Kerala Demystified

Shashi Tharoor recently tweeted the link to a telegraph article by Ashok Guha called Kerala Conundrum. He has, in fact, captured the essence of the problem in a way that is both true and worrisome at the same time.

In his article, he starts off with the puzzle that is Kerala. All the indicators of education, infant mortality and gender equality are tilted in its favor and yet it is one of the states in which I have seen men the most frustrated and women the most humiliated in India. Given, its status as the best on many of these humanitarian indices the humiliation is further exaggerated. He says…

“The human development index, inspired largely by Sen’s work, highlights three aspects of life: longevity, education and the standard of living. More subtle criteria of capability have also been designed…When the relative performance of the different Indian states is gauged by these yardsticks, one state, Kerala, emerges as the clear winner on all counts except that of per capita income. It has the highest life expectancy, the lowest infant and maternal mortality, the best public health facilities, the highest literacy, the best performance in almost all educational indices, the best gender ratio, the best record in female education, health and empowerment and the lowest total fertility. With such a record of performance in areas regarded by outstanding thinkers as crucial to the quality of life, Keralites must surely enjoy the most satisfying lives among all Indians. Right?”

Then, what is wrong? I believe, giving wrong emphasis on scoring high on these humanitarian goals without emphasis on the end goal that is the development of the society based on economic principles due to a tragic twist of politics and general public apathy has led to such a situation. He also makes an interesting point of how Malayalis are a generation of would-be emigrants and in a constant hurried state of flight from our homeland to places where many of the human capabilities indices are below par, in search of employment and income opportunities. While, those who remain behind and are unable to break out of the vicious cycle are frustrated and depressed, leading to suicides and other atrocities in the state. Here’s what Ashok has to say:

“Right from the days of the rajas of Travancore, successive governments of Kerala have followed a policy based on the development of human capability. Unfortunately, this has not been matched by, nor has it induced, a similar expansion of Kerala’s industrial structure. Therein lie the seeds of Kerala’s tragedy.”

I think the article is worth a read if you are a Malayali and if you are not, it is still worth a read for setting the context on those indices that Kerala likes to flaunt so much year after year and its reality for its people.


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