Thursday, April 15, 2021

State of indifference

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. The whole idea of development is rooted in creating ease for people, and enhancing chances for earning a decent livelihood. 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 Assam, our road network is abysmal. The Border Roads Organization (BRO) maintains nearly all the inter-district roads. We are perpetually short of electricity having spent too much on distribution and too little on generation. The ongoing construction of the Dimapur-Zubza (Kohima) rail link is another joke. No one knows when it will be completed. Even when it is, it never can become a popular way of traveling to Kohima. It may be cheaper for carrying bulk commodities such as oil or food grains but as passenger transport the shorter road journey is bound to be more attractive. The train journey between Dimapur and Zubza (Kohima) is likely to take 4 hours or more. The 4-lane road, once completed, in contrast will take a car less than 2 hours and a bus no more than 3. We also have an ailing health care, underdeveloped tourism and hospitality sector as well as an obsolete education system. And uplifting them will be uplifting the whole society. Unfortunately 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. For decades now political leaders and civil servants have consistently made the wrong economic choices and developmental decisions. Vast sums are frittered away every year in every sector while basic health and elementary education suffer. Not one area of the local economy gets a 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. And 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, 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. There is no practical push for self reliance, or 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 by money. In Nagaland 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.