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Friday, January 19, 2018

Planning growth 

Saturday, 17 June 2017 11:22
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We all know that cities and towns are primarily economic nerve centres that act as indispensable pegs for economic, cultural and infrastructural development. Cities across the world and nearer to home, across the country, have benefited greatly from dynamic town planning that takes into account both the residential and economic needs of an urban population. Environmental concerns are weighed at every stage and the ecology safeguarded against any new spurt of development. Unfortunately Dimapur has suffered an enormous setback over the last few decades for want of such a conservation-development balance that, while ensuring the city is not engulfed by shoddy, chaotic structures - ensures with equal importance that there is well-planned and adequate space for commercial activities. Here it must be mentioned that there are certain fears and phobias that are unique to small towns and cities. And one such phobia is that any development or commercial growth would destroy the city, ruining its ecology and peace. Another perception is that any drastic phase of economic growth is either financed from ill-gotten "new-money" or has a certain power to wreak havoc with a city's appearance. But we need to be reasonable, and introspective. Considering our population, we have one of the biggest government workforce in the country. And we cannot pay for it. Being the only major job-provider in the state, the government has been over-burdened into a planning paralysis as every penny it earns in revenue is used to pay the colossal salary and wage bill. This sort of employment is 'economically diabolical' for the welfare of the State. We cannot afford more government jobs - that's an undisputable fact. However, we have another white elephant in the room - our growing unemployment. So, how can we possibly make a dent and reduce our unemployment percentage if government jobs are out of the question, or at least should be out of the question? The answer lies in the private sector - small size and midsize if not the MNC size to start with. More shopping complexes, more hotels, restaurants, industries, apartment complexes and office spaces would invariably lead to more jobs - jobs that are not a burden on the state budget - productive jobs! But how will a private sector grow in a city where there is a conspicuous dearth of commercial and industrial space? Perhaps, the government - rather than indulging in activities that are traditionally best suited and best served for and by the private sector, should opt out of such activities and encourage private sector players to undertake such development. This would take care of the infrastructural deficiency as well as producing more jobs that are not a burden on the state government and eventually the taxpayers. In recent years, Dimapur and Kohima have witnessed an acute dearth of hotel rooms during peak tourism months, particularly in the month of December. It is no secret that most of the hotels that have cropped up in Dimapur/Kohima in the last two decades, have come up in violation of one or the other regulations that have been enforced by the relevant departments. There are numerous other arguments that one can put forth for a business-friendly, pro-economy master plan. That said, one is also conscious of the need to ensure that all such growth is planned and proportionate to the ecological and environmental constraints. The authorities and the policy makers would be well advised to consider the example of Chandigarh - India's only scientifically planned city of its stature. Every sector has its corresponding residential and commercial spaces. There are two industrial areas and the city is being proactively expanded both horizontally and vertically. And it looks more planned and organized than ever before. Indeed planned growth does not necessarily mean no growth.

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