Post Mortem

Constraints to Nagaland’s economic development

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 12/15/2020 12:17:13 PM IST

 Nagaland's economy at present is marked by stagnancy reflected in poor infrastructure, high migrationto other states for employment, high unemployment, and low investment in productive assets. The state administration while forming only around 11% of Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) serve as the primary means of circulation of state's GSDP. Salaries paid for govt employees serve as income to the private school and college teacher, shopkeeper, construction worker and so on. This dependence on the govt is unsustainable in the long run since the state govt is in turn disproportionately dependent on the central govt. Actual production of goods and services exchanged in the market need to take place for this dependence to stop. What is prevalent now is a large majority of people simply managing to make ends meet one way or the other. In the medium to long term, the state faces many institutional constraints which impede its economic development. The constraints have no easy solution.

Viewing the problem through political development: A state, according to the German sociologist, Max Weber, is a polity that maintains a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. A modern state, irrespective of its level of economic development, is characterised by a well-developed bureaucracy based on specialised rational legal functions. The concern or unit of such a state is the individual. At least in theory, India, and by extension Nagaland, is such a state. "We see the couple as individuals, not Hindus or Muslims" said a recent High Court ruling.

There are many competing powers to the state's authority in Nagaland - nationalist groups, tribal groups, villages, clans and even khels. "We will not be held responsible for the course of action" is a refrain one sees often in the local newspapers. Justice, even at present, is more akin to geopolitics, with no authority to independently enforce rules. A state bureaucrat is careful while carrying out the wreath of the state lest it offend clan, village, or tribal loyalties. Nationalist groups, while no doubt very powerful, functions within the constraints of tribal acceptance or rejection. The same can be said about other group identities by which a Naga is identified. These competing interests in a certain sense provide a semblance of rule of law, in the sense that no one can assert absolute authority. From the vintage of a liberal democratic state, however it presents a weak state. It ought to be emphasised here that liberal democracy doesn't mean a weak state, it, on the hand, implies a powerful state constrained by division of power, checks and balances and rule of law. As the current CNN host and political commentator, Fareed Zakaria, puts it, "to distribute power, you first need to have power". Our state is so weak that it is easily held to ransom and cannot enforce its wreath.

Put it another way, the state has failed to secure the lives and property of the stakeholders. It is true that there is no anarchy of the type we see in present-day Afghanistan or Somalia but the lack of security is prohibitive enough to discourage investment in the state, especially outside investors who are critical for developing specialised skills among local professionals through observation and collaboration.

Societies, viewed through political development, developed from band level societies to settled agriculture, further to tribes and then to states. Each stage was more complex and more powerful than the previous one. A society had to evolve to the next stage simply to survive as it faced threats of violence.

Much has been made of the fact that Naga society is communitarian with loyalties to different groups. Viewed, however, from a perspective of political development, one cannot help but notice how it is more of an expression of a certain stage towards political maturity, namely a modern state. This is not to say that tribes, villages and clans are becoming irrelevant or will become irrelevant. Such identity groups, if not for anything than instrumental reasons, can be strengthened. What is obvious, however, is that there is a conflict between the demands of a modern state and the way Naga society is organised. These conflicts have no easy solution.

The excess of government employees in the state presents a good example. Following communitarian norms to help the needy, accompanied by a weak state, government posts have been created where no such need exist. Nagaland's case here is similar to recent Greece governments where each succeeding government that came to power kept appointing new government employees based on familial lines leading to an excess of employees, eventually leading to the debt problem. The simple solution in our case would be to stop employment where not needed except that the next political party or leader in the community would accuse the current one and promise to provide government jobs to its supporters.

Land ownership in the form of community ownership presents another formidable problem, both present and future. Community ownership is accompanied by the problem of commons -

underinvestment in the property accompanied with over-exploitation of resources. It also has the problem of identification of ownership for any transaction to take place i.e. who does a company negotiate with to buy a plot of land to set up an industrial park? What happens when a poor man wants to sell or lease his plot of land or spring of water but the clan or village refuses to do so? Who is the owner of this plot of land, the person who sold it to me or his brother who is disputing him? etc. Going forward, as and when a satisfactory political solution leading to the laying down of arms is achieved, a strong tribal, village or even clan group will serve as a challenge to the authority of the state. An emergence of an educated civil society however, while appearing to limit state's authority, will strengthen it. For example, a Naga Mothers' Association, a civil society, which calls for implementation

of 33% reservation, will strengthen the power of the state against tribal hohos fighting against such a reservation.

A process of education by which the virtues of liberal democracy are espoused has to be carried out. Communitarian ethos of caring for one another has to be encouraged but not at the price of illegitimate actions.

Chothazo Nienu, Hyderabad

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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