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Building infrastructure for economic development of Mizoram

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Isak Lalmuanpuia ChuaungoInfrastructure is fundamental to development. It is not only essential for providing basic facilities and services to the public but is the enabler, facilitator and accelerator of productive economic growth – so much so that the level of development of a country or a region is defined by the standard of infrastructural assets operating in that region. The New Economic Development Policy (NEDP) of the Government of Mizoram gives due stress to development of infrastructure in the State, duly noting that Mizoram is lagging behind in this area.

The present infrastructure scenario is unfortunate since the Human Development indicators for the State, although not satisfactory, is credible especially when viewed in comparison to the majority of the States in India. Mizoram is already experiencing one of the fastest growths in economy in the country; with infrastructure of adequate quantity and quality Mizoram could catapult itself into the most developed small State of India. For this reason, infrastructure development is one of the eight core Strategies enshrined in the NEDP.

Of primary importance is the development and consolidation of the social overhead capitals of power, transport and communication. These are also the very sectors which are the most underdeveloped in Mizoram. Out of the cumulative figure of Rs 2,000 crores (for the three years since the implementation of NEDP i.e. 2016 to 2018) set aside by the State Government for the implementation of NEDP up till now, about 85 per cent was provisioned for infrastructure development.

For addressing the infrastructural needs for transport and communication, NEDP includes schemes such as ‘Construction / Improvement of Critical Developmental Roads’, ‘Improvement of Connectivity between villages, towns and city’, ‘Improvement of Internal Roads within towns and city’, ‘Improvement of Internet/ Digital Connectivity’, etc.

Under the Policy initiative, all the district headquarters have been connected using the Wireless technology. Further, work is underway to connect all the Government department in Aizawl City using the Gigabit-Passive Optical Network (G-PON) in which all the department will have access to reliable, secure and faster internet connectivity.

With a massive trend of rural to urban migration, the capital city of Aizawl is now home to almost one-fourth of the total population of Mizoram. As this urbanisation has been organic in nature, it has necessitated measures to combat urban congestion on one hand and to assuage the severe strain on civic infrastructure like water supply, sewerage and drainage, solid waste management, etc. on the other.

The ‘Aizawl City Junction Improvement’ is one initiative to relieve the traffic congestion situation in the City. Another importance component of NEDP is the construction of all weather Agricultural Link Roads. As arable lands in Mizoram are located at a distance away from settlements which are difficult to access due to difficult terrain and undergrowth, these link roads are essential for transport to and from the agriculture areas and improve the connectivity to markets even during the rainy season.

Water supply, sewage and sanitation, solid waste and septage requirements are being actively addressed through the State Investment Programme Management and Implementation Unit in tandem with Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation and Public Health Engineering Departments of the State. NEDP considers energy security sine qua non of any development strategy and lays down actionable points on these fronts:

(i) increase in power generation to harness hydropower and solar power potentials,

(ii) rationalising energy pricing to ensure consumption

efficiency,

(iii) reduction of Transmission and Distribution (T&D) loss as Mizoram is one of the highest in T&D loss and;

(iv) reforms in power sector management including unbundling i.e. separation of the core business units of generation, transmission and distribution into legally and operationally distinct and independent entities.

The untapped 4,500 MW of hydro electric power potential, if successfully harnessed, is sufficient to meet the local requirement for domestic and industrial energy and leave surpluses besides. The Hydro Electric Power Policy of Mizoram, 2010 is already in place too.

However, due to the massive investment required for even a mini hydel project, the State is heavily reliant upon outside sources of funding. Under NEDP, therefore, initial focus is being given to solar power generation. The Vankal Solar Park is under construction, and it is proposed to set up mini-grid SPV power plant at numerous villages in Mizoram.

Now, while economic infrastructures development is essential in creating an enabling environment for economic growth, social progress and public welfare is not really possible without the enhancement of social infrastructures such as hospitals, schools, colleges, technical institutions etc. For this reason, capital asset formation in the social sector is also high on the list of priorities under NEDP.

The Government is committed to building a state of the art tertiary referral centre where specialist care may be provided for critical patients. As such, much progress has been made for the completion of the State Referral Hospital at Falkawn. NEDP also provided for adequately equipping every district civil hospitals, for instance, by funding purchase essential medical equipments such as CT Scan machines etc. This will not only relieve the pressure on the medical centres in Aizawl but patients will also avail the convenience of undergoing reliable medical checkup and receiving proper treatment at a minimal distance.

Adequate funding is also provided for improvement of school as well as higher and technical education facilities. There are also other major infrastructure projects in the pipeline like the Chief Minister’s Rural Housing Scheme, Innovation Facility Centre, Robotic Multi-level Car Parking, Mizoram Convention Centre, Aizawl City Centre, Agriculture Growth Centre etc. A complementary and more costeffective approach to infrastructure development, as laid down in the NEDP policy document, is to improve the utilisation, efficiency and longevity of the existing infrastructure stock.

Therefore, NEPD lays great stress on the need to execute the optimal Operation and Maintenance (O&M) policy for deriving maximum utility from public infrastructure. Due to a long rainy season, the depreciation caused by the natural elements will be countered by not only ensuring that there is stable and sufficient funding for O&M, but also by building up institutional and individual capabilities and by reforming governance on matters relating to this issue.

The next step in infrastructure development is the encouragement of private participation in the creation of public utilities. As highlighted in the NEDP policy document, the ability of the Government to bear hidden subsidies in the low-cost public sector supply of infrastructure services is severely limited.

Although the Government will continue to play a dominant role, a business approach to infrastructure services provision needs to be adopted to encourage private players to enter sectors like power plants, roads, bridges, social housing, and industrial estates on reasonable terms. Mizoram, through NEDP, has embarked on a fast paced and focused development path wherein projects and programmes are handpicked to strengthen the economy, employ sectoral inter-linkages, are high impact economic activity, and which perpetuate a growth-friendly regulatory environment and improve the ease of doing business in the State.

The Chief Minister of Mizoram further went on record to State that utmost care is being taken so that development initiatives under it are holistic and inclusive which will be accommodative of the culture, tradition and lifestyle of the Mizo people and be in conformity with the natural endowments of the land. All these hinges on the providence of core infrastructures by the Government and wherever else there is market failure. For this reason, a considerable amount of the State’s resources is channeled towards this goal.

(Views espressed in this article are of Isak Lalmuanpuia Chuaungo, Research Officer, Planning & Programme Implementation Department, Government of Mizoram)

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