General Description of Meghalaya
The State of Meghalaya was carved out of Assam as an autonomous State in April 1970 and was declared a full-fledged State in January 1972.
Meghalaya, situated in the north eastern region of India is a narrow stretch of land, running between Bangladesh on the South and West and Assam on the North and East, Meghalaya lies between 24° 58' N to 26° 07'N latitudes and 89° 48'E to 92° 51' E longitudes. It covers an area of 22,429 sq. km. The State has most of its land covered by hills interspersed with gorges and small valleys. Endowed with dense forests and rivers cascading down undulating terrain, this region is one of the most scenic of the North Eastern States.
Thus, out of the total forest area of 15,657 sq. km in the State only 1,027.20 sq. Km is under the control of State Forest Department, which constitutes only 4.58 % of the total geographical area of the State and 6.56 % of the total forest area of the State. Rest of the area is either private or clan/ community owned and is under the indirect control and management of the Autonomous District Councils.
The State has been divided into seven revenue districts. Table 2 gives a summary of the population and area etc of different districts of the State.
The local administration of the State is vested in the following three Autonomous District Councils set up under the provisions of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India.
- The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council:- It has jurisdiction over the area located within East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, and Ri- Bhoi Districts. The headquarter of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council is located at Shillong.
- The Garo Hills Autonomous District Council:- It has jurisdiction over the area located within East Garo Hills, West Garo Hills and South Garo Hills Districts. The headquarters of the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council is located at Tura.
- The Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council:- It has jurisdiction over the area falling within Jaintia Hills District. The headquarters of the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council is located at Jowai.
The District Councils are constituted by Members representing District Council Constituencies. These Members of District Councils (M.D.C.) are elected by adult franchise.
Under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, these District Councils have been vested with legislative, executive and judicial functions in many subjects. Some of the important subjects in whom Autonomous District Councils have been vested with such authority are as follows :
- Lands other than Reserved Forests,
- Forests other than Reserved Forests,
- Use of any land or water courses for agricultural purposes,
- Regulation of the practice of jhum cultivation or any other form of shifting cultivation,
- Appointment and succession of Chiefs and their powers.