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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Economic System

According to Grunlan and Mayers “Economic systems involve the ways people, time and materials are organized to produce, distribute and consume goods and services” (Grunlan and Mayers 1988:108). “Economic deals with material goods and human property and with the labor associated with producing, distributing and maintaining them” says Hiebert (Paul G. Hiebert 1983:298). H. N. C.
Stevenson the only scholar who did a research on the economics of the Central Chins says “the theory of western economics is inapplicable to primitive communities” like the Zomis (Stevenson 1970:3). In view of the above definitions I will discuss the way the Zomis produce, distribute and consume food, goods and materials involving labor and service.
“Agriculture” popularly known as “Jhuming” is the chief occupation of the people. The staple crop is not rice but maize, millet, although a varying amount of rice is also grown. Other subsidiary field crops include bean, yam, peas, potatoes, gourds, cucumbers, sesame, onion, garlic, brinjal, and chilies (Lehman 1963:52).
Very limited implements were employed in cultivation such as the short axe, the short hoe and dao, of which the first two are never more than 4 inches broad at the edge. To make the things worse cultivation was unsafe as most of inter-tribal raids took place while working at field or on way to or from the field. “Nine out of every ten persons whose heads were formerly carried off lost their lives in or near their fields” (Carey and Tuck 1976: 211). As protector of the family the husband took the lead on the way to the field equipped with spear and arrow followed by the wife. On retuning the wife took the lead and the husband followed in behind. This song explains the fact.
a)     Lal in phawng lal in phawng e,
Zolei-ah lal in phawng e.
b)     Ngaih aw na tai masa aw,
Kei man nung ciang dal nang e.
Translation (mine):
a)     Enemies are coming, enemies are coming,
Enemies are coming in the field.
b)     My dear run home ahead of me,
I will be your fence in the back. (Thang Siangh, email 02/12/07).
Not only these, hunting and feasting consumed a lot of time and production of agriculture suffered a great deal (Laitanga 1982:46).
Shifting cultivation is a normal system each year. During winter cutting of forests and weeds are conducted, clearing by burning of the fields in March and sowing seeds is carried out in April and May. A small hut is put up for shelter from sun and rain in each field.
Whilst the crop is in the ground a couple of boys, usually slaves, live in this house to defend the crop from the wild animals and birds, bears, deer and monkeys are killed in numbers in the field. The boys keep off sparrows and parquets by hammering a hollow trough and by pulling strings connected with four corners of the field to which are attached bamboo rattles and which all lead to the platform of the house” (Carey and Tuck 1976:211).
Animals like bear, monkey and sparrows created real problem eating up or destroying the crop. “As soon as the seed is on the ground the fields must be guarded against animals and birds and as soon as the seed sprouts the weeds have to be kept down and prevented from choking the crop” (Carey and Tuck 1976:212-213).  During June to August people are busy attending on their fields. Harvest season comes in the month of September and October. In spite of insecurity and unscientific method of cultivation in the past, the people appeared to be self-sufficient in food as the land was productive. The Zomi “society is largely a self-sufficient village society” (Lehman 1963:168). The grain was stored in a big basket or granaries in the house. Every household aimed at harvesting a year’s living from cultivation. The surplus if any was used for drinking and bartering (Laitanga 1982:47).
There are two classes of cultivation: one is at higher altitude called “Zo lo” and lower altitude called “Sim lo.” Rice is sown in the lower altitude and maize and millet are grown in the higher altitude. However the name of Zomi and Zo lo should not be confused as if they have the same connotation (Lehman 1963:53). Each village had certain areas of land for cultivation which was portioned to each family called “Lo Hawm.” “The cultivation extended to the limit of the village boundaries, and if the territory of the soil permits it every inch from the mountain top to the valley bottom will in its due sequence come under the hoe” (Stevenson 1970:30). The village head and his councilors had their choice and then other members got their portion by lottery. Anticipation of good harvest began from the very beginning of “Lo hawm” each year. Success of cultivation depends very much on rain which is monsoon season. Failure of rain or draught brings famine. Animals like bear, deer, monkeys and birds also often brought famine on individual family which was very common. However, as Zomis eat maize, yam, potato and beans as staple food they face less famine unlike the people of the Lushai country who depended wholly on rice (Laitanga 1982:46).
“It is popularly supposed that the Zomi/Chin is a wretched, half-starved, overworked and generally unhappy individual” (Carey and Tuck 1976:213). The reverse is the case. Though poor and primitive they loved singing and dancing during festivals and feasts. Christianity is seen as economically viable for development that attracted the Zomis. Luxurious festivals and feasts were abandoned; they stopped drinking and killing animals on funerals. They develop better food when they become Christians. Economically Christians are better off that convinced the Zomis to become Christians.
Division of Labor
Unwritten law sometimes becomes more effective than written law in a society. In the absence of written code the Zomi life consists of division of labor. Father is the main supporter of the family while wife is a care taker of children and household duties. Chopping trees for field, house construction, hunting, rearing and maintenance of domestic animals fall under man’s duty. “Men are usually skillful in handicrafts. Bamboo and cane works … earthen pot and wood works are the works of men” (Ngul Khan Pau 1995: 48). Washing, caring child, drawing water, cooking, feeding and cleaning falls under the duty of woman. “Women play a large part in building the economy of the family. They are engaged in planting, weeding the fields, harvesting crops, and household chores” (Prim Vaiphei 1981: 30). Attending and guarding domestic animals like mithun was the duty of children especially of boys until they can join in field work. Boys are sent to guard mithuns at day time called “Sial cing” or mithun boy. Boys learnt their jungle tactic while attending mithuns in a nearby village forest like in the days of David in the field. The only common labor was working in the field where parents, daughters and sons who attained the age of puberty join together. In many cases children go to the field very young learning cultivation system from their parents. Having more children meant more working force which lead to larger gathering of crop.  In short, man’s duty include all those of work regarded as heavy and works regarded as light fall under the duty of woman as female are regarded as weaker specie. This should not be confused with the Hindu class system as no class system exists in Zomi society.  Division of labor is still in practice among Christians even today. For example, carrying a baby by the father is seen as hen-packed husband.

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