Example is better than precept. For Malayalees, there is no one who has demonstrated it more convincingly than one of our own ex-Chief Ministers viz C. Achuta Menon. Days after relinquishing office as the Chief Minister of Kerala there were many who could see him circling Trichur round as one among us. He was one of the longest serving Chief Ministers of Kerala and he happened to be in power during the dubious Emergency era. Yet there is no one who hates him and bears any grudge against him. What was the reason for this uniqueness, especially in a politically volatile state like Kerala? Was it because he was erudite and an institution-builder who initiated the Centre for Development Studies, Centre for Earth Sciences and Sree Chitra Medical Institute? Yes, partly. But his greatest contribution to the public life of Kerala was definitely not that. It was his unique ability to call it a day from active politics when he knew it is time. Prof. Sanu is yet another exemplary example of this unique quality in public life. It is really unfortunate that these icons could not become role models for many others of our present generation.
One of the biggest and greatest institutions in Kerala that has been badly affected by the absence of Achuta Menons is the Nair Service Society (NSS). If there is any one institution that has stagnated so badly for the last 25 years, it is the NSS. The greatness of this institution is well known to almost all Malayalees, whether he or she is a Nair or not. It is perhaps the only community organisation in the whole world whose founding fathers swore that their efforts to uplift their own community shall not affect the well-being of any other community in any manner whatsoever, in the inaugural oath itself. It makes all the Nairs (whether member of NSS or not) proud about the greatness of their tallest leader viz. Mannathu Padmanabhan. NSS has contributed so many leaders to Kerala’s public life in later years. But now the society is moribund and its future looks challenging for even the most optimistic of its members. To make matters worse, most of the trumpeted activities of its leaders are aimed at destroying the reservation benefits being enjoyed (legitimately or not) by brethren communities.
Reservations are the bone of contention in almost all parts and spheres of India. It is foolhardy to expect everyone to realise and acknowledge the advantage and legitimacy of reservations on the basis of economic status in such a situation. It would take another 50 years for the ‘reserved’ communities to realise their mistake and the poorest of poor among them will see to it that it happens. But the paramount question for the leaders of ‘unreserved’ communities is to ask themselves whether it is worth wasting time fighting the communal basis of reservations. Instead, organisations like NSS can do quite a lot of positive work to better the conditions of poorest among their own community. Those who need direct help in the community must be identified and necessary help (not in terms of cash alone) must reach the deserving within a reasonable time. In this twenty first century, the identification process must be IT enabled and the skill development part shall definitely have an element of Agriculture, which is our traditional trade. To make this happen, the powers-that-be in NSS must constitute two task forces viz. NairsIT and NairsAgri without any further delay.
There are hundreds from the community who have made it big in the IT Industry and many are willing to help out in this. What we need is the infrastructure and manpower to constitute and maintain a database of almost all the members of the community. If possible it should be a world-wide one. A brilliant model for this exercise is the social security database in Belgium called CIMIRE (Compte Individuel Multisectoriel – www.cimire.be ). Millions of records are maintained in an Oracle database pertaining to millions of people in a very cost effective manner. There should be a similar setup at the NSS HO in Perunna at the earliest. The extent of details can be unobtrusive and minimal but the coverage must be maximum possible. Advantage of such a database at HO is priceless and is well understood. News and views can be broadcast to those who should know it in no time and help can be channelled from where it is available to where it is required. I am cent percent sure that a Mannam Memorial Medical College would have come up at Pandalam if only we had such a database and the authorities had utilised it to collect $2000 each from just 25000 Nairs world-wide. The power of a live website and database for a community is simply beyond words.
Agriculture is essentially the culture of all Malayalees and it is more so with Nairs. Whatever be the advancements we may make in any other fields it is absolutely essential to maintain the ground if we are to survive as a community in Kerala. The pressure on Real Estate Kerala is unprecedented and nefarious designs are already in force to capture the lands. The only way to encourage current owners of land to retain it is to make agriculture remunerative. NSS must take the lead in this by providing information, technology and financial aid, if needed, to diversify and make a living out of agriculture. More and more retired employees from other fields can return to agriculture and keep our agricultural culture alive. It must become remunerative and fashionable again to own agricultural land. Only a community effort can achieve this. Many other communities are proving it in Kerala right in front of our eyes. We should open our eyes at least now.
Lastly, it is of utmost importance for NSS leadership (and all others of Hindu fold) to remind themselves repeatedly that Nair community is NOTHING, if it is not an integral part of the Hindu society in Kerala. And Hindu society in Kerala is one of the most endangered now. The signs in Kerala society (be it politics or education or health or industry or administration or social) are very obvious and ominous now. Until and unless the dividing issues are kept aside and there is a united attempt to counter the onslaught from various local and foreign quarters, there will be only insignificant number left in the community within Kerala by 2050AD. Kerala Hindu Society is like a wall on which all of us can read the various writings. But if the wall itself is destroyed, we may not even get a chance to read the writings on the wall. Consequences of inaction and indifference will be unexpectedly devastating.