Kerala Development Model: Fact versus Hype

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by parijataka, Oct 1, 2013.

  1. parijataka

    parijataka Senior Member Senior Member

    Oct 15, 2011
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    Kerala Development Model: Fact versus Hype
    by Srijith Balakrishnan on October 1, 2013

    Raghuram Panel Report on development is finally tabled. Many of my Facebook friends from Kerala were celebrating the lower rank of Gujarat, while some expressed their delight over second position of Kerala. Raghuram Panel’s love for absolute development indices rather than present growth rates has left many faces happy and many others worried. I just went through some tweets about the report. It was not a surprise, Nitish Kumar was so proud about his My-State-Is-Undeveloped-Give-Me-Special-Status Model. However, that is a different matter. We are not going into it. What surprised me more was the term that suddenly propped up–Kerala Development Model. As a Keralite, I had never heard about the existence of such a model. Does it really exist or is it a cloud of hypes? Here’s a closer look on the so-called Kerala Development Model.

    Personally, I won’t call Kerala as a developed state. Reasons are several. Highest unemployment rate in India, over dependence on overseas remittance (esp. from Middle East), recent rise in infant deaths, dependence on other south Indian states for food grains and vegetables, etc. are a few among them, which have gone unnoticed or intentionally ignored by public as well as the government. During the monsoon, roads of Kerala have more potholes than asphalt. The photograph attached below was taken two weeks ago. It is from NH 213 (connecting Calicut and Palakkad) where the patch works were completed just two months ago. The present condition of most of the roads in Kerala is no different. Kerala has never given significant importance for improving road infrastructure. I have discussed with many people, and when I compare the Kerala roads with that of Gujarat, there comes a silly reason, “Roads and infrastructure are not the only signs of development”. True. Roads are not the only token for development, but why do we ignore them? I recall something I read a few years ago, “roads constitute the circulatory system of a nation“. High population density has halted various road infrastructure projects, while the state has seen exponential growth in car sales. The narrow roads along the newly formed small towns have made traffic congestion a serious issue all across the state than never before. Instead of improving local roads, Government is keen to develop an economically unviable North South Corridor that breaks Kerala into two. This also need rehabilitation of thousands of families along the proposed corridor.

    National Highway 213 connecting Calicut and Palakkad after rains

    Let’s come to employment opportunities in Kerala. Kerala recently reported the highest unemployment rate (9.9%) in India. High literacy rate and large intensity of skilled labourers were the justifications given by many critics. However, what economic model is that which is unable to accommodate its own labour force? Contradicting fact is that about 2.5 million labourers from other states work in Kerala. At the same time, millions of Keralites are forced to search for jobs in other states of India due to poor work environment in Kerala. Notably, there are 2.5 million Keralites in Gujarat alone (which Raghuram Panel called as less developed state). Even I will have to search for a job in Chennai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai or even abroad after my post-graduation, and Kerala seems to be the most unsuitable place to settle down.

    Human Development Index of Kerala is extremely good and Kerala stands atop on the tally. However, this is solely due to the land reforms act and encouragement of education that happened in 1950s. Social reformation movements were started centuries ago by various religious and non-religious leaders of Kerala. Giving ‘complete’ credit to the recent governments for these achievements may not be precise. In fact, now Kerala’s growth rate in Human Development Index has come down and is questionable. In 2013, a Comptroller and Audiotor General (CAG) report punctured the claims of Kerala in social welfare schemes, giving a statistic that 37% of children are malnourished or severely malnourished in Kerala. Recent infant deaths in the tribal areas of Attappady in Palakkad district underscores CAG’s revelations.

    Tribal children in Anganvadi, Attappady, Kerala
    Photo Credits: Thulasi Kakkat, The Hindu

    Price rise is a universal issue in all parts of the world. However, the phenomenon has other reasons too, especially, when it comes to Kerala. The price of goods are highly unstable since Kerala is not a self-sustained state in agriculture and industry. If there occurs a truck drivers’ strike in Andhra Pradesh, the first set of people who suffers is Kerala’s middle class. The fact is that Kerala is a mere consumer market. It doesn’t produce what it requires to self-sustain. It is an often scenario when government fails to check price rise during festival seasons due to the same reason.

    Kerala receives exceptionally good rainfall and has a huge number of reservoirs, still the agricultural growth rate is negative 1.6%. Agricultural lands are mostly grabbed by real estate lobbies. Farmers are selling agricultural lands due to high production costs and less support from the government. Once Kerala–the land of rivers, lakes, and mountains is now facing extreme environment degradation. One just need to travel by train from Palakkad Railway Junction to Shoranur Railway Junction to witness the extent to which the water resources are looted. Illegal sand mining of rivers has led to serious environmental impacts. One should not forget how government backed Coca-Cola and Pepsi plants made underground water of an entire part of a district unfit for use. Even hills are disappearing nowadays due to excessive quarrying of stones and soil.

    Kerala is no more a place for middle class people to live. High land prices and cost of living has made it difficult for an ordinary family to sustain in the state. You will never see the system of ‘Nokkukooli‘ (Google it for details) in any other part of the world other than Kerala, where the trade union workers will charge you abnormal rates for unloading and loading goods from one place to another. Even if you load or unload the goods yourselves, you still have to pay them! That’s another unnamed Kerala model. Also, frequent strikes and hartals have dampened the state’s industrial productivity. The same communist and socialist principles which once reformed and gave a new face for Kerala are thus turning to be a curse for its development.

    Kerala’s major income sources are from liquor sale, tourism and overseas remittance. I still remember the sudden gloom and anxiety that spread among Keralites when Saudi Arabia introduced their new labour law (Nitaqat), which mandates employment for Saudi nationals. Isn’t it surprising that there are 2.5 million Keralites working in Gulf countries even after Kerala has its so-called development model? It is estimated that over half a million Keralites will be affected by the proposed labour laws in Middle East nations.

    There are people who advocate high Human Development Index as the only sign of development. However, Kerala’s development lacks sustainability and pace. Development of Kerala has been extremely slow, and the process started centuries ago, unlike other parts of the country. It is still hard, by any logic, to term it as a model. One has to take into account the fact that Kerala is comparatively smaller state with just 30- 40 million population, abundant in natural resources. However, distribution of natural resources varies enormously across India. Personally, I feel that every state should have its own development model considering its demographic and geographical characteristics. The concerns discussed in the article pose major threat to Kerala in near future. We have been constantly confused between a development model and a determined and strong political leadership. Else there wouldn’t have any debates between Kerala and Gujarat. Unless above discussed issues are addressed, projecting the development of Kerala as a development model for political gain is meaningless and doesn’t bear any fruits. It is true that Human Development Index is one of the best in the country, but that doesn’t mean development is complete in Kerala. There should be some effort from the part of government to focus on roads, infrastructure development, environmental conservation, agriculture and self-sustainability. For the time being, the Kerala model, if it exists, should hum these Robert Frost lines.

    “And miles to go before I sleep,

    And miles to go before I sleep.”​
    maomao and amoy like this.
  3. jmj_overlord

    jmj_overlord Regular Member

    Sep 12, 2013
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    i think the news was just overhyped. The conditions of the roads, scams daily, poverty in wayanad district as said...........building cities, improving tourism, metros aren't the indicators of development, right? I believe the people of the state and their problems should have been considered first
  4. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

    Jan 17, 2010
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    30-40 mil. population of Kerala, thats not small! Fujian Province (Hokkien) of 30mil. in China resembles Kerala in some respects such as

    * not self-sustained in agri. as a mountainous coastal prov.

    * a huge overseas Hokkienese community worldwide, only parallelled by Cantonese. furthermore Taiwanese r dominantly of Hokkienese origin.

    This Keralite "Development Model" could hv bn sustainable IMO if the huge overseas remittance has been turned to investment like in Hokkien or Canton, enterpreneurship is encouraged and unionism is kept in check. In Fujian the diaspora & Taiwanese r the main FDI source also due to preferential terms.

    if the gulf remittance merely flows to consumption it hardly boosts employment or infra other than inflation hence not a model to boast of since natives, thanks to "fish" (remittance, fluctuating though), never bother abt "fishery" (homegrown industries). perhaps local bureaucrats (election oriented?) lack any vision, resting in the laureate of super duper HDI thus r unable to steer long term development.

    Sent from my 5910 using Tapatalk 2
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2013
    parijataka likes this.
  5. Coalmine

    Coalmine Regular Member

    Jan 14, 2013
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    I had seen roads in thrissur kerela . They were not in good shape .Lot of potholes

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