Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Kerala - A Mixture of Paradoxes

Kerala is a veritable mixture of stark paradoxes.

On one side, there is the scenic beauty and docile people that attract tourists from all over the world. On the other side is the highly politicized atmosphere, where bundhs and hartals might break out any moment out of the blue.

On the one side is the harmonious blending of all religions, castes and cultures leading to an amicable life; juxtaposed is the increasing arms menace and occasional localized communal riots which get smothered soon enough.

Scoundrels are on the prowl, threat to life and property exists, the law and order situation is not the best; yet, people have faith in their neighbors, live a peaceful life and are generally calm by nature.

Education is in total disarray, but the children of Kerala get well under it to the extent of finding jobs in the outside world.

The Government treasury is bankrupt, but the people have enough money in their hands. Poor though their Government is, Kerala is the biggest consumer state and the highest in per capita consumption of liquor.

Trade Unions are said to make life difficult in Kerala, but everyone is willy nilly a member of some Union or other. Each union fights for the rights of its members, yet no union comes into conflict with the others.

Politics is the bread-winner for the jobless and the public in general do not find anything wrong with that.

Those who get elected to power alternatively plunder the State’s resources continuously, but the citizens again vote them to power with zeal.

The leaders thus raised to power carry on their stealth unflinchingly.
The State doesn’t have resources of its own, but any investment from outside is treated with derision. Industries are welcome, only to be fought against and closed down.

The Central Government is kept in power by the support of all the
MPs from the State, but MPs fail to get the State’s due from the Centre.

Mother Nature is not different in its attitude.
Kerala is one of the States that get maximum rainfall, but as soon are rains are over, the State is in the grip of severe draught. There are said to be 44 rivers running through Kerala, but they are not enough to keep the fields irrigated or quench the thirst of people. Kuttanad, where there is the biggest natural water reservoir, is the place most tortured by paucity of drinking water.

The Government proclaims that it is for the poor, but hopes to finance itself through lotteries bought by the poor. The pittance given to the jobless is minus the cost of the lottery ticket.

The non-resident Keralites are worried much about the future of Kerala, but the people living in the State are least concerned. They make merry with strikes, hartals, bundhs, protests and processions.

The State is the most literate in India, but they do not seem to see beyond their own noses.

Kerala is one of the States where roads haven’t developed much since Independence, but it stands first in the sale of Cars and bikes.
The State richly deserves more highways and expressways, but acquiring land for the purpose is fraught with resistance from potential users.

Efforts towards improving hygiene and sanitation are certainly poor, but the number of tourists visiting Kerala is on the increase year by year. The cities abound with stinking heaps of garbage and singing hoards of mosquitoes, but the visitors go back with pleasant memories and vow to return.

The general apprehension about the State is that it is going to dogs, but many still believe that it is ‘God’s Own Country’!

Who knows, perhaps all the things that appear to be paradoxes might really be blessings in the scheme of things in the design of God. May God Almighty lead the State to prosperity. (Only He can save Kerala!)
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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Goon's Own Country?

A few weeks ago, there was an incident in Kerala that really assured me that the "Dog's Own Country" title we have for this blog is well deserved, and hard earned by some of the people of Kerala. Of course, like our beloved politicians and priests say..everything is for the people, our society, our community. So we have to be proud of all these things I guess. Or perhaps, like we are trained to do - be silent about it..and pretend we are the best. Ahh..Kerala..God's Own Country..And God's Own People..

The incident was an attack on a pilot who was at a toll-booth in Trivandrum, Kerala. The pilot was travelling with one of his friends, a doctor, and his wife. At the toll-booth, despite having paid the fee, he was stopped and attacked. Since he was from the military background he was able to withstand the swords, rods and more than 5-6 goondas (Toll booth workers) that attacked him, and exit from the scene with injuries and a damaged vehicle.

Later the pilot and co attempted to lodge a complaint at the nearest police station. And he was greeted with abuse and counter-complaints. The reason: The toll-booth was under the control of a prominent local political party leader. And how can the cops go against them? Dare they do that and risk being transferred to Wayanad? (Although I think Wayanad is heavenly!). After all, the police are meant to serve - oh no..not the people..but the politicians.

Anyway there are two important pointers from this incident:

1. Is there justice for the ordinary citizen? I would say no. Unless you have political backing and power, there is no justice in Kerala. One would say its more or less the same in the rest of India. But aren't we the ones claiming to be literate and socially developed and all those glittering honors on the exterior? The so called "social justice in Kerala" is just a farce. If you focus on your work and family and your own life, you will sooner or later lose out. Instead if you join some party, and muster enough support from the local network, then you can dictate terms. Sadly thats whats happening in Kerala. The youth are learning this right from school. You get beaten up, unless you are a part of some party. Everyone encourages you to join one of the unions. And unions have invaded schools. Just 2 days ago there was a picture in the newspaper of school kids from the youth party unit doing a protest march but covering their faces just in case their parents saw their pics in the paper! Ridiculous I say. Is this what we are training the new generation for? There have been widespread protests against the Supreme Court rule for banning party-politics in Schools and Colleges! That will be the single most important step for the future of India, particularly Kerala!

2. The above mentioned incident occured in front of a long line of cars..and people.. at either side of the toll booth. And not a single person, or group of people, dared to help this pilot and his friend. Is it apathy? Or is it plain fear? Isn't it funny that in Kerala, party politics is organized in such a way that if you dont like anything, just rope in the party and organize a can supercede justice, judiciary and any rule by doing just that. Recent examples: 1. Video piracy is rampant and action against erring shops was undertaken. The unions are brought in. They conduct a hartal! Why cant Keralites use pirated content? We are superior, we are the best. 2. Public transport vehicles were causing too many accidents and a lot of people died. Speed-governors were to be implemented. The unions come in. There is a bandh against speed-governors. Why cant public transport vehicles overspeed and cause accidents? We are too good to have speedbreakers and be controlled. And its sad the doctors in Kerala are also treading the same path with their recent spate of hartals. Isn't there any other solution? Are we all so mentally challenged to stoop down to such pathetically low levels?

And there are plenty more incidents on a daily basis happening all over Kerala that marks the state of deterioration - mental, social , economical and political.

Arms haul in Kochi, Goondas reigning over police in Trivandrum, Political party workers beating up citizens who dont contribute to the party, increasing robberies and theft, eve-teasing, molestations and rapes.. Do all these reports affect Keralites beyond the morning coffee gossip session? Guess not. Or probably yes. But we are taught to pretend we are the best. Lets not "wash dirty linen in public" we are constantly reminded. Lets keep all our problems to ourselves and pretend.

And since we dont want to get beaten up, lets join the party.
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Monday, January 08, 2007

The case for a 'Green tax' in Kerala

According to the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 “environment" includes water, air and land and the inter- relationship which exists among and between water, air and land, and human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro-organism and property; "environmental pollutant" means any solid, liquid or gaseous substance present in such concentration as may be, or tend to be, injurious to environment; and "environmental pollution" means the presence in the environment of any environmental pollutant.

Though this Act gives power to the Government, not much has been done. The enforcement of environmental regulation is weak in developing countries like India, and thus the citizens are being compelled to sue the polluters or take direct actions that are costly to the polluter. [Santhakumar]

According to Santhakumar, the institutional imperfections present in protecting the environment are weak enforcement of environmental regulations, long delays taken for court settlements, and the low cost for taking, and the possibility of imposing high cost through, unlawful actions.

A country’s environmental problems vary with its stage of development, structure of its economy, production technologies in use and its environmental policies. While some problems may be associated with the lack of economic development (e.g. inadequate sanitation and clean drinking water), others are exacerbated by the growth of economic activity (e.g. air and water pollution).

What is a ‘Green tax’?

A ‘Green Tax’ refers to a tax which is imposed on activities and transactions which aggravate the environmental pollution. The proceeds of this tax are used to conduct environmentally beneficial programmes.

‘Green Tax’ in A.P

From the 27th of November, Andhra Pradesh has started levying the ‘Green Tax’ on vehicles which have been in use for 15 years and above. The vehicles, which are old, produce more pollution than the modern ones. This revenue is then used for environmental protection.

In Kerala

Of late, the Government has shown concern for the environment by banning plastic carry bags. The official website says thus: “In view of the increasing cases of epidemics and their environmental problems, the Government of Kerala has decided to ban the production, storing, consumption, distribution and transportation of plastic bottles, carry bags and cups below 50 microns.”

This state ranks high in the consumption of consumer goods especially cars. Wikipedia states that ‘Traffic in Kerala has been growing at a rate of 10–11% every year, resulting in high traffic and pressure on the roads.’


It is evident that there is not going to be a decrease in the use of automobiles. Imposing a tax to reduce the purchase of vehicles will not prove to be effective as it is a very useful and efficient mode of transportation. Hence, imposing a ‘Green tax’ on vehicles which are old (They tend to pollute the environment relatively more than newly made ones) will help in carrying out programmes to protect the environment.

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