Saturday, July 13, 2024

Town planning

We know that cities are primarily economic nerve centers that act as indispensable pegs for economic, cultural and infrastructural development. The commercial capital of Nagaland, Dimapur, can be no exception. Cities across the world and nearer to home, across the country, have benefited greatly from dynamic town planning that takes into account both the residential and economic needs of an urban population. Environmental concerns are weighed at every stage and the ecology safeguarded against any new spurt of development. However, Dimapur or Kohima or for that matter any town in the state, has suffered enormous setback over the last few decades for want of such a conservation-development balance that, while ensuring the city is not engulfed by shoddy, chaotic structures, ensures with equal importance that there is well-planned and adequate space for commercial activities. And this, for a city that aspires to develop at pace with its counterparts in other parts of the country, is unacceptable. There are certain fears and phobias that are unique to small towns and cities, hill stations and valleys. And one such phobia is that any development or commercial growth will destroy the city, ruining its ecology and peace. Another perception is that any drastic phase of economic growth is either financed from ill-gotten money or has a certain power to wreak havoc with a city’s appearance. We need to be reasonable, and introspective. We have, considering our population, perhaps the biggest government workforce vis-à-vis population in the entire country. And we cannot pay for it. Being the only major job-provider in the state, the government has been over-burdened into a planning paralysis as every penny it earns in revenue is used to pay the colossal salary and wage bill. One can call this sort of employment economically diabolical for the welfare of this state. We cannot afford more government jobs – that’s an undisputable fact. However, we have another white elephant in the room – our growing unemployment. So, how can we possibly make a dent and reduce our unemployment percentage if government jobs are out of the question, at least should be out of the question? The answer, as we all know, lie in the private sector – small size and midsize if not the MNC size to start with. More shopping complexes, more hotels, restaurants, industries, apartment complexes and office spaces will invariably lead to more jobs – jobs that are not a burden on the state budget – productive jobs! But how will a private sector grow in a city where there is a conspicuous dearth of commercial and industrial space? Since no satellite towns have been either added or planned, Dimapur now needs well-planned apartment complexes. However, the government – rather than indulging in activities that are traditionally best suited and best served for by the private sector, should opt out of such activities and encourage private sector players to undertake such development. This would take care of the infrastructural deficiency as well as producing more jobs that are not a burden on the state government and eventually the taxpayers. In recent years, Dimapur has witnessed an acute dearth of hotel rooms during peak tourism months. It is no secret that most of the hotels that have cropped up in the town in the last two decades have come up in violation of one or the other regulations that have been enforced by the relevant departments. Now, a continued policy of obstructionism would lead to further unplanned growth. But before such unplanned growth, the tourism prospects would be greatly limited for lack of accommodation. There are numerous other arguments that one can put forth for a business-friendly, pro-economy master plan. That said we need to ensure that all such growth is planned and proportionate to the ecological and environmental constraints. The authorities and the policy makers would be well advised to consider the example of Chandigarh – India’s only scientifically planned city of its stature. Every sector has its corresponding residential and commercial spaces. There are two industrial areas and the city is being proactively expanded both horizontally and vertically. And it looks more planned and organized than ever before. As stated earlier, planned growth does not mean no growth.