Mess, Task and Development: Government vis-à-vis private

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By Amar Yumnam
The contrast between the recent growth experiences of China and India is absolutely remarkable. In China, the growth has taken place because of the government. There the government has put in place a wonderful infrastructure system, continually evolving, and an effective administration. In India, the recent growth phenomenon is in spite of the government. The infrastructure in India is absolutely poor and the bureaucracy is absolutely outdated and corrupt.

The result is that the Chinese growth is very systematic and the Indian experience is absolutely messy. Here the example of Gurgaon near Delhi is exemplary. About two decades ago, this city was a barren land of blue cows where none dared to enter. Near this, there was Faridabad with a full-fledged municipal authority and none was attracted to the barren place. But the government left it o the private players to do whatever they felt like investing on with the barren land of Gurgaon. This is how the cityhas now come to the present stage, leaving Faridabad far behind as laggard. Gurgaon today has larger commercial floor space area than Delhi. But Gurgaon’s commercial areas are absolutely unstructured with no clear linkages to one another. The road shave not been attended to by the government. The power has not been ensured by the government. The water supply has not been ensured by the government. There is no functioning public transport system. All the commercial places, malls and corporate houses have their own generator arrangements, water supply schemes and transportation facilities for their employees. The government have been lagging far behind in meeting her responsibilities but the private sector has gone far ahead in ensuring an economic dynamism. The Gurgaon story is true in the case of Bangalore as well. There is dynamism in the midst of absolute mess. By and large the Indian story of growth is dynamism in an environment of absolute chaos. Questions are being raised about the sustainability of the country’s recent growth trajectory mainly because of the quality of governance and the lack of broad-basing the growth. These worries are being increasingly sounded at the global level as well by the regional bodies like the ASEAN and the Asian Development bank.

Home Scenario: Whenever I think of the global and national growth experiences, I am naturally drawn to the home scenario of Manipur. The Indian messiness because of the government is more than true in the case of Manipur as well. All the weaknesses of government are visible with aggravated symptoms in Manipur. But the worst part is that the private sector has not emerged and those which endeavour to emerge have been forcefully stunted.

The government has not delivered on any front; social and economic infrastructure is so bad that not only the growth not happening but the earlier advantages are being dissipated as well. The best example is the case of the education sector where many once laggards have beaten us hands down in every conceivable indicator. The same is true even for the road infrastructure which is the mandatory need for social cohesion, economic advancement and creation of an atmosphere for ethnic progression along modern lines instead of the primordial considerations. While in the Imphal roads we now have red flickers on the sides and in the middle to guide us through the night, are we really concern with the fact that there are many villages still in the mountains of Manipur where the arrival of monsoon is an invariable curse in so far as communication is concerned?

Well, the government has failed, but what are we doing about the private sector? We do not have any atmosphere nor do we endeavour to create one where the private sector can really flourish leading to expansion of income and employment. The best recent example is that of the Haldiram of Manipur being subjected to the worst of threats. What is most disgusting in the entire scenario is the public suspicion that, in this stunting of private sector growth, the agents involved are both state and non-state. If this is true – there are signs that this could be true to the realities – , nothing could be more unfortunate. While the non-state agents indulge in extortions or whatever non-positive acts, the people should have the state as the ultimate and wholly reliable saviour as well as promoter for those attempting to harness the social energy for expansion of income and employment. But this is not happening in the case of Manipur. The result is that the youths are caught in a dilemma over which they have no control and which they do not fully understand.

Potential Derailed: The youths are the potent force anywhere in the world. This is true for Manipur as well. Globally, we now experience a resurgence of youth for higher social existence than just for jobs. The youths the world over are now asking for meaningful social existence in terms of questioning the prevailing administration for not adequately defining the tasks to be performed by them. But the Manipur youths have been caught in the vicious engagement of somehow landing to a job. This “somehow” effort has to a large extent eaten into the social ethos of Manipur so much so that a police job has now emerged as the most coveted one. People and youths would now advising each other to “somehow” see to it that there is a police officer in one’s family. Well, the job of a policeman is definitely not bad, but the context in which the new social ethos has emerged is not a healthy one. The global winds of engagement for the youths are giving the Manipur youths a slip this time round, and an unfortunate one at that.

Our Responsibility: The collective as well as the individual responsibility for all of us today is to ensure that we do not allow our beautiful land to become like the Bottle Imp of Robert Louis Stevenson and land ourselves into eternal damnation.

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