Friday, December 2, 2022

Thorny soil

There have been numerous vision documents pertaining to the concept for economic development of Nagaland, riding piggyback on the numerous central schemes which suggest that these are the pathfinders for an economic leap. The economic visions, whether coming from the imagination of those involved or ‘inspired’ by concepts of other states etc; have been tried even several decades back but the results have not been promising enough. This newspaper had commented on several occasions in the past decades, that though Nagaland was formed as the 16th state of the Indian union and the second state in the north east ; its progress has almost slowed down to snail pace. Today states like Manipur and Meghalaya and Tripura which became states a decade or so after Nagaland, have progressed far ahead. Nagaland has been economically grounded because its people and their leaders are still stuck up with the past. Politics is about trying to make some sense of myth and fantasy of the past. That is also one reason why the entitlement syndrome continues to relegate economic realities to the backburner. The onus and focus on MSME launched in 2006 and the highlight on ‘skill development’ during the recent years, have been aped by the state in a significant way. These do not necessary arise out of conviction but mainly by the fact that these schemes are propelled with huge financial packages, supposedly for economic transformation. There are many pre-requisites for economic progress that are essential, if there is any serious intention. It is a known and accepted that the economic progress does not happen by merely preparing a vision document or like believing that an architectural drawing will deliver a house. The essentials for progress are basic such as road, rail and air network besides, adequate and uninterrupted power supply, governance and rule of law. Roads are the arteries through which the economy pulses. By linking producers to markets, workers to jobs, students to school, and the sick to hospitals, roads are vital to any development agenda. Air connectivity provides not only provides rapid worldwide transportation network but also generates economic growth, creates jobs, and facilitates international trade and tourism. Rail connectivity is no less essential for it enables transporting raw materials over long distances (paper, wood, grain, chemicals, metallic products, etc.) and moving passengers and freight (cars, agricultural equipment, etc.). A sufficient and constant supply of electricity is indispensable for the economic development and applies to all areas of a modern economy, beginning with the production sector and including transportation and the service sector all the way down to private households. In Nagaland, the shadows of multiple taxation with threat, syndication of market and benami business compelled by fear besides mushrooming of welfare committees as means for protection are not healthy signs for economic progress. Too many people are finding that operating such activities under the bogus claim providing protection as in Mario Puzo’s famous book ‘ The Godfather’ ; is the most lucrative business that rakes in easy money. This is why only weeds grow and not fruits. It is failure of rule of law and clearly reflecting poor governance by the state government. These are the biggest obstacles to economic progress and under which, no amount of economic vision or central schemes will ever be able to succeed.

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