KARANG – Understanding their way of life

Karang village is a small island in the Loktak lake, Manipur and it comes under the Bishnupur district. Geographically situated at the latitude of 24°32'40.55'' and 24°33'07.67'' N and longitude of 93°49'46.59'' and 93°50'09.61'' E. it altitude is 780 metres above mean sea level and topographically it is an irregular hillock island.


Pic: Karang Island

Connectivity to the Karang village is only by waterways by using small boats through the nearby villages namely, Phoubakchao village in the East, Ningthoukhong village in the West, Liklai Karong (Hao Saban) village in the North, and Thanga village in the South. The island is inhabited by the meitei community mostly of scheduled caste category.


Location of the Karang island (courtesy: Google satellite map)



An image of the Karang island (courtesy: Google satellite map)


Pic: Means of transport (by boat)


Pic: Household survey in process

As per the 2011 census, the number of households in Karang village is 297 with a total population of 1859 individuals. The child population under 6 years of age is 243. They have 940 males and 919 females with a sex ratio of 977. The literacy rate of the village is 53% (maybe due to bad connectivity or some other reason). The total numbers of workers are 762 with 421 males and 341 females.

The villagers seem to have a contented life with whatever little they have, separated from the rest of the world and even if they are not, there are hardly any options. This aloofness has direct impact on the villagers outlooked on the outside world as well as their attitude towards life. The children are getting education but they also start to earn from an early age. There are two government schools viz. Khoidum Leihao Junior High School and Karang Upper Primary School; and also a private school, Muhindro English School. Since for higher studies, they have to go either to Thanga or Moirang, most of the students left their studies before reaching high school.



Pic: Govt. primary school



Pic: Private school

But the trend is changing like that of the climate. These children are staying at boarding house at other places like Moirang, Phubala, Ningthoukhong for continuing their study and it only increases the burden on their parents who depends only on the fishes of the lake for their livelihood. And those who are lucky enough to get a government job tend to migrate to other place for starting a new life.

Socio-economic condition of the village is basically low. The bulk of population of belongs to the scheduled castes. Joint family is common in the village with a relatively big size of family and marriage at an early age is also common. The total land owned by individual households is limited mainly to the homestead areas with no extra land for any form of farming. The houses in the village are built without proper planning and they are just scattered around the foothill. The path that connects the houses is also not maintained. The practice of vegetable gardening is not seen anywhere in the village. The community land constitutes those areas of temples, public playground and community halls. The village is characterized with poor socio-economic features such as low educational level, poor housing facility and backward transportation and communication.


Pic: A view of the village


Pic: The village playground


Pic: The temple

Fishing is the main occupation for the villagers and they also collect eatable aquatic plants and weeds such as Pulei, Loklei, Yelli, Ikaithabi and Heikak for selling at the market. From what we learnt, each male member of the house has the obligation to own one boat each. With setting of the dawn, male members of the village would venture into the lake for fishing. They would rest during the day and by evening, they would either go for selling off the fish or go for fishing again. Thus there was hardly time for any other activities. Moreover fathers expect their son to accompany them for assisting them during fishing. This is a necessity as fishing is the only source of income for the family. When fishing is done and brought home the catch, it is the duty of the female members of the house to clean up, separate varieties of fishes, and arranged for sale in the market while the male members are resting. Thus every member of the house contribute their bit for their livelihood. Depending solely on fishing and its production, there is no alternative source of livelihood.


Pic; Fishes being dried

With increasing population and more mouths to be fed, the pressure on the source of livelihood have increase for the villagers. On the other hand, the per capita productivity of fish for the households has been decreasing in the recent decades due to several reasons like clearance of the phumdis, increase in number of fishermen, etc. The low average annual income of the households from fish production and the ever increasing daily expenditure is also a concern for the ever expanding population of the village. Firewood or charcoal is used as the main source of fuel for cooking and the used of LPG is limited to few houses mainly due to transportation problem. Due to limited availability of land, agriculture or animal husbandry is also out of the question.

For the purpose of supplying drinking water, a water supply facility was built and pipes were laid to some part of the village but it stopped functioning long ago. So at present, the villagers collect water from the lake and purify it using bleaching powder and alum for drinking as well as for other use.

One Primary Health Sub-centre is in the village, which opens twice in a week where an attendant and a nurse serves the needy ones.


Pic: The primary health centre

On the environmental front, every person interviewed agreed that the temperature has increased in the last few years but whether it is affecting the fish productivity is not known. Though their apprehension was that as the water become polluted due to the expansion of the cities, coupled with increase in population and human greed, the number of fish in the lake began to decrease. When there is not much fish in the lake, there are not many options for them to cling to for their livelihood.

Being close to the water body, the humidity is high. Rise in the level of water of the lake has caused the lost of many semi aquatic plants which usually survived at the periphery of the lake. And in turn, it affected the livelihood of the villagers.

With the passage of time and increase in the population of the island inhabitants, the  place has become congested and there is no room for extension. The changing lifestyle  of the people and the change in the environmental condition of the Loktak lake has put pressure on the livelihood  of the  people. The economy has been affected and in turn it affect the socio-cultural life of the people. Thus, there is an urgent need to conserve the valuable resources of the wetlands from various anthropogenic pressures so that livelihoods of the people are secured.