Institutions, Irritation and Development

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By Amar Yumnam
Two recent stories are of tremendous significance for us.

One is the robust development strength of China.

The second is the Japanese leaving the lost decade behind.

China has grown so fast and so well today that, despite all the unfounded claims and “misinformation”, India can only think of catching up and never of competing. Infrastructures, industry and higher education are very internationally competitive in China today and have gone far ahead of India. Infrastructures and industry are imaginable and could be more or less easily understood, but China leaving India far behind in higher education is something the people of the country should sit up, think hard and put in place policies in right earnest for bridging the gap. Now let us go to Japan. A British friend of mine recently sent me photographs of 1945 comparing Hiroshima and Nagasaki of Japan with Detroit of the United States of America.

The two places of Japan were in complete shambles while the American city was wearing a picture of bloom. He also sent me contemporary photographs of the two Japanese cities and Detroit today.

Down the years, the land of the rising sun has reconstructed and developed the devastated places of 1945 so well that none would believe these were ever subjected to atomic bombing. On the contrary, Detroit today wears pictures of gloom in the same places which were booming in 1945. Further, the 1990s were the period when the scholars around the world were wondering as to whether Japan would ever recover for her growth during the period was negative. But the 2000s have seen both investment and growth recovering in this country. Such good things are happening in all our neighbours wondering us why not in this country. Our Imphal never generates the feelings caused by today’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki but Detroit feelings it does.

These developments would naturally cause depression to anyone endeavouring to be positive in Manipur today. Agriculture is still a very seasonal activity but very important for Manipur.

But the absolute un-seasonality of the monsoon and the gloom of the farmers have not caused any sense of alarm in the corridors of governance.

While looking at the worry of the farmers and the diminishing scope for us non-farmers for procuring local paddy at convenient prices at the time of harvesting, I have more reasons for irritation. In contemporary world it is impossible to think, articulate, make commitments and keep commitments without the computer switched on right in front of us.

Deadlines are important in the modern world. We have papers to be sent, we have reports to be completed and we have e-mails to be responded. All these activities would collapse if the electricity collapses before arriving at our places of work and home. Even if it arrives, it is absolutely unpredictable when it would bid adieu without informing. Now all the application of mind would be replaced by irritation and more so if it happens on a day of fasting for health and for prayer.

This irritation is much more frustrating than it would have been otherwise when we know that all our colleagues around the world – in China, Japan, Thailand, even after leaving Western Europe and North America – are working so hard and productively.

Look at us remaining rather as agitators.

Now the question arises as to whether ours is a land where no character can evolve and no functioning institution can emerge.

Here we may remember the Nobel Economist Elinor Ostrom who defined institutions as “the prescriptions that humans use to organize all forms of repetitive and structured interactions including those within families, neighbourhoods, markets, firms, sports leagues, churches, private associations, and governments at all scales. Individuals interacting within rule-structured situations face choices regarding the actions and strategies they take, leading to consequences for themselves and for others”.

Now the government is an institution to look after our activities and ensure that there is smooth performance by all of all their activities. The part of the government concerned with electricity is also an institution we have created democratically to help us “organize all forms of repetitive and structured interactions including those within families, neighbourhoods, markets, firms, sports leagues, churches, private associations” and global networks. As Elinor says, whatever happens with the performance of this part of the government affect our “choices regarding the actions and strategies

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