the local economy. Last year, exports worth about Rs. 50 Crores were carried out through Karimganj Border, which resulted in considerable foreign exchange earnings. According to exporters based in Karimganj, given some diversification of traded goods, a little tax inducements from Government, improvement of roads and other infra-tructure, the volume of border trade can go up manifold from its present level. Apart from the current products like coal, foodgrains, spices, sugar, fruits and vegetables etc - which are sourced from outside, many other locally available items like paper, bamboo, stone etc may have large export potential.

Gross Domestic Product - District Level
The Economics & Statistics Deptt. has made a tentative assessment of contributions made by some of the sectors of economy in the district. Although not complete or perfect, some indications regarding the general economic status is available from this study. The estimated contributions of various sectors towards District Domestic Product (DDP) are as follows :
Agriculture : Rs. 203 Crores
Fishing : Rs. 83 Crores
Farming : Rs. 70 Crores
Forest : Rs. 5 Crores
Industry : Rs. 71 Crores
Basic information with regard to the share of the tertiary sector is not available yet. However, after taking certain assumptions, the per capita DDP in 1996-97 was put at Rs. 1,628 /- based on 1980-81 price level and at Rs. 6,663 /- at current price level.

To arrive at Gross Income, we have to add the total foreign exchange remittances received from family members living and earning abroad, the estimated value of which may be put at around Rs. 100 Crores per annum.

Problems and Prospects
The district suffers from lack of infra-structure and poor communication facilities. The main sector of economy - agriculture - is primitive in nature with poor productivity. In the other sectors too, lack of entrepreneurship, low credit-deposit ratio, erratic electricity, unusable roads during monsoon, periodic floods etc. have stifled development. High population density (457 per Sq.Km in 1991, 475 in 2001) - which is second highest in the entire North-East, puts additional pressure on the limited cultivable land.

However, there is enough scope for development if the inherent strengths and unique advantages are adequately harnessed. Vast forest reserve, huge potential for fishery, horticulture and other agro-based industries, possible natural gas reserve and also immense possibility of border trade with Bangladesh - provide a bright hope for an economic turnaround. National Highway - 44, the main road link with rest of the country is now in a much better condition than earlier. Conversion of existing Meter Gauge rail link through Hill Section to Broad Gauge is in progress and once completed, will facilitate direct and uninterrupted rail communication to anywhere in the country. Talks are also on regarding opening up of the Border with Bangladesh for resumption of direct rail, road and steamer communication with Calcutta. Hopefully, the coming years will see a sea-change and rapid development in the economic status of the district.

Karimganj Town
The administrative headquarter and main town of the district also bears the same name, that is, Karimganj.

Location
Karimganj town is located on the northern fringe of the district adjoining Bangladesh, by the river Kushiara. Its distance from Guwahati - the state capital of Assam - is approximately 330 Kms by road and about 350 Kms by rail. Distance of other important places are : Silchar - 55 Kms, Shillong - 220 Kms, Agartala - 250 Kms.

Communication
Karimganj town has communication links with both rail and road with the rest of India. Karimganj town is a railway junction and meter gauge lines connecting Tripura with Assam pass through this station. The most popular mode of passenger transport, however, is by road. A good number of buses - mostly night services - ply between Karimganj and Guwahati daily. Direct long distance bus services are also available to Shillong, Agartala, Aizawl and so on. Communication with Silchar, Badarpur, Patherkandi and other nearby places is also mainly dependent on road transport, with services by all sorts of light and heavy vehicles available a frequent intervals. The nearest airport is Kumbhirgram (85 Kms.) near Silchar - the headquarter of the adjacent district of Cachar. Karimganj town is also an important river port and has seasonal cargo and freight transport link with Kolkata through river ways via Bangladesh.

Geography
Flanked on two sides by the rivers Kushiara and Longai, Karimganj town is located just on the Bangladesh border with the river Kushiara flowing in between. One prominent feature of the place is a long and winding canal called Noti Khal meandering across the town. Earlier, it used to be a connecting river way between Kushiara and Longai facilitating river communication and also balancing of water-levels between the two rivers. Now, however, this canal has been blocked at several places through embankments and land-fills to pave way for road transport and construction works.

History
In 1878, the British administration designated Karimganj town as the headquarters of the newly created sub-division of Karimganj under Sylhet district. After independence in 1947, Karimganj town continued to be the headquarter of a truncated Karimganj sub-division, now attached to the Cachar district of Assam. In 1983 this town was re-designated as the District headquarter of the newly upgraded Karimganj district.

Trade and Commerce
Karimganj town is an important centre of trade and commerce in the region. Its river port, with elaborate infra-structures like cargo-terminal, jetty, warehouses etc., is capable of handling large volumes of cargoes carried by steamers plying through river ways via Bangladesh. Karimganj is also a borders trade centre and import-export business worth crores of rupees is carried out through the custom trade point at Kalibari Ghat in the town.

Population and Demography

Population : 52613
S.C. : 6938
S.T.: 231

As per 2001 census, population of Karimganj town stands at 52613 covering a total of 9720 households. The details of 2001 census figures for Karimganj town is given in the table:

District and Local Administration
Karimganj is one of the 27 districts of Assam. It comprises only one sub- division which is also named as Karimganj. Below this level, there are 5 Revenue Circles (Tehsils), namely - Karimganj, Badarpur, Nilambazar, Patherkandi and Ramkrishna Nagar. Furthermore, from developmental angle, the district is divided into 7 Community Development Blocks - North Karimganj, South Karimganj, Badarpur, Patherkandi, Ramkrishna Nagar, Dullavcherra and Lowairpoa. Below the block level set-up, there are 96 Gram Panchayats each comprising about ten villages on the average and governed by local-self bodies. From the angle of Police administration, the district area is divided among 5 Police stations - Karimganj, Badarpur, Patherkandi, Ramkrishna Nagar and Ratabari.

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