Tuesday, August 29, 2006

So, Whats Now for the Development Agenda?

Angane, Kerala has undergone yet another political transition! This post is a (optimistic) status review of major development initiatives that are on the pipelines for our state and how recent political transition is affecting it.

Intro: New Vikasana Agenda

Over the last few years, especially during OC’s tenure, there seemed to be new concept of Vikasanam in kerala that is getting increased attention. One that emphasis on big infrastructure projects and attracting large scale private employers, of the new economy, to the state. Kerala can still break away from its economic stagnation and scarcity of employment, if this new Vikasana agenda is given the political fuel to continue its momentum.

I feel politically environment is favorable enough for this new Agenda to take root. As more and more time passes, leftist are becoming milder and milder in their antagonism against economic liberalization. Strong political examples from Bangali Marxist leaders had to filter into the minds of comrades at home, especially since they are on the ruling side now. Second, VS in the Chief Minister’s post is a lesser evil than him being the opposition leader, as far this agenda is concerned. Unlike OC, he is not expected to be a proactive leader nor a visionary in this field but hopefully external pressures and the realities of governance will keep him on track. As an added bonus, less political cheap shots from selfish opposition politicians means, less harassment from the media for the new Vikasana vision. It is also widely conceived that during the leftist tenure state is more stable (except for Kannur,ofcource ) in terms of bundh, political unrest, student agitation, etc for reasons that are very troubling to say the least.

Smart City:
It is really been a rollercoaster ride for this project. Judging by the moment, it seems VS's administration has done a good job keeping the project alive. His preconceived strong stand on this project gave him the upper ground on the negotiations with DIC. Hopefully, the government and DIC can workout the exact wording of the contract soon. The implementation of this project, if happened, would be a huge strategic victory for the state’s new development vision. Entrance of Smart City along with vallarpadam port terminal project will increase Cochi’s business profile and will attract many other large and small scale employers to the city. Cochi is a little nuke bomb waiting to be exploded with jobs!

Techno Park Expansions.
The expansion plans for park is quite impressive. I don't see any hurdles here because of the political transition. Glad to see VS is fine with giving out land directly to companies rather than through government agencies. Hopefully, the growth rate in information technology sector will keep up for the years to come, so that all future expansion plans will be realized.

Vizhinjam Harbor.
Only hiccup. Instead of doing Dharna's and kerala style useless gharavos in delhi, why not our honored MPs call up a news conference and threaten a 'withdrawal of support', unless Central babus give clearance to the project? Kerala government should also propose tighter regulations and safety precautions to address legitimate national security concerns aroused by the Chinise involvement. It ties into the post Brijesh made earlier... kerala politicians don't know smart politics.

Naluvary Patha aka Express Highway.
Our state will be choked to death by vehicle traffic and will be unsuitable for business, unless such access controlled highways are built in the near future. Most likely, 25 -30 years down the road, an Express Highway in kerala is going to be a forgone conclusion, simply because our state can not be able to survive without it.

At least a strip down version of the original plan should be allowed to be built during this government’s term. I feel this project is politically more feasible now. All it need is a No Objection Certificate from CM saying he is okay with the project (of course a modified repackaged one) as long as there is no ‘corruption’ and no ‘real estate mafia’ is involved.

The original plan had several 'image' problems. The vision was oversold to a narrow minded social and political environment. It is very important that public perceive this project as an uninterrupted blood vessel that can bring prosperity to all sections of the society, not just the rich, as many perceive now. May be doubling or tripling the access points than originally planned would increase public liking of this project. Also, government should get central funding for the project, something the previous promoters hadn’t bother to do. Hoping VS won't be a odakke in this, at the end...

Power Sector.
Inefficient KSEB should be broken up and private sector power producers should be allowed to compete, at least in the industrial sector. As long as current subsidies are kept, there shouldn't any reasonable political pressure for not to implement the reforms especially since it is mandated by central government.

Government Institutions.
Historically, leftist governments show more innovations for the public institutions. Hopefully this trend will continue this term as well. Already, it is a welcome move to start new audit system aimed at local government. If the lefts are committed to the Janakeeya Aasuthranam and Local Government Decentralization, they should give more taxing powers and more financial independence to local administrations.

End Note
And now, for the interest of keeping the readers awake, I should cut short this 'review'. There are many more notions/sectors of development to discuss. It is a good idea to keep track of states development affairs through savekerala blog while keeping it as apolitical as possible. Please add your thoughts in the comment section.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

A Tribute

It has been over 78 years since we saw the first malayalam movie release in 1928. I think it has been one of the things we could be proud of about Malayalam. Though I cant relate to the term "Mollywood", I have grown up watching, enjoying and relishing a lot of malayalam movies. From poochekkoru mookuthi to boeing boeing, rajavinte makan to commissioner, adiozhukkukal to ennale, nadodikaattu to america america america, manichithrathazhu to pakshe, some of the best movies I have seen have been from Kerala.

Though at times I feel sad when I see current malayalam releases, there are enough memories to keep me happy. Mohanlal and Mammooty are two amazing actors, especially Mohanlal who has got the ability to adapt to any role. I have seen Mohanlal right from the days he began acting along with Sankar, his buddy then. It is amazing how he has matured as an actor. I haven't seen such fine acting by any other actor who has come into the scene after them.

That the movie industry is in trouble is evident from many facts: We dont see good movies like we used and have to wait for Onam, We see most of the actors moving off to Telugu or Tamil for work, We see them going on strikes..

Sadder is the state of cinemas in Kerala. As a child I used to hear people say how good the cinema halls in Kerala are, much before Dolby and Surround were there. From then it has been a lot of stagnation, along with Mallu movie-goers writing their names on the seats or peeling off the sponge off the cushioned chairs, that has led to the pathetic condition the cinema halls in Kerala are today. People in Kerala, most of them, will think thrice before going to the hall to watch a movie. It is high time a PVR or a Adlabs mutliplex opened in the Kerala cities, but I hope movie-goers will learn to behave more responsibly and civilized.

All said, the rich history of the Malayalam movie industry is worth its respect and here is my Tribute

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Click on the Pink Play button twice! And let me know your take on "Mollywood"!! Ugghh!!


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Friday, August 18, 2006

Towards a better system of scholastic evaluation

Marks, marks & marks! Isn’t that all that both parents and students yearn for? But sadly, how unsatisfactory are marks alone, when used as a yardstick to assess a student’s scholastic performance. Shouldn’t we have a better system of evaluation to assess true knowledge?

The current evaluation system of just having one exam has to be revamped. It is disheartening to see parents telling their children repeatedly to score above 90%.
Scoring the maximum does not imply that the student exhibits a good knowledge of the subject. And marks should not serve as a criterion for comparison among students. Parents often compare the marks of their children with other students, which often make the child depressed. This unfair comparison has been aggravated by the media in lauding the best performers in the board exams. This makes the students who have not been included in the top performers’ list feel dejected. Apart from this, fierce competition takes place among the schools also for maximum ranks and 100% pass in the board exams.

In the recent years, the state of Kerala has introduced the ranking system for its tenth board exams (SSLC). This is a welcome step in the education sector. Although some parents and students criticise the ranking method, it has got its own advantages and disadvantages. It reduces the minute comparisons which are taking place but it’s still based on a single exam. It will be more welcomed by the students because comparisons based on unit marks will not take place. To take an example, it is not right to say that a person who has scored 80% is brighter than a person who scored 75%. The ranking system places both these students in a single category.

I have another alternative to put forth. My suggestion is to divide the total marks of 100% into four parts; 25% for surprise tests, 25% for an original study done on a related topic in the subject, 25% for an oral test and finally 25% for the standard written exam. The surprise tests ensure marks to the student who reads regularly and commands good knowledge of the subject. Those students who read extensively and can write well are rewarded in the project. Students who can communicate better orally can score well in the oral tests. And finally those students, who are adept in learning by rote, would score well in the written exam only. And after the marks are calculated, use the ranking system.

This would ensure a fair degree of fairness into the evaluation system which aptly rewards the capabilities of different students from diverse backgrounds.
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