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003. 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  »  The offices of the various governments that implement the plan.

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

Mental infrastructure  »  The Plan.

Psychological infrastructure  »  Administrative efficiency, priority drive, etc.

Funds and statistical data  »  Input.

Systems  »  The idea of National Extension Service, Community developement, 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.

story | by Dr. Radut