Levels of Infrastructure

Infrastructure is the support for the main structure of development in physical, social, mental, and psychological forms. It is a part, sometimes subordinate, sometimes that which makes the structure meaningful. It is known as infrastructure as it underlies the main structure. This being a widely known term, we would like to accept it as it is and define it as it is meant among the scholars of development. To go into the origin of the word and make it theoretically precise is not possible, because occasionally the sum total of infrastructures act as the cumulative structure without any structure being there, as in education. The field of education is filled with the physical buildings of schools and colleges, the vital component of students and teachers, the mental part of the school organisation, the syllabus, the lessons, etc. and the psychological values of discipline, pursuit of knowledge, and dedication to learning. All these are physical, vital, mental, and psychological infrastructures of education which when removed leave no structure by itself. We may consider the UGC, the department of education, and the university as the structure at the core and the rest as infrastructure. It may be a matter of convenience, not a principle that can be defined precisely.

Our subject is development of society or social development. It may be proper to define society as the structure and everything which supports society as the infrastructure. By extension we can say the departments of society like economics, education, defence, administration etc. are the structures that hold society together while dozens of infrastructures support the main structures. The imprecision arises from the insufficiency of the language as well as a lack of clear demarcations in the process of development. For the present let us settle for what is available and define it well enough to serve our purpose of presenting our principles in a coherent fashion.

The field of education provides enough examples of what we mean by infrastructure. If it is to be made comprehensive, an example from each of the fields of commerce, defence, administration, social existence, finance, and corporate life should be given.

Infrastructure is needed to make the activity possible. Without a building for the school, or students or teachers there will be no education. Education of children being the activity and children being the vital infrastructure of education, an overlapping of thought occurs adding to the obstacle of creating precise definitions. Education is the process of knowledge transmitted to the children by the teachers. Teachers and children are part of the vital infrastructure. Infrastructure makes the activity possible, is essential for the activity to be completed and is often part of the activity. To think of transport without roads, warfare without communication, administration without rules, schools without a syllabus or timetable is not possible.

The infrastructure is spread out horizontally or arranged in vertical grades or ordered to appear in succession or made to act in unison with another infrastructure or two. They underlie the structure or cumulatively act as the structure. Horizontal, vertical, sequential, and clustered placements of infrastructure are possible. Infrastructure takes the field to a wider area in space, helps extend the activity in time, relates each activity with the other, renders the results possible, delivers the results to the beneficiary, makes the effectivity of the activity greater, and helps expand the field in inherent value.

Four Levels of Infrastructure Explained

We need to distinguish the infrastructure from the component or input. Even here the same confusion sometimes arises since the infrastructure is the component or input itself.

Society has four levels of existence and therefore the infrastructure of its development process also lies on four levels. So also any work exists on the same four levels. Society, work, development and man who develops the society exist at four levels and that is the rationale of infrastructures coming in four levels.

As communities, ideas, and activities relate among themselves often generating unforeseen good, infrastructures too relate among themselves. This is a fertile field of creative development. Libraries are mostly unused in Indian universities. Even in an advanced nation like USA, only 50% of the knowledge generated in the laboratories reaches the field. The interrelation is useful, productive, dynamic, and creative.

Individuals, events, organisations and existence have the same structural composition. The structures rise from below or descend from above. Man, understanding an activity and creating it from his own thought, starts in the mind and provides the vital energy and physical base. In that case the structures of the mental thought create the energy structures of attitudes that rest on the physical basis of work. A new work, new to humanity, starts at the physical level, energises with enthusiasm and finally is capped with an understanding. In either case the structures contain mental ideas, vital attitudes and physical skills. Whether organised or unorganised, individual or collective, the structure is composed of these three components.

It is true infrastructures make the activity possible. Often they are the vehicles of spreading the activity. In commerce, it is the retailers who help complete the cycle of distribution and it is through the retailers the product spreads far and wide. It is not so in the school that serves a similar function.

It is obvious that the physical infrastructure cannot be so energetic as the vital infrastructure. Changes in the higher levels of infrastructure can have greater impact on the process and the result. A school having new buildings will offer greater facilities but will not affect the results of the school. A change for the better in the discipline and dedication of the pupils and teachers will certainly have a commendable effect on the results. In the 50’s population was apathetic but the same population is now dynamic. The changed attitude of the population is an important cause for India’s great dynamic progress now. In the 50’s ports were built, road transport and education were emphasised and a host of other things very desirable in themselves were done, but the country was not astir because they were improvements in the physical infrastructure, while what is witnessed now is a change in the mental and vital infrastructure.

The importance of the infrastructure depends on the importance of the plane in which it is.

It is necessary to draw the distinction between an infrastructure, a system, a component and an input. Land is infrastructure whereas fertiliser is an input; the bunds and boundaries are components of land; the method of cultivation is a system. As we said earlier, there are occasions where a system can function as an infrastructure. A system is an arrangement of work for better execution, serving as a miniature organisation and thus is self-contained. We have the system of distribution in sales, the system of gathering a stock of food grains to build up a buffer stock. The godowns that hold the food grains are the physical infrastructure; the retailers and wholesalers belong to the vital infrastructure. The system is an arrangement based on an idea different from the godowns or the distributors.

Taking the Planning Commission, the Plan, the funds, and the administration that implements the plan, the following will emerge.

Physical infrastructure ð The offices of the various governments that implement the plan.

Vital infrastructure ð The staff members of the govt who administer it.

Mental infrastructure ð The Plan.

Psychological infrastructure ð Administrative efficiency, priority drive, etc.

Funds and statistical data ð Input.

Systems ð The idea of National Extension Service, community development, etc.

At each level the results have determinants. The physical level’s efficiency is determined by the funds available. The determinant of the vital level is the discipline the society has in general. Education and information determine the efficacy of the mental infrastructure. The cultural heights of the society determine the psychological infrastructures.

Funds determining the size and quality of the buildings is a known fact. Punctuality in the West is an article of faith whereas with us punctuality is a known concept, but not so well known as a practised concept. Whether it is sports or a national function or election or school, the general level of social adherence to punctuality is a determinant of their efficiency. The final results of a Planning Commission or Panchayat administration are determined by the educational attainments of that society.

Development is a whole of which infrastructures are a part. Their interdependence is inherent. As is the infrastructure, so is the development. As the part decides the whole, the whole decides the part. A very efficient, high level tourist hotel serving as an infrastructure of tourism in a backward country whose general development is low cannot flourish. The country’s stage of development determines the success of the hotel.

There are times when a part outshines the whole, especially when new-fangled methods are introduced. The introduction of computers in offices now puts the existence of the entire office in the shade. People forget that, after all, computers are only office machines.

The distinction between essential and non-essential components based on their determining value of the final result applies to this also.

Infrastructures are only parts, but occasionally by their inherent value or their value to the final outcome they become as important as the whole or outshine the whole. A cultural event in a conference by its inherent value behaves like that. Modern machines in a factory have the character of making the people forget the company and mistake the new machines for the whole of the company. Especially in the days when machines were invented, the character of those machines carried this stamp. Ford’s assembly line became very important and dominated the entire industry for a decade and we all easily forgot that it is one part by itself of a great whole.

Measurement of Infrastructure by Itself and in Terms of the Whole

Measuring is numerical understanding. All progress has as its foundation energy and understanding. Work done by energy and understanding leads to progress, because progress is change for the better. If we examine the point of history at which measurement arose, it will reveal itself as a point of progress. Measurement is there in a variety of fields, maybe in every field. Primarily, it is a measure of numbers. Areas, volumes and weights are also measured. Quality also lends itself to measurement. Often the quality of a thing can be reduced to a number and measured like the body temperature and blood pressure. Measurement presupposes a scale of measurement and often a device for the purpose. At bottom, measurement is a kind of organisation. Therefore, it is an instrument of conception and further, an instrument of progress.

Measurement starts with length, area, weight, quantity, size, extent, duration, number, amount and extends to all conceivable things. The science of statistics has these measurements as one of its bases. Imagine if today such measurements are no longer there or are not possible, all scientific studies and work based on them will come to a halt. Roads are measured in length and graded in quality. Population is a head count and permits its own classification. Money goes with number and number is the domain proper for money. Literacy too has its levels and numbers at each level. Natural resources like coal, oil, metals, water, forest wealth and a host of other things lend themselves to measurement of deposits or quantity when converted into refined end products, and even the period over which they will be available before coming to a point of exhaustion. The length of rivers has been measured over the ages. The quantity of flow over the differing seasons, its depth and breadth are measured too. Measurement has become a science by itself. The amount of oxygen consumed by a brain cell as well as the amount of time required for a rocket to go to the moon and return are within the reach of measurement. Alongside, measuring devices refining their previous capacity have made themselves available in the hundreds and thousands. In an age of computer, measurement rules high.

Numerical representation of time, space, volume, quantity, quality, design, and property is one of the first steps in fully grasping the entire process of development finally. The Indian development effort so far has not lent itself to such a measurement. The country's development can take further great strides if that one thing is accomplished. In a country like India where personal progress does not mainly issue out of the individual's effort, his own income is an insufficient index of his development. As the government exerts itself more in the domain of public welfare which results in individual betterment, existing statistics cannot and do not fully reflect the true state of affairs. Fresh thought must go into it and fresh scales must evolve before the development effort can have a measurable basis, if not a scientific foundation. This is true all over the world in a variety of ways. The per capita income does serve as a good measurement of the individual's economic status. This was precisely so till the components of individual progress were such that they could be measured in terms of their monetary value.

Human attitudes, and much more so, human opinions are greater determinants of one's development than human resources measurable in terms of money. Further lie values. They do not have so much relevance now as we conceive of development only as material objects and their availability. It is not an easy task. But a far better measuring scale can be evolved than is available at present in the world, if development is defined in all the terms that it comprises of and every component that goes into it is listed without fail. Fifty years ago one's development of landed property and its income entirely depended on one's own resources which meant that until he came to that point of qualifying, he could not move. And it was a crucial point in one's life. Today the lending policy of public institutions goes out of its way to bring the whole population into its net of support. It does make an enormous difference when we set about measuring one's development. Measurement is a science by itself.

A part of any system is the registers. We know cases where systems were introduced at the top level and work at the bottom remained where it was. The introduction of systems requires several graded steps of implementation, of which maintenance of registers is an essential part. After the large-scale introduction of computers, we witness dozens of cases of computer systems inoperative for want of data being put in. No system can yield its expected results if the registers are not filled in regularly.

Drucker's forecast fell on deaf ears except for two clients whose marked progress made everyone open their eyes. Numbers, measurements, relating them to numbers in other areas, projecting them according to a pattern have now come to stay as a part of planning.

Life has several departments. Its departments are powerfully related to one another. Some relationships are on the surface for all to see as the amount of liquor consumed and crimes committed. Many are not there on the surface, such as the level of employable skills that are determined by education. It took a World Bank study to discover that in agriculture even primary education has a good indirect effect. How can we see that there exists a relationship between consumption of sugar and the spread of media. When each of these fields is reduced to numbers, someone can examine if numbers in two columns bear any relationship at all and when they do whether it is sustained.

Development in any field can be seen fully reflected in numbers. It can also be seen that numbers -- quantifying -- have made further development in these fields possible. The field of medical science is one instance. A man's health is measured in terms of temperature, blood pressure, level of hemoglobin and a dozen other classifications, all in numbers.

In the absence of measurement, we have to use grades like small, medium, or big in describing the audience of a speaker. 20, 200, and 25,000 if described as small, medium and big will fit very well, but will not be explanatory to the listener, since 2000 and 25,000 come under the category of big as against 20 and 200. Measurement makes precise what is otherwise vague.

Measurements are numerical, unidimensional, multidimensional and can extend to areas, volumes, duration, and extension. Anything can be measured if appropriate conceptions are developed and are reduced to figurative representation. Measurement is a means where quantity reveals quality just as quality changes as quantity differs. Whether in learning or earning, as the quantity rises, the quality of the person does change.

Measurement has a maximum use value which often leads to a very precise understanding of the situation. As the normal sugar level is 130, when we measure a person's sugar level as 462, it sends a precise message to the doctor of how the treatment should be given. At its lowest, measurement shows a trend, a direction, if not more.

Absolute measurement reveals the quantitative extent of a part. It can be seen relatively as the measurement of the whole since the part, often, is a determinant of the whole.

The percentage of literacy or graduates in a population can indirectly determine the wealth of the country and can even say whether it is a dictatorship or democracy.

To make a part a symbol of the whole is a very effective way of measurement and issues from a comprehensive knowledge.

To measure the part by the whole is not always possible. When it is possible, the knowledge always becomes integral.

Distinction between Institution and Organisation

Learning is a process that begins with the mind and ends in the body travelling through the vital. It is always the mind that learns, at best the mind in each part of the body. There is a mental part in the vital and a mental part in the physical. The process of learning goes through several stages. We can locate at least three stages of it. The three stages can be described as skill, capacity and talent. Any activity is first learnt as a skill. When the skill fully matures, it becomes capacity. In fact, the learning of several skills leaves a residual essence in man which becomes capacity and shows behind an individual skill as capacity. Skill reinforced by capacity becomes a talent in the area of that skill.

Organisation is the skill of a society while Institution is the capacity of the same collectivity. Rising still further, when a society reaches the level of talent with respect to that organisation, the Institution matures into the tradition of that society. We call it culture. This happens when the social acceptance is total.

An organisation has to be maintained by external human agencies. They could even be social agencies. As systems are called the skills of organisation, organisation is the skill of a society. An institution is self-existent, as no one operates it. It functions by itself. That is why it is said "institutionalise values" so that values will be self-operative.

An organisation such as an office functions through systems and individuals appointed by a central authority and it is run by rules. We cannot think of an office without an officer, staff, rules, etc. But we know that festivals and religious functions like Krishna Jayanthi are not organised by anyone. People celebrate these festivals themselves. Surely when Krishna Jayanthi was instituted, there was an organisation monitoring it. It is no longer so. Customs and usages have taken over. Individuals honour those customs. There is no central authority here. The central authority is replaced by the social tradition. The weight of people’s belief constitutes the social tradition.

As values are spiritual or psychological skills, we may say an institution is the system of social tradition run by the weight of beliefs. An organisation is more physical and material whereas an institution is more invisible, intangible, and psychological.

Social habits start physically and mature into psychological responses. Arranged marriages giving place to love marriages is an instance. Religious worship in its early days began as an organised activity of the community. Later the individual followed it without the society having to monitor it.

An organisation exists by the work of men; an institution exists by the beliefs of the society. At the time of organising a human settlement -- a village, cleaning the streets was organised by the village and enforced. As time passed, every household took upon themselves the job of cleaning the streets before their houses.

It is not as if organisations and institutions are two different sets of entities. They go together, organisation forming the foundation and institutions existing at their top. Organisational charts are the heart of an organisation. No such chart can be drawn for institutions.

An administration can introduce an organisation, not an institution. We can think of the government starting a school in a town. Can we imagine someone introducing good manners or punctuality?

The best example of an institution is society while government is an organisation. As organisations mature into institutions, institutions can give birth to organisation at the next higher level. The world does not give thought to this potentiality or phenomenon. Society which is an institution gave birth to government which is an organisation. The government through its existence has given rise to a host of social behaviours as in traffic rules, tax payment, law abiding habits, etc. The existence of the police department generates good behaviour in the population. Religion is an institution. How many organisations like the church it has generated. The capacity of each institution to generate organisations at the next higher level is a potential power of development.

Work is organised; values are institutionalised. When organisations lose life or energy, they become rigid. Institutions in similar situations do not become rigid but their traditions get more entrenched.

Organisation - institutions - organism - social vibration of culture are the stages of development.

Errors relating to Infrastructure Coming to Stay as Permanent Obstacles

Excavations in mines create deep holes and they continue to remain as holes. If life must resume there, these holes will make it impossible. People who served in the active services retain to the end the discipline the army has given them. Habits once acquired die hard. We often hear "Once a soldier, a soldier forever." This is true not only of positive endowments, but also of errors. Errors relating to infrastructure have a way of coming to stay forever. They turn into obstacles and remain as obstacles.

Any instrument of civilisation, government, society, family or individual which was once created as a help, turns in the next phase into an obstacle. This the history of change and progress. The procedures the government of India created originally as instruments of progress and change settled down in history as red tape. They have have prevented retired IAS officers, chief engineers, and sitting governors from receiving their pensions before three or four years! The most classic example is the Englishman coming from cold UK to hot South India who found the necessity to be dressed in a shirt, suit, necktie and hat. This was a dress necessary at a temperature of 10° F and not at 104° F. He could not bring himself to think that he could work as an officer without wearing those woollen clothes.

Under ideal conditions, all instruments of progress must undergo the appropriate changes when the basic society that created the instruments of progress is changing. Neither life nor society functions like that. In practice, instruments once created perpetuate themselves. The greenbench is a classical example. The sacred thread of the Brahmin, the tuft and all the household rituals created once to meet the requirements of the day survived the passing centuries and changing customs. It is said the dog that sleeps on a mat goes round three times before he lies down. This is a habit the dog acquired in the forest to clear the sleeping space, but it still lingers.

The human being exists in his body, by his nervous emotions and in his mind. Organisations have their counterparts. The rules laid down by the mind are different from the emotional enthusiasm with which the members work. The registers they keep are the physical part while the rules are their mental creations. Of these three things, the physical part of the organisation resists change the most, the mental rules the least. The organisations that were collecting fees in the shape of currency will not readily accept if the currency notes are replaced by cheques. It demands a change in their physical habit and the office will refuse to accept the new form of cash. Even when the physical forms part of the mental rule, it will have a way of being rigid.

In Pondicherry in the French judicial system, cases were presented by the lawyers in written form, not in the spoken form as in the British system. The French system almost made the courts silent dispensing with 95% of the spoken part of the case. After the merger, the Union Territory took to the British system. The most efficient lawyers in the previous system found themselves inefficient under the new system which eased them out. After all, we may say, what is the difficulty for the lawyer who previously wrote down the case in speaking it out to the judge? The physical habit refuses to change, even as auditors stuck to their adding habits after the arrival of the calculator.

Our idea of progress is vertical growth; but life admits of horizontal expansion that needs no psychological effort. The physical being incapable of psychological effort prefers not to change. Cooks who were used to firewood ovens shunned the gas ones when the change was coming about. At the turn of the century when the Indian took to wearing the shirt in place of his towel, he could not part with the towel and added it on to the shirt. Even over the coat he put on his towel. He could not part with it. Neither the British crown nor the Indian Rashtrapathi switched over to the motorcade from the cavalcade. It goes in the name of tradition. Truly it is not tradition that resists, but the physical habit. It is an error in the infrastructure in one form or another. The itinerary of the Prime Minister is not under his control but under the officer in charge of bandobust. When Nehru defied this protocol to go to Conjeevaram instead of Madras, the Collector stopped him on his way and requested him to go back which Nehru, true to his mettle, refused to do!

For social progress to be real, the old order should yield place to the new. That which yields place does not disappear but changes into an obstacle. The new cola was refused by the customers. Presently religious fundamentalists all over the world are a standing example of this principle.

Democracy grew out of monarchy where the king was worshipped as the divine representative. His word was law, his wish was authority. Democracy outgrew monarchy, eschewed the theory of divine right. That is social evolution. The leader was elected. Having elected the leader, those who had elected him treated him as the uncrowned king. Instead of asking him to represent their wishes, they echoed his will, worshipped him, adored him, obeyed him as if he were king. The errors of the earlier system they had revolted against were made into tradition and revered.

The Negro was the slave. He was granted freedom a hundred years ago. His freedom remained on the statute book. He retained the slavish mentality in one form or another. Instead of slaving for the master, he became the slave of his lower propensities such as laziness and dissipation. A few centuries have not given him any commendable progress.

In the earlier decades the farmer was fond of dumping his fields with cow dung and garbage. Later concentrated fertiliser replaced cow dung. Today he continues to retain the tendency of dumping the fields with fertiliser. The land soon becomes uncultivable.

The Vedas were esoteric doctrines. No one knew their meaning. People were asked to memorise the text. The Brahmin hails from the tradition. Now he does not read the Vedas but reads astrophysics and organic chemistry. He needs to understand them, but continues to memorise them. Radhakrishnan memorised his own speeches. V.S. Srinivasa Sastri memorised the dictionary! Memorisation remains, and remains an obstacle. It prevented Radhakrishnan from thinking. He could not bloom into a thinker because he could not outgrow the tendency to memorise whatever he read.

India ushered in development banking. The purpose was to create assets in the clients who were without assets. Banking is a field of money lending. They asked the clients for security. Programmes that are development-oriented are being implemented by an attitude that is security-oriented.

When life was physical, disputes were settled by physical fights in a duel or street brawl. Rationality evolved discussion and created Parliament as its crowning body. The street brawl lingers in the Parliament. IMF is the apex body of development banks. Its founding principle is to help create the ability to earn money. It is trying to implement that policy by money value which has become an anachronism. USSR which banned the Communist party and abolished state tyranny is now implementing democracy as dictatorship. A small businessman who prospered by thrift and secrecy is unable to part with them even after becoming the chairman of a Public Limited Company. Late arrival, a habit developed when one travelled in his own cart, is carried into air travel. Flights are missed as a result.

Feudal habits are retained in modern business ruining them. The greatest obstacles to development today are the errors that related to infrastructures in earlier times.