Kerala Model became widely popular in UN economic circles as an ideal one for any developing state in the twenty first century. The huge appreciation and wide publicity it obtained as a desirable economic model for ideal development of human society in an atmosphere of ‘justice and fairness to all’ was mainly due to the efforts of stalwarts like Dr. Amartya Sen and Dr. K.N. Raj. In classical economics, the scenario of any state attaining the highest levels of human development with the lowest levels of per-capita income is unimaginable. And that was exactly what the state of Kerala in the Indian union achieved in isolation in 1980s and 1990s. A lot of known and unknown individual and collective efforts have gone into its making, including the vast influence of leftist ideologies in a society having easier access to education thanks to the mushrooming of Christian missionary schools. But the situation has taken a complete turn since the start of this century.
Rao’s twin social warheads of liberalization and globalization (l&g) have worked wonders with all states other than Kerala. The percentage of people who have benefitted from the goodness of unlimited market forces let lose by l&g is a minimum in Kerala. Atleast two generations of Keralites owe it to the Leftists led by Krishna Pillai, AKG and EMS to have revitalized the left side of their brains to dream of a society full of equality, justice and true secularism. People from all sections of the society listened to them and believed in their words and promises. The unbelievable surge in Kerala’s human development index was a direct outcome of the goodness thus created. But when the ideology itself has failed and its leaders have turned looters, how can the surge continue? The downturn has been equally swift and we are now left with a highly unequal and unjust society which is almost fully communalized into four equal sections – Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Communists.
Reasons for Development
In addition to the distinct influence of Communism in Kerala’s social and economic arenas, there are a couple of associated aspects that triggered the development indices in 1980s and 90s. Migration to Gulf countries in significant numbers and the vast remittance of foreign exchange was one of them. The other one was the large scale change in agricultural pattern from food crops to commercial crops. Surprisingly both the factors have been necessitated by or influenced the governments in power. Naxalism was gathering enormous clout in Kerala when the employment relief valve provided by Oil & Gas boom in the Gulf provided an alternative avenue of employment for the youth. And the pioneering land reforms by the government forced the agricultural pattern in favour of commercial crops as an easy way to avoid the land ceiling act. Both these unexpected developments had enormous impact on the social life of Kerala.
The full implications of such a paradigm shift in the social landscape of Kerala took many more decades to dawn. When we analyse these two trails in perspective, the combination of an air of progressive leftism that prevailed then and the new opportunities that opened up all of a sudden took the whole state into a totally unexpected (and undesired) direction. No doubt that there has been an undeniable elevation of social and economic status of a major section of our society within a very short span of time. The quantity and quality of services available in the educational and health sectors improved drastically in a short span of time. Sections of our society could easily walk into avenues of opportunities with the kind of money the two new sources could generate. But the best part of the development picture got over by the end of last century sooner than expected and the nightmare had started.
Reasons for Disaster
Just like the two associated reasons for development, there are some for the disaster as well. The vast employment opportunity in the Gulf was definitely a boon for the huge number of educated unemployed Keralites. But the influence of extraneous considerations started skewing the recruitment pattern very soon. The growing influence of Islam in everything (including even business) in the Gulf was the important factor that upset the growth of a healthy pattern of competition and development. Knowledge of Arabic language, which is again related to religion, was another factor that changed the recruitment pattern for the Gulf. The net result was the disproportionate opportunities available and the sudden economic bonanza for a particular section of our society. Another section of the population utilized a similar set of criterion to get most favoured status in the West. Thus two of the demographic minorities of Kerala suddenly became formidable financial powerhouses.
Another factor that upturned the developmental applecart of Kerala is the spurt in commercial crop cultivation. More and more people turned into plantations of rubber, tea etc., as an easy way to avoid losing land to the landless. It is said that the land ceiling act was sabotaged by the wealthy planters by manipulating the Communists to exclude commercial plantations from its purview. Most of the wealthy planters belonged to a particular minority community and that distorted the social landscape even further. The unorganized majority not only lost large tracts of land but also lost out in their efforts to gain employment elsewhere. Thousands and thousands of acres of food cultivation land turned overnight into plantations with rubber, coffee etc. Successive governments which went full steam with land reforms had no ready made plans for rehabilitation of those who lost their only means of livelihood. Minorities were made happy at the expense of the unorganized majority.
Several decades down the lane, the situation in Kerala state is now a complete disaster. It has become the epicenter of terrorism fuelled by Gulf money, control room for co-ordinated religious conversion through out India with the help of Western dollars and above all a completely unsafe place to live in. Roads are in shambles and infrastructure in lacking in almost all fields we can think of. Distribution of drinking water, electricity and public transport leave much to be desired. Food cultivation is minimal and all Keralites are at the mercy of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh for their daily food. Things have come to such a pass that a majority of educational institutions have minority status and even affairs of Hindu temples are controlled by a government that is dominated by non-believers and other religionists. The very same aspects that made Kerala model famous once have turned satanic - Gulf money and Commercial crops - thereby threatening to bring down the state from development to disaster. Kerala Model is now infamous and a laughing stock.