Saturday, July 24, 2021

Infrastructure deficit

Economic development has revolved around infrastructure ever since Marx created the concept. He meant the production processes and relations at the base holding up society, or superstructure. Nowadays infrastructure means things such as roads, railways, airports, hospitals, power plants, etc that make up the base of the economy. Nagaland has been particularly backward in the development of its infrastructure. We invested little of the money Delhi gives us on building good infrastructure. Compared to our neighbours, Assam or Manipur, our road network is abysmal. We are perpetually short of electricity having spent too much on distribution and too little on generation. Apparently India is in no hurry to build a decent all weather roads in the State. Construction of the Dimapur-Kohima 4-lane road sees no completion, as well as 2-lane road works in other parts of the State. Our rail link, particularly the Zubza rail link, is another joke. No one knows, least of all those engaged in the task, when it will be completed. Even when it is, it never can become a popular way of travelling to Kohima. It may be cheaper for carrying bulk commodities such as oil, coal or food grains but as passenger transport the shorter road journey is bound to be more attractive. And there is no semblance of air connectivity. The point is that infrastructure planning in our State is riddled with conceptual failures. The whole fabric of economic development is flawed as a result of the political situation. Since statehood, political leaders and civil servants have consistently made the wrong economic choices and development decisions. Vast sums are frittered away every year in every sector while basic health and elementary education suffer. Despite decades of planning not one area of the local economy gets passing grade. Horticulture, forestry, power and tourism alike are always in a developing stage, never fully developed. Vast sums are allotted and disappear without proportional increase in our material welfare. The fault lies with the superstructure of the State. According to Marx, superstructure is the opinions, culture, ideas as well as laws, institutions and upper bourgeoisie of society that has its origins in, and responds to the nature of the infrastructure. The modes of production of material life, he postulated, condition the general process of political and intellectual life. Now our economic life since we attend statehood, it is generally agreed, has been distorted by a culture of economic dependency fostered by plan grants. Delhi has offered us dependency instead of autonomy. We have held on to the one as a substitute for the other, suppressing our own initiative, and living from package to package as it were. The Naga superstructure, consisting of its upper elites, reacting to the mode of production borne out of this package culture have become indifferent to, and incapable of standing on their own feet. When questioned how we will survive without India’s largesse our normal reaction is to propose alternative patrons, not self reliance, nor a willingness to face hardships for a cause. This feeling, in Durkheim’s term, anomie, Marx describes as ‘alienation’. It is loss of a feeling of connectedness. Marx suggested that in capitalist systems workers feel alienated because the product of labour is replaced foreign money. In our case, our anomie arises from a lack of connectedness with the central planning processes. Anomie, which can be described as an indifference to real life, and a loss of purpose and belief, is pervasive in our superstructure of politicians and officialdom. They don’t feel connected to the projects they plan. The money comes and it is spent; no matter that the projects are poorly conceived and badly executed; after all they don’t cost us anything. Easy come and easy go. Anomie is a dialectical product of the way in which our human subjectivity engages with our materialist urges; it is our representative face to the development thrusts which Delhi engages us, in the absence of political satisfaction. When the two fail to harmonize, corruption is the result.