Sunday, June 24, 2007

Kerala This Week, Vol 3, June 2007

We are back at work after a short break due to some personal reasons. During the break we received so many comments and compliments from readers we never knew existed. One fan requires special mention here for his undying support to this initiative. He was sweet enough to wish "may this blog blow up into oblivion". Please rest assured that we are trying hard.

Talking about blowing up, destruction and such things, "demolition" has been the word thats been reverberating across Kerala the last few weeks. First it was huts, then resorts, followed by boundary walls, shops and then a few houses. As the demolition got nearer to the bigger and real thugs in the business, aka the politicians and the political parties, the much hyped and advertised "clean-up" drive of our dear CM gathered enough moss. So much so that he issued a grand order to exempt political parties who have encroached land to be exempt from action. He went on to declare that some of the documents of land owners where his own rampaging Special Task Force invaded, may have been legal and they may have made a mistake.

Tearing down property worth crores now seems more ridiculous than ever, and the whole motive of the demolition drive now seems shady. How can political parties be exempted? How can there be different sets of rules for different groups? Is this all just a part of a grand plan to fool the people? Or was it just an extension of the Pinarayi versus Achuthanandan tussle? Anyway, apart from the joy the sights of the now infamous "JCB" at work brought to the gossippy unemployed malayali crowds, the only outcome of the drive so far has been tonnes of rubble lying across Kerala. Literate Kerala making progress?

The one good thing that happened as a result of the "attempt" to retrieve the land encroached by the CPI was that Keralites got to see our own "hep" MP from Trivandrum, who had disappeared to Delhi some time last year, back in action. An outraged Mr Tvm MP, with gelled slick hairstyle, surfaced at an undisclosed location in Kerala and screamed on TV that the party buildings are made from the blood of the party workers and "nobody dare touch 'em". Nobody messes with him. Not even the STF. And there ended the great demolition drive.

Monsoon finally arrived in Kerala. And as usual, it was much later than what the Met department predicted. At last count, over 20 people were killed. While the Government is busy preparing to welcome tourists in the name of 'Monsoon Tourism', which is a very good thing, it would have been great if they could spend some money to ensure that people and property can be better protected from heavy rains.

I guess rain is a problem that political parties cant blame eachother for. Imagine a leftie minister saying "Chandy is responsible for this heavy rain that has resulted in so many deaths" or "the previous UDF government is responsible for this loss". But I guess thats also possible since we have heard worse.

Another round of the dreadful "pakarcha pani" (fever that spreads) has hit Kerala, creating tremors and faults across the much acclaimed and textbook-worthy healthcare system of Kerala. As usual a central team visited Kerala to assess the situation when the numbers crossed beyond what the state government could handle. After getting back safely to Delhi the team declared that it was not Chikungunya. Meanwhile, the ministry pulled off a good one by saying the "Chikungunya-related deaths were worse during the UDF regime". May the departed rest in peace.

Not wanting to be left behind, Home Ministry played their part and lifted a ban on smoking in jails in Kerala, which was imposed in 2003 following a high court order. They failed to provide any rationale for this act, possibly because there was none, but media cited it was a case of "buckling under political pressure". This comes in a year during which the WHO celebrated "smoke free environment" as their theme and declared passive smoke as a great threat to healthy living. Yet another case of literate Kerala making progress.

Helmets were once again made compulsory in Kerala. This is after the high court reprimanded the authorities for not enforcing the rule despite its orders a few years ago. The home ministry issued strict orders to the police to "not harrass the public in the name of helmets". There are other ways to do it surely. Or we have plenty of goons in our state to do that.

All the frenzy about development projects like the Smart City and Vizhinjam Port finally seem to have died down. Nothing more is heard. People are just happy listening to trash news and seem ready to enjoy the "bliss" for the next few years. The media is also happy filling their front pages and headlines with stories of the government-management negotiations on the professional seat sharing, how the party youth (leaders tomorrow) went on a rampage destroying property against the management and ridiculous other stuff. The other hot topic is the "who-can-enter-the-temple" saga. Some chap named Easwar sporting the Dhoni hairstyle (now a hit among Keralite youth) made most of the situation, attempted some puja in front of the Government Secretariat and got himself arrested. Next thing you know, he will be contesting elections. Oh yes, literate Kerala making more progress. But when will it be forward progress?


കെ പി സുകുമാരന്‍ അഞ്ചരക്കണ്ടി said...

Dear MindCurry,
Nice article after a while , I want to really appreciate. This is one of very few blogs which talks about serious and real issues. I used to persuade my friends to go through this blog. I have given the link to this site in my blog presuming that I have prior permission.
Keep Going !!
-KP Sukumaran, Bangalore.

PCM said...

Dear MC,
You have hit the nail on the head.
‘Demolition’(hereafter, D) is the word that epitomizes the situation in Kerala now. D of buildings, D of the original plans, D of the job entrusted with the task force, D of the CM’s image. Now the people of Kerala know how a JCB works. This JCB is slowly getting into the Ministry, the LDF and individual parties.
Mr. Pannian came all the way from Delhi, opened his mouth after about one year and got snubbed for what he said by the Party itself. His hairstyle was the only saving grace.
Monsoon carries on with it D-work. The government opted to rule the State out of the no-construction-within-500 meters-of-the-sea-shore long back in the name of helping the poor fishermen. The government also forgot totally about sea-walls. Yes, calamity is the boon that many were awaiting for long – Contractors, Officials, Revenue Dept., et. al. Is there a greater boon that Monsoon can give?
The UDF has already been blamed for not taking the right steps to contain mosquitoes during their reign. In fact, they did everything to help proliferation of Mosquitoes, so that the LDF Government will be forced to fight the epidemics and be blamed! According to Srimathi and Anpumony, though hundreds die in Kerala, they don’t (luckily) die of Chicungunia. They die of a heart-attack or pneumonia after being affected by Chic. I am afraid, the mosquitoes are bent upon D’ing the LDF Govt.
Helmets are compulsory if the people want to use it. Even half a helmet will do. If the police are reluctant to fine the riders, the youth wings have a chance.
Smart City and Vizhinjom can wait. We can D them only when they have come. We already have so many things to be D’ed. The Self financing Colleges, The temples,
Belief in God and the Tourist flow. How much can a few ‘obedient youngsters’ take on hand at the same time to establish law and order?
P.S. Rahul Easwer certainly did a wrong thing. Instead of lighting a lamp, he could have torched a few vehicles and shouted “DYFI Zindabad!”. The policemen would not have come anywhere near him.
Latest news: One Venugopal, said to be a close aide of Mr. Pinarayi Vijayan, an employee of Deshabhimani has been expelled for accepting a bribe of One Crore Rupees. How lucrative is the job of a journalist nowadays!

shruti said...

Nice to see you posting again .Went for the MRA meeting this saturday ..learning a lot about real issues facing this country ..and extremely happy to be a part of initiatives of change ( another name for MRA ) .Will go through your post and hopefully have a more knowledeagle comment to make . Take Care . Keep posting and strive on .

Vinod/Kakka said...

When the demolition drive started, I felt happiness that for once the will of the people (expressed through its elected government) is getting attention. While I am pro-business, I am against the illegality of the way things work. What it could have led to is a discussion on how the laws as they remain are detrimental to development of the tourism industry, and a change in the rules so that business gets developed within a framework that is green, transparent, and leads to economic progress to all stake holders, including those who live in the vicinity.
Being a consipiracy theorist, I could not but see that the timing was such that a emerging controversy about the CMs sons Ph D admission woes was swept away from the front pages through the demolition derby.
Coming back to the tourism development theme, most of the tourist hotspots in Kerala are in regions of endemic poverty: the beaches, Kuttanad, and the tribal areas of Wyanad and Idukki.
In the U.S., casino based developments are usually owned by native americans. The casinos owned by them have enabled increases in both employment levels and economic well being of native american tribes.
For me, this seems to be a viable template for developing the poorest in the Kerala society. Instead of resort developers having the government buy land so that they can develop it, could not the residents of local fisheries communities band together to offer land for resort development, in exchange for ownership rights, better housing, and better employment oppurtunities? Done right (using private limited companies instead of co-operatives) and keeping politicians hands out of it, it could lead to development of a entreprenuer culture.
Our democracy has degraded into electing "rulers", who "rule" to their advantage, not leaders who look to solving the genuine problems of the people. The issue is not limited to the politicians, but with a system itself.
And as for the "rules not applying to politicians" part, politicians are excluded from the goonda act. And the UDF has not complained about it. Not surprising, since our Home Minister shares his last name with SFI leaders who regularly have to appear before judges for extending their bail for "democratic agitation related offences" including attempted murder.


quills said...

Firstly, it is great to see KTW back. Yay!

Secondly, My dog! This really happens only in Kerala.

Do our “leaders” really care about Smart City and Vizhinjam port? I wonder. After all such deals only bring progress and jobs to Kerala. Let’s forget that and focus on the more "important" things like who are Oommen Chandy’s relations or how about another round of the blame game or even better, let’s bicker more so that the people would forget the real issues at hand.

So much has been said about the unhygienic conditions prevailing in our state and everyone agrees that's the root cause of the sudden spate of diseases. However, other than one clean-up/sanitary drive launched during the early part of the month with much fanfare, is there any mechanism in place to ensure that such initiatives are ongoing?

Have conditions in SAT, Trivandrum for instance improved since those poor, hapless infants died? Has anyone cared to find out if the mortality rate has dropped since then?

Yesterday I was watching a news report on some fisher folks who had lost their homes in the last monsoon. It has been a year since then and they continue to live in temporary shelters where even basic amenities are missing. Apparently, the government feels giving 5 kilos of bug infested ration rice is all they are required to do.

The rampage by SFI goons against private medical colleges was apparently condemned by Kodiyeri. But has anyone been arrested since the incident and adequate punishment meted out? I am sure tracking the culprits should not be a problem as almost all the media channels had covered it quite extensively.

I can go on and on about a whole host of other valid issues that seems to have been conveniently left by the wayside by our politicians. As long as they continue to ignore all this, we will unfortunately continue to move further and further away from any hope and progress.

God Save Us!

Praseena said...

"Oommen Chandy is responsible for this heavy rain ..." lol....MC u speak so true and well in here.Keep it up.
We need leaders like you to destroy corruption in our state.Keep going.May the higher powers recognize and help you in your endeavours.

abhishek said...

Hey MC,

Nice to see you back and cutting to the heart of the news as usual!

Indeed, it saddens me to read how these SFI and DYFI goons destroyed school property and scared parents and students out of my middle school, Toc-H in Vytilla. Why can we not free schools from the clutches of these parasites? Actually, they are worse than the bite of parasites and not nearly as lethal. They just keep threatening the public and promoting their vested interests at the expense of others.

But for every nihilist like the fellow who wanted to bomb our blog, there is always a new well-wisher if not more like KP Sukumaran and Sruthi. I am convinced that the general public sympathizes with our concerns and those who protest are those who have so far benefited at the expense of others.

In other news, apparently, remittances from Gulf-based NRIs have fallen by 40% in the last three years owing to rupee appreciation and higher living costs in the Middle East. What repurcussions this will have for Kerala's growth remains to be seen, but as I have emphasized constantly, having a displaced labor force outside Kerala continues to endanger Kerala's economic state.

abhishek said...


Excellent point! This goes back to my previous post on land cultivation and why benefits from tourism continue to accrue to the richer classes than the tribals or locals. Most locals in the areas you mentioned have little sense of the real estate value of their land, largely because they have always been cultivators or fisherfolks. This assymetry in information leads to a weak negotiating point when they're approached by the government on behalf of the real estate firms. All this because they have little way of negotiating directly with real estate firms in the face of a hostile and corrupt adminstration.

Now if you were able to change the laws so that cultivators could negotiate directly with real estate firms and not have to go through the government every time they want to sell their land, there is ample opportunity for locals to realize the real estate value and even form land-leasing arrangements. But no, that won't happen because we the people and they the rulers continue to agree on one thing - they know what's best for us.

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