Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Gainfully Unemployed

Since 1999, a group of people I know have been trying to establish a noble institution in one the cities of Kerala. For almost 7 years, they battled it out with the system and establishment to get the required permits and licenses. There was a battle because the group believed in justice, rights and freedom.

Around 2002, they took a bank loan of Rs. 10 crores for the project. And personally invested around 5 crores. They dreamt of an institution that would bring services, the best around the world, closer to the people of Kerala.

As they got down to building their dream, they realised that Kerala is not infamously known as investor friendly or known for its indifference without reason.

Right from day one they have faced hurdles in the name of licenses, approvals and permits. Now it was not as though they were not qualified for these, but because they resisted giving bribes to the many officers they were "punished". And even a peon wields so much authority that unless you pay him the file will not see daylight. They even described local politicians who approached them even before the construction began and threatening them of dire consequences if their people are not offered job, irrespective of the merits. Slowly the groups loans started accruing interests, and itself began to cross crores. So after many years of resistance, they gave in to the "Kerala Model".

Appeasing politicians, paying bribes, honesty and principles going for a toss, to build an institution which stands for honesty, principles and ethics.

Today the institution functions, but yet the problems are aplenty and never-ending.

Even with all the stinking and filthy deals, they are yet faced with innumerable "hurdles". A few facts stand out:

Right from the Corporation to the Electricity board and Water Authority, almost 30 lakhs have been paid as bribe in just the last one year, from peons to higher end officers, all of them demanded money. Also they added that notably none of senior officers asked for money. Infact they were willing to help so that a good institution comes up in the city, but there were always roadblocks created by the lower end officers and local politicians.

Politicians always get involved in your life in Kerala. Right from all these permits to hiring your employees in your establishment, there is an idiot of a politician or union leader waiting to eat away the hardearned money you have.

It is difficult for a lot of people in Kerala to see anything beyond today. They never see the prospects of a development in terms of what it can bring for them and their children tomorrow or the day after. This is probably why development, in any form, is seen suspiciously in the state. Much of this attitude can be attributed to again wily politicians who corrupt peoples minds for their gains. I recently had someone on a forum say that a certain MLA is opposing the Technocity project only so that the opposite party does not take credit for it, and so he is justified!! It is such thinking that really dashes my hopes at times. I mean, this person has not realised that irrespective of that bloody MLAs stupid reasons, what the state is losing is crores worth of investment, direct and indirect, along with tens of thousands of jobs!!

Anything that happen in Kerala has to appease the local political leaders, if not they are up against arms with you. They are waiting to create trouble in any form so that they get publicity. They always take up a "pro-poor" image so that only they seem righteous. But the fact is that the poor are being robbed openly by them. The moment these politicians get some money they are willing to do any injustice. This is a very sad fact that I realised happens too commonly in Kerala. I have heard my maid servant say that even if she quarrels with her husband local party guys come and interfere, and act as if they have a say in anything that goes on in "their" society. You can imagine the level at which these wily people operate then! I have seen such things happen even in schools and colleges. When guys might have silly differences, some "union" supports one of them and then creates a mountain out of nothing. In the process the union leaders establish their authority and appear to be so right.

One important thing we have do in Kerala is to free the state from politicisation. It is so built into the fabric right from schools, that it corrupts everyone and everything. Knowledge about politics and your government process is one thing, but getting sucked into it with your life is another. We have to ensure that students educate themselves first and form a basic standard and qualification in life. Politics and government can then be an option. We have to stop the age-old trend of "nalam class and gusthi" being the only qualification needed for the MLA and MPs.

To a certain extent, unemployment is one root cause of this and Kerala stands out with the maximum number of unemployed youth. No wonder then parties promote unionism and anti-development, and project politics as a profession! Every unemployed youth is a potential employee of the party!


quills said...

Great post! Will come back to write a detailed comment.

quills said...

It is so disheartening to read about the power (obtained through vile threats and various forms of work disruption and property damage) that these local honchos and their thugs wield. Unfortunately that's the way its been and unless people who collect bribes are dismissed from service or office and suitably prosecuted however hard people like the instituition owners you mentioned here try and stick it out, it is difficult to survive let alone propser against the evil intentions of these public enemies.

And some of these people I am sure have "party pinbalam" to support the atrocities they do. It is really sickening and a prime reason many potential investors turn away rather than go through all these unnecessary hassles.

Another sad attitude in our community is the selfishness that arises in people when certain others prosper. So even if it is at the cost of forsaking something that will benefit the entire community, these people will still try and prevent it from happening. Kerala crab mentality in action.

silverine said...

This is something I was waiting to read from you because I have seen so many close relations go through this. These people run successful businesses in Bangalore after their initial attempt to start a business in Kerala.

The Malayalee employee looks at the turnover of his employer and thinks "why should he earn so much?". He is not bothered that he is paid well or has a job. It is very difficult for the Malayalee to see someone earning more than him even if that someone is his own employer. So he supports the unionists in his jealousy. And the trade unions whip up this feeling for their own purposes. Until the malayalee employee in Kerala realise that business is about profits and the muthalali will always make profits and learn to live with that there will be no development. This is my very simplistic views.

Great great post.

Babin said...

True True True...
Politics is at least providing employment to otherwise unemployed dudes in the state:(

Be it a new public or private venture/reform, 'political feasibility' is the biggest hurdle it has to pass more than the question of its own financial, operational or environmental feasibility.

May be the businesses in kerala should be structured to have a separate division dedicated to political affairs just like corporations have separate divisions for, Finance, HR, operations, MIS, acct,etc... I guess that will open up more opportunities for employment in the political sector-only thriving area in kerala.

Mind Curry said...

@ quills - yeah the big problem is every single person in kerala feels he has party pinbalam and display some kind of arrogance against any system or policy.

@ silverine - very true. malayalis are always worried about the other person - and not in a good way.

i remember a story my dad told me when i was small.

a little after power first came to kerala, in a small town, power goes after the fuse on a transformer goes bust. and in a neighbourhood all the houses are in darkness, except one house. the entire town knows it has happened coz of a fuse short circuit. but they are not bothered about repairing it. instead, soon the entire township gathers in front of this house and gets wild saying "how can this house have power when all of us are in darkness!!!"

so thats the basic mentality in kerala, even years later.

@ babin - yeah..thats funny!! :) political department? with sub depts like dept of bribe, dept of anti-para etc.

Anonymous said...

Hey babin..That’s a good suggestion.
In most of the cases the promoter of the company runs this department. And eventually it will become the only surviving dept with plenty of transactions :-)).

If there were no "Gulf Boom" and there were no NRKs pouring money to this state, we would have become the worst state to live in India. But I feel such a scenario would have, to an extend, forced malayalees to fight against corruption, trade unionism and other hurdles in doing business.

It’s really painful to see the present scenario of our state.
There isn’t any solution for this problem? Will our state ever be investor friendly? Why our people are more bothered about others?

silverine said...

@Babin: Thats a great idea lol. If political parties became private enterprises then it will be very interesting to see their HR and labour policies :))

Shinu Mathew said...

Bulls Eye pal;
I am baffled by one thing though; Why you still nurture a hope about kerala? I have stopped such notions way back. Ours is a astate built on paranoia and jealosy. We never aprove of anything. We cherish in rebellion. Our mindsets are made in such wa way that no good is good for us. Damn it man, I am speaking about my state, of which I always take great pride, but you gotta admit it. It's really going to dogs. Those funny, lazy and wily political dogs.
Any hopes of a reversal of fortunes will be doused by the so-called "pro-poor" thugs. As Kuttan wrote in kis blog, we are doomed. Unless you get out of the state and see the way others live, you won't understand what kinda mess we are living in.
Just an example. I saw many keralites works in Mumbai, for wages as meagre as 50 Rs A day. For that wage, they d oanything. painting, construction work anything. But in Kerala, for 300 Rs daily, you won't get one to do some fieldwork. That's we. Even I am also culprit in that merit.

Shinu Mathew said...

in the last sentence I meant to say guilty in that count :)

Babin said...

@Prasad, good point. Sometimes I wish kerala should be a separate country for a while so that it will be forced to run its own economy and thus learn the lessons in the hard way. Our politicians (and people) need an economic shock treatment, right on their door step, like what happened to India and other socialist countries in early 90s or like whatever realization that forced chinese leaders to change their attitude toward market systems.

@Silverine That will be so predictable! They will be doing the exact opposite to what they are preaching now. (which is a good thing, rt:))

@Shinu The way i think about it, Kerala is in such a rock bottom position, the only way it can move is up!

Mind Curry said...

one big reason i posted this was because a lot of visitors here have written to me thinking i am sitting in some plush city in north america and "whining" about kerala and fellow keralites. that is not the case, and i spend a lot of time in kerala, trying to be a part of the system myself and inculcate change when possible.

that said,

@ prasad - great point. gulf money has stopped trickling in (stopped pouring long time ago) and it wont be long before we become the worst state as you put it.

@ silverine - :)
position: party president
qual: 4th standard or lower, preferably not had any schooling
age: 70 years or above
not knowing english, never being employed previously, good command of foul language, criminal cases, attempted rapes etc are plus points.

@ shinu - you are sooo right shinu. but the very idea of this blog arose from such desolation and despair. so we have to keep hoping and trying, and someday we will be able to make a difference.

@ babin - thanks so much babin. i am so really happy to find someone who is actively participating here and your comments and posts are always a delight.

Jiby said...

these attitudes of our malayali brethren have scared away so much precious talent from our soil...i wonder if i'll have to add myself to the list twice...your posts depress me but what you write is the reality of kerala that i escaped coz i was just a student enjoying my college life...i want to live the rest of my life in kerala and thats why i returned but to be frank i am shit-scared.

great writing big-brother...i am really proud of you...hopefully i'll be able to write as insightfully as you in a few years!

ARK said...

I don't think we should lose hope or feel depressed even though the ground situation is really as bad as portrayed in this wonderful post...

I think the situation in many other states are even worse but they don't really come into the spotlight because people there are
1) unaware of their rights or dignity
2) too terrorized and exploited so that all they care about is survival
3) the corrupt forces are much much stronger

i may be wrong but this is my view. atleast every problem in Kerala is talked about, people are literate and hence conscious, all of us know all that is wrong. We say Kerala is plagued by sex scandals, corruption etc but things many times worse happen elsewhere but they never come into light at all. Ok, that doesn't mean we can have all this problems and stay quiet coz they are lesser here but all I am saying is if there is any state in India capable of being a model, it is Kerala and only Kerala.

Yes politics and politicians stink here, corruption is rampant, every development is hindered, unemployment is growing, but it is unfortunate if we conclude kerala is going to dogs and leave it at that.

On many indicators, kerala sits on top and i believe we do have a sound platform to emerge as the best state in the country in all respects. but yes, that will require effort, in thinking, planning and execution. Who will do all of this? Now that is the all important question and we simply cannot look around...

Mithun said...

Your post reminded me of the Sethumadhavan who started ‘Dakshyani Biscuits’ in the movie Mithunam. All these are true I do agree with you. But high political consciousness and awareness of rights are good. There is no other state in India which is so balanced in development. After Chennai and Coimbatore Tamilnadu is nothing and after Bangalore, Mangalore and Mysore Karnataka is nothing. So our political consciousness and awareness of rights are good.

Only problem is that we don’t use all of our rights. I don’t know how many of the blogers who were so cynical about the future of Kerala have a valid Election ID card and are planning to vote in the coming elections. So vote and ‘be the change that you want to see’.

And to all those cynics we are not that bad. Take any parameters we are the best in India. Our human development index, literacy rate, GDP growth rate etc are better than that of developed countries. It is true that we don’t have any major industries but you can develop through services also. So let’s be optimistic

Mind Curry said...

@ jiby - well i am sure if all the progressive thinking malayalis made a concerted effort to make a change, it will happen. i am also trying my level best to set that in motion.

you write amazingly well.

@ arjun - much as we express despair and disappointment, the whole idea of this blog is to begin somewhere. to unite like minded people, educated people, and to slowly influence the system in a positive way.

@ aashik - ofcourse, there are good people and not so good people. our idea is to join forces with the good people, identify the areas that need improvement and make a positive influence.

@ mithun - yes, we have previously discussed this. kerala is definitely ahead in many areas, yet backward and dismal in lot of basic and core areas, including peoples mentality. the main idea here is to discuss, bring out positive ideas and directions, that we may influence our family, friends, community and so on.
political awareness can be good when you can use that knowledge to influence the system and society in development, not for blocking it or for apathy.

@ everyone - the idea of this blog, once again, is to influence keralites so that our state may be the best. it is not to just complain or bring forward its flaws but to hopefully identify how it can be corrected. its not a campaign for any particular party, but only to promote people that truly build the state than block its forward progress.

Anonymous said...

Nice article.It is pretty sad to understand the reality that your dream of settling in your home town after a lot of roaming is worth thinking twice.You have only one life and you have to shape your future.Everything and everyone has to go through through their journey to attain the quality of life and so is kerala.Heroes will be born for revolution let them change the system.Once in a while i will land there have some kappa and meen and will be back to my alien world.

Anonymous said...

The Blog above written is exactly 100% correct.i think there are some more stories remaining.i have an experience in RTO office while i went there to take my license.its one of the big bribery collecting center, another one is the village office...there are several others...politicians are truely helpibg them

മണ്ണുണ്ണി said...

Yes,its really heading to the "dog's own" country,but i doubt the dogs may oppose,when someone equalise them to the wily politicians.It is because the politics is their bread and butter not the service!There are hell lot of small scale industries sent to heaven before maturity by the filthy hands of officials.Once some one come out with his long patted dream of opening a small business,these thugs jump out with crazy interest to swallow him as a whole!Opening a venture,however small it is,take a lot of home work,pain,hard efforts,planning,money and tension.But the politicians are never to any sort of investment ,than their knavish brain to create problems to others.What change they made with in this half century after freedom towards the prosperity of the state?If at all we have some better story to share with,it is due to the "induction",the time changes,but they never brought something positive.And that point is to be noted that,their objection for any good idea on fear of credit to opposite party is the major criterian for strike and all hurdles.We should have innoivative,young,committed,educated and cultured politicians,not that people have a dozen of criminal cases,who have interstate smuggling activities,who never been to good in studies,who have a very black school career.

Anonymous said...

I strongly oppose the name "Dog's own Country" for Kerala - The reason?

How many of the fine qualities of a dog do we share?

Sincerety, absolute loyalty, friendliness, unconditional love ... The list goes on.

The title is highly defamatory to the canine community!

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