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ECONOMIC HISTORY OF MANIPUR (1826-1891)
     By : Oinam Somorendro Meetei,Guwahat,Assam,India


 
TOPIC
1. INTRODUCTION
2. EVERY DAY LIFE OF MANIPUR
3. POLITICAL SCENARIO UNDER THE RULE OF THE RAJAs
4. ECONOMIC RECOVERY AND GROWTH AFTER 1826



1.INTRODUCTION

               The Meiteis have been living in the manipur Valley at least since the
               beginning of the first millennium. What was initially a small clan
               principality grew into a powerful monarchal state comprising the valley
               of Manipur and the surrounding hills inhabited by the Nagas(no nagas in
               those year, name came into existence with British before that all are
               called Angami, Tangkhul, Ao, Kabi) Kukis and a few other small ethinic
               groups. The Meiteis have a rich cultural heritage. Their written
               language and literature have a long history. In 1110 AD a written
               constitution was promulgated by the ruling king. It codified the
               customary laws, codes, conventions and defined Meitei polity embodying
               the concept of absolute monarchy. The kingdom was divided into six
               pannas for facilitating the organisation of the lallup system under
               which every citizen with a few exception from the age 17 to 60 years was
               required to work for the king for 10 days in every forty without any
               wages. But each lallup worker was given 1 pura (roughly 3 acres) of land
               for cultivation on payment of the usual land revenue to the Raja.
               Manipuri men had indomitable martial spirit, they were skilled horse
               riders and could fight as fierce cavalrymen in wars. Men could keep on
               fighting wars being away from for prolonged periods because the women
               were industrious, enterprising, business-minded, adept in weaving,
               agriculture and horticultural farming and selling and buying of goods
              inn the market. The favourable aspects of Meitei character combined with
               a strong political structure and economy placed them quite ahead of the
               other ethnic groups living in the surrounding hills in terms of social,
               political, economic and cultural developments. Therefore they succeeded
               in dominating over the hill people. But over the centuries there has
               occurred the fusion of certain traits of Meitei culture and that of the
               hill-dwellers. Ultimately the kingdom of Manipur emerged as one distinct
               political entity with the territorial spread encompassing the Manipur
               valley and the surrounding hills.



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            2. EVERY DAY LIFE OF MANIPUR PEOPLE

               In the pre-industrial and pre-capitalist economy material life of people
               represents 'the informal other half of economic activity, the world of
               self-sufficiency and barter of goods and services within a very small
               radius'(Braudel 1986:24). Destruction of the material life is something
               like 'weighing up of the world' and comprehending the limits of what was
               possible in the pre-industrial world. The material life of the people
               was possible in the pre-industrial world. The material life of the
               people was manifested in the images of daily life'.

               1. Manipuris daily bread: rice, fish, and dal
               2. Varieties and mode of rice cultivation: nineteen varieties: a few
               were early and many late varieties of higher yield. Late varieties
               cultivated by following the method of transport
               3. The importance of rice: Culture of rice growing influences the
               socoi-political and economic life and institutions of the people.
               4. Salt: Manipur depended on the natural salt wells for indigenously
               producing salt.
               5. Meiteis balanced diet: rice, fish, pulses, beans, vegetables and
               seasonal fruits.
               6. Stimulants and drugs
               7. Dwelling houses
               8. Economics of the housing sector: it manifested as essential element
               of Manipuri's self-sufficient economy
               9. Dress and fashion: reflected the spirit of plain living
               10. Hillmen's economy: The Nagas practised both shifting and settled
               cultivation. The Nagas villages having locational stability could follow
               land use planning in accordance with the communities perception of
               sustainable use of land. Kuki villages were not stable as the Kukis
               continued to migrate farther northward. The art of settled cultivation
               was not acquired by them. The Kuki village chief was very powerful. The
               hillmen's economy was not an insular subsistence economy. They produced
               cash crops like oilseeds, cotton, pepper, ginger, etc.; parts of such
               produces were traded with the Manipuris to procure salt, iron tools,
               agricultural implements, fire-arms, glass beads, utensils, ornaments,
               livestock, Manipuri quilts and cloth etc. The hillmen also exported to
               the plains forest products and few household industry products like
               cloth mats baskets, etc.
               11. Sources of energy: (I) Animal power, (II) heat energy
               12. Transport system
               13. Manufactures: (I) cotton textiles, (II) silk textiles (II) iron
               tools manufacture (III) leather manufactures (V) pottery (VI) jewelry
               14. Professional skills of the Manipuris
               15. Money and exchange



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3. POLITICAL SCENARIO UNDER THE RULE OF THE RAJAs

               Economic performance of a society is influenced by the structure of its
               economy comprising 'the political and economic institutions, technology,
               demography and ideology
               Until the occupation by the British in 1891, Manipur was
               constitutionally a monarchal state. The Raja enjoyed almost absolute
               power of rule. He dictated and enforced the terms and conditions of
               enjoyment of civil liberty and of property rights by his subjects on the
               different inputs of production, such as, labour supply including
               self-labour, land and other natural resources, outputs turn out by them
               as well as on different items of immovable and moveable assets as
               individuals and groups of individuals. The nature, extent and
               effectiveness of enjoyment of property rights largely determined the
               peoples incentives to produce beyond the subsistence level. The king
               benefited from increased volume of production of goods and services as
               his monopoly rent thereby went up. He devised the administrative,
               bureaucratic and military structure for keeping the system going and for
               maximizing the extraction of monopoly rent in cash and /or kind, such
               as, in the form of land revenue, taxes, duties, levies and free labour
               services etc.
               The absolute power of the king was limited by certain factors, three
               important ones were: (1) He had to appoint agents- administrators,
               judicial, and military functionaries to run the state structure and
               realizes taxes, labour services, etc. on the king's behalf. It could not
               be possible for any king to constrain his agents fully where interests
               did not completely coincide with that of their master. No wonder , at
               times the king's agent colluded with the subjects to divide up some of
               the monopoly rents.
               Secondly, the monopoly power of the king was limited by the threat of
               invasion by neighboring states and/or potential rulers within his own
               state.
               Thirdly, in every state, the role of the civil society that is, peoples'
               collective will in protecting at least by some measuring civil,
               political and economic rights of the individuals acts as a limitation on
               the powers of the state authority.
               Burmese invasion from 1819 to 1826 severely disturbed the internal
               organisation of the state. After becoming the king of Manipur in 1826
               Gambhir Singh had to rebuild the system, of course, without any marked
               deviation from the traditional system

               1. The system of lallup
               2. The Lois, the Kei-roi-thou
               3. Slavery
               4. Singlup(wood club) or village panchayat
               5. Land system
               6. The role of civil society in regulation the land system
               7. Position of Women in society, economy and civil society
               8. Property rights, debt settlement, etc
               9. Ideology
               10. Deficiencies of the political-economic institutional structure



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4. ECONOMIC RECOVERY AND GROWTH AFTER 1826

               Manipuri's economic recovery after the end of the Burmese occupation in
               1826 proceeded along with streamlining of the administrative structure
               and some liberalisation of modus operandi of economic transactions as
               carried out under the British influence and even mild pressure at times.
               The British policy vis-à-vis Manipur was shaped by the objective of
               putting on Manipur as a strong defensive base against aggressive designs
               of Burma. They also sought to use the territory of Manipur to open up an
               overland trade route to Burma and therefrom to Yuunan Province of China.
               In pursuance of these objectives in nurturing closer political and
               military ties with the king of Manipur and making agreements with him to
               facilitate and promote flow of trade between British India and Manipur
               and Burma with Manipuris co-operation.
               1. British Manipur Trade and defense agreement of 1833
               2. Manipur's parting with Kabaw  Valley under British pressure
               3. Posting of British Political agent in Manipur, 1835
               4. Signs of growth since 1826

               Eight years of peace and stability during the reign of Gambhir Singh
               were the years of reconstruction of Manipur's economy. Many of those who
               fled manipur returned to their homeland, increasing areas of land were
               reclaimed for cultivation by clearing weeds, grass etc. The damaged
               roads were constructed, old markets reopened and new markets opened,
               trade flow between Cachar and Manipur and that between manipur and Burma
               increased in volume as some of the trade restrictions were withdrawn.
               The Nagas were freely allowed to bring down again their cash crops like
               ginger, cotton, pepper, etc for exchanging with goods of their needs in
               some designated markets. Construction activities were undertaken on a
               wide scale as the destroyed villages were rebuilt. A new capital at
               Langthabal about 8 kms south of Impala was built.

              The signs of the growth were manifested in the growth of population,
               increased degree of specialization and diversification of productive
               activities, raising of new crops, increasing volume of monetization of
               transactions, commercialization of agricultural production, increasing
              volumes of internal and external trade etc.



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