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Traffic Jam Reflects State’s ‘Inconsiderate Policy’

If we are to believe that ‘for every action there is equal and opposite reaction’, then ENPO’s demand for a separate State in Nagaland and United Naga Council’s demand for an ‘alternative arrangement’ in Manipur, could be well applied to it. Such demand is due to centralized State where power and developments are concentrated within a few towns and cities. This makes people living in the periphery feel neglected and discriminated by the State. Hence traffic congestion and ENPO’s & UNC’s demand, I believe, stem out from the same root: ‘inconsiderate’ policy of the State Government. These two problems are intrinsically connected which must be solved simultaneously. The reality here is that, two divergent worlds were created by the centralized State within the same State/nation. When one part of the State is enjoying electricity for 20 – 24 hours a day, one part of the State receives electricity alternate days/weeks or no electricity at all. When one part of the State is facing travelling problem because of crowded vehicles, other part of the State is facing travelling problem because of no vehicles. When one part of the State is talking about four lanes and ring road, the other part of the State lacks village approach road. When one part of the State flushes its toilets with huge amount of water unmindfully, one part of the State has no safe water supply for drinking. When people in one part of the State eat meat & fish every day, people on one part of the State eat meat once a week/month. When one part of the State has filled their cupboards and almirahs with surplus and decorative utensils and clothing, the other part of the State has no extra pots to cook, plates to eat and cloths to fully cover their body. When one part of the State enjoys their life without toiling in the field even for one day, one part of the State works with sweat and tears throughout the year. When one part of the State talks about upgrading educational and health institutions with modern infrastructures, the other part has no school or hospital. When one part of the State is worried about the high rise building, one part of the State has no safe shelter. When people on one part of the State suffer from overeating, people on one part of the State suffer malnutrition and deformity due to hunger. When some tribes are heavily employed in Government services, some tribes are scantily employed. The story still goes on and on and on….. Therefore, to me, it appears that ENPO’s and UNC‘s demand for a separate State/arrangement is a reaction to traffic jam in Capital Kohima and Imphal.

Traffic jam is a malady that affects people of all walks of life passing through Kohima. Possibly it takes shorter time to reach Mao from Kohima than crossing Kohima town sometimes. Such is the severity of vehicles congestion that many people have put up their brainy suggestions in local Dailies to heal the ‘sick’ policy of State Government. Construction of more flyover roads in Dimapur/Imphal and possibly in Kohima is one of the suggestions that stand tall in the Government’s eye in solving traffic malady. Another suggestion put forth is constructing ring-road around Kohima town so that heavy goods vehicles can be diverted from the main town. The other suggestion is to bifurcate traffic management from the police department. Another suggestion is to arrange proper parking places and if necessary impose ‘parking tax’ to discourage unnecessary parking of vehicles in the main town. A recent article in local Daily talked about the State’s plan of introducing a ropeway to the Capital so as to ease traffic jam. Building quarters towards the Secretariat is another solution put forth as traffic jam is mainly caused by vehicles heading towards New Secretariat. There is also talk of introducing public transport (State owned Buses) to ply in the city. Indiscipline of parking vehicles and the habit of drivers trying to take over each other is also found to be in wanting in this chaotic traffic jam. Quick fix measures are not enough; long term solutions have to be worked out through radical changes in policy making especially towards development.

Many of the said suggestions are likely to cause more problem than solving it in the long run as they fall within the dominant development paradigm. This demands that we look traffic jam from wider perspective. Many people in the world are made to suffer today because the State wanted to turn their cities into Singapore, Shanghais and Switzerland. Instead of developing the periphery areas, the State concentrates its developmental works only in few cities and towns.

The State borrow Crores of rupees from international banks and finance agencies such as Asian Development Bank, World Bank, IMF, etc for urban and road development. Financial feasibility must be taken into account before taking up any project and developmental works. To borrow is easy but to pay back is not. In Madurai, town municipal authority borrowed Rs. 29 Crores and constructed ring-road around the town. The toll tax collected through this road is just enough to pay interest and not the principal money. Not only this kind of development incurs debts but such development like flyovers, ring-roads and ropeways will certainly attract more people to towns and cities. For instance, if we construct ring-road in Kohima, then many villagers will come and settle along the road side. Leave aside huge amount of power consumption, if the dream of introducing ropeway is successful and connected to all important routes in the entire town, then many people from different parts of the State or even from outside would flock in to see and experience its joyride.  Human beings are like flies/butterflies that gather in the light-bulb during summer nights. They are always attracted by development. Hence, more developments mean more people. More people mean more vehicles. More vehicles mean traffic congestion. If we develop more Kohima and Imphal, more people will certainly come there for various reasons. This made clear that problem of traffic jam can be solved only through radical changes in Government policy towards development.

To my understanding, there is only one way to solve the problem of traffic jam in Kohima: Disperse people from its Capital town. This can be done through:-

1. Dispersing various developmental works and administrative offices to all district headquarters and sub-divisions so as to enable villagers to connect them

2. People here prefer to stay in villages as they are well connected to other parts of the world through modern means of communication.

3. Proper market infrastructures have to be constructed in all the district headquarters and small towns. This will enable the farmers to sell their produce at handsome price in their own place. It is a shameful thing to see in capital Kohima where every now and then, vegetables vendors (who are mostly poor sisters and mothers) being chased away from the pavements. Whereas there is enough space for parking vehicles, there is not enough space for these women to earn their daily food. Is it not Christianity all about love and caring of the downtrodden and poor people?

4. Good roads must be connected to all villages. Safe drinking water supply and electricity should be provided to all villages like they are available in towns and cities.

5. Various welfare schemes and entitlements such as PDS, NREGA(S), old age pension, etc. must reach the villagers.  This calls for iron hand to deal with corruption.

In short, what is available in Kohima and Imphal, must be also made available in innermost parts of the State. This will arrest migration of villagers to towns. Look at our society. Younger generations are attracted towards town and cities because of developments and modern infrastructures. They do not want to live in village anymore. The responsibility of working in the fields and forests (agricultural work) thus is becoming the sole burden of old men and women.  If younger generation migrated to towns, agriculture will collapse. Once the villagers were dislocated and migrated to towns and cities, they lose their culture. This leads to ‘cultural crises. The State must take concrete measures to save our society before it is too late.

Development has to disperse to all the parts of the state. This is in a way dividing various crimes that are likely to be committed in a big cities or towns to various blocks and villages. We may call this ‘decentralization of crime’ where each crime committed will be solved at village or block level.  More people mean more crimes.  What is happening in Dimapur/Imphal is an eye opener for all of us: prostitution, drug peddlers and abusers, murders, black market, extortion, etc. What has happened to Sodom and Gomorrah is happening in our state today. The State, instead of spending crores of rupees in ‘modernizing’ police force to tackle all these problems, may think of developing the periphery areas with those money so that such crime do not take place at all. There is no question of lack of fund for development in all parts of the state as Nagaland/Manipur is getting more money than many big States in India. Corruption among the elite groups and random implementation of ‘developmental project’ is causing misery to thousands of our people today.

Our State is unique and so is our problem. I cannot understand why our ministers often go abroad (spend huge amount of money) to learn ‘something new’ which is quite contrary to our life setting. They try to impose this ‘new learning’ on our society without knowing its consequences. Instead of learning from others and trying to teach our people, it is far better to start something new in our own context. Communitization Program in Nagaland is appreciated by many people outside the state. Many of the problems faced today can be solved through revival and improvement of our traditional practices of agriculture, communitarian life, sharing, helping one another and broad-based participation in decision-making process.

Tribal people will not be able to live in big cities and towns. Since time immemorial, they were accustomed to village life – which formed their political and social unit. Each village was independent and sovereign and their lives revolved around it. In this setting, decentralization or village-ization of development is essential. Gandhiji’s ideology of gramsawraj is very relevant for the development of Naga society. Small is beautiful. Human beings are small. Our foreparents never think for big things. We cannot manage to handle big ‘development’ and ‘projects’. If we try to do so, we will end up like the builders of the Tower of Babel. Prevention is better than cure.

Perhaps, now may be the right time to ask: ‘Development’ for what and for whom?  Will this ‘development’ serve the interest of the rich or the poor; the urban dwellers or the rural dwellers? Will this ‘development’ create problem or will it a part of solution in the long run? Will this ‘development’ cause social tension (which is the case of ENPO and UNC) or will it bring unity and integration? I believe, proper development (both human and infrastructures) in all parts of the state will solve many problems and bring in social cohesion and harmony in the long run. Nothing short of this, will solve traffic jam in Kohima and Imphal and its resultant problems.

*The article is written by ZK Pahrü Pou

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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