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!)


quills said...

Stark contrasts our state presents in reality. I hope like you prayed some day soon it all changes and we the people become wiser and more active in bringing about actual reforms.

Nice post!

MC said...

splendid post prof..

this is the reality of Kerala put bluntly in the form of a post, very raw and very real.

but however stark the truth is, most of the keralites just refuse to accept these things. and those who accept, are unable to do anything, but just shrug in despair and helplessness.

its time we helped ourselves..nobody else is going to help us any more.

really liked this post prof! great work!

abhishek said...

A very wise appraisal of Kerala's situation indeed. It should quell all those naysayers who say that we have nothing good to say about Kerala, but in the same breath, discourage those who wish to rest on the state's laurels.

My prediction is that in 10 years, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka will overtake Kerala in terms of literacy rates and come close in terms of health care. My hope is that Kerala keeps up, but as things are going currently, we risk becoming the Bihar of the South.

silverine said...


Awesome post..!!

"Kerala Today" has been so well portrayed in this post! And an apt title too :)

@Abhishek: Couldn't agree with you more after reading this post that we risk becoming the Bihar of the South!

N A R I YA L C H U T N E Y said...

Awesome Menon Sir , You have crystallised in this post what is known as "The Hoax of Gods Own Country" or "Gods Own Country , But Devils Own people" .Hopefully as you said these paradoxes might really be blessings in the scheme of things in the design of God.

Anonymous said...

Very intresting .

Its very strange that if you look at Kerala economy. Its fully supported by money generated from the capitalist countries. Backbone of Kerala wealth is coming from North America , Europe, Middle East countries and we can put Mumbai also in the list. But communism is flourishing in Kerala!!!

Can you tell me the reason for this?

Why minister finance minister (Thomas Issac) talk about Cuban model development for Kerala?

PCM said...

Thank you for your comments.
I am convinced that you all are seriously interested in helping out our State, but the point I intend to drive home is that it is going to be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible.
The situation is like visiting a place devastated by an earthquake and your trying to set right a toppled chair, believing that you are setting things right. To be helped, first of all the recipient needs to know that he is in trouble and secondly he should be prepared to receive advice and help. The fact is that the resident Keralite is totally ignorant of the groove he has fallen into and there is no desire to come out.
Hartals have become the order of the day not because the people support the idea or the cause, but purely because they are afraid of losing their life and property. A few miscreants are enough to throw your life out of gear – so it is safer to close shop and sit at home. That is the reason why hartals turn out to be ‘peaceful and complete’ even if it is declared by an unknown three-member party.
The media fall in line. They give wide publicity to the announcement, great coverage during and after, and the party that declared the hartal become famous overnight.
The cheapest way to get publicity and recognition!


Hats off Prof.The stark contrasts of Keralite life are frightening.Unless the thinking and the attitude of people change, I see no future for that place.
Everyone is up for himself with no social consciouness or civic sense!
I have seen well dressed people , stepping out of their cars to throw their garbage bags into the pavements of the roads in Trivandrum.People have no respect for others, not even for elders! Once I was in a Cinema in Trivandrum, when an elderly couple walked in ; a few youngsters booed at them and commented that "they should be proceeding to Thycaud crematorium; rather than coming to watch movies"!A patient whom I treated for a run-over accident, told me she was lying bleeding in the road for nearly half an hour in broad day light, before some tourists from Bangalore got her to the hospital! A lunatic drowning a poor man in the Padmanabha Swamy temple tank, was shown live on TV cameras, when police & public watched the spectacle!
There was yet another 24 hour motor vehicle bandh in Kerala, yesterday.
Even rulers have lost their faith in the system as the ex- chief minister A.K. Antony recently said in a press conference that Kerala is no longer a safe place, it used to be!

sJ said...

Bandhs in kerala.Blame the public first and then the nasty politicians.
I was working at Ernakulam from Aug 2003 to aug 2006. I have not missed a single day of work for bandh or hartal. I commute 21 kms from house to get to my place of work via NH 47. Luckily there has been no harm yet. Ofcourse I ve to use my own vehicle. Its easier to travel on a bandh day, not only because there are less vehicles but also every one obeys traffic rules on that day.There will be more police petrols on road.At work is even better- it would be much less crowded and those who keep the schedule definetely tell u a nice word for" being there on a bad day like this." Pretty gratifing even if u run the risk of no insurance support if u damage ur vehicle on a bandh day!!!
Its not only me.I find many people on road going for their work trying to hitch a ride.May be pvt sector no longer accepts leave on ground of hartal. some institutions run special buses to pick their staff from certain designated points.
What Iam saying is change is in the air.It will become more pronounced in the coming years. All u have to make is a bandh day leave as loss of pay/ loss of paid leave/alternate working day on sunday, yes sunday.It should start from the govt. Then we can see people coming out against politicians calling strike at the drop of a hat.

N A R I YA L C H U T N E Y said...

@ Pillai :"Its very strange that if you look at Kerala economy. Its fully supported by money generated from the capitalist countries. Backbone of Kerala wealth is coming from North America , Europe, Middle East countries and we can put Mumbai also in the list. "

This is a point I have been deliberating for long time and has discussed this even with some well known economists in India.What comes in the form of remittance money is usually invested anywhere in the world to improve economic prosperity if you consider other countries or even other indian states like Gujarat.

But what happens in Kerala is atarkly different. The money that our relatives / brothers make using their sweat and blood is invested in huge houses and gold ornaments which are supposed to be accepted and common investments in Kerala context because of the social prestige associated with the biggest house in a village / gulf Status / more ornaments worn in a family function.

However if you look at the economic side of it no value in terms of jobs / entrepreneurship are being produced . The money which could have added more value to the society is in turn being hoarded for the individual prestige.The returns of investment from a successful venture is very high and manifold when you assume that the house / jewellery does not give a very high return and the returns are almost fixed.

Few Reasons that I attribute for this are
1)The lack of risk taking mentality in terms of a new ventures in mallu brethren.

2)Political interference , militant trade unions and loss of man days due to bandhs/strikes plucks the bud in the initial stage if the venture starts and this acts as demotivation for many people who are willing to invest in Kerala.

3)Lack of good ideas and knowledge about investment opportunities.

Dont think the people in Kerala care much about for communists flourishing even if the state is supported by money from capitalistic countries :).

My Two Paise :)

PCM said...

@pillai & narialchutney
It is true that we do not like foreign investors, but we are happy to squander the money sent by NRKs. Think of the Global meets and the trips that our ministers make to the Gulf asking for investment. Once they invest, the politicians will see to it that they don’t get any returns. Have pity on the fools who invested their money on Self financing colleges.
The relatives in Kerala make merry with the money sent by their relatives. Building palatial houses, in a way, circulates the money among the working class, but the gulf money has caused aboom in the wages of the labourers. Though housing the poor is still a great problem in Kerala, perhaps it may be the only State where there are so many vacant/sparsely occuppied houses.
Gold ornaments do not contribute much towards distribution of money, but is considered a safe investment of assured returns.
I agree with the reasons stated by Narialchutney, but I still need an answer to my worry.
1. Why is Kerala the biggest consumer State, in spite of the Govt. being broke?
2. How is it that Kerala has the maximum number of gamblig clubs, where lakhs of Rupees change hands everyday?
3. Where does all the money come from to make Kerala the first in India in consumption of liquor?
4. Though private chit funds and finance institutions have 'sunk' by the dozen, how is it that the hundreds of such companies still continue to amass money?
My feeling is that the resident Keralites are playing with somebody eles's money which has come to them easily and with no effort.
Any opinion?

rajesh said...

Excellent post.Could not have said it better.

I see two main problems in kerala.

(1) we have too much idle money. Everyone has someone or the other earning lakhs of rupees (mostly in the Gulf) and the family back home really does not know what to do with all the money. Money looses value when you dont have to work for it.Only the man in the Gulf knows how much suffering he has to go through to earn the money, the family just has to spend it.With too much money and an idle mind,the Devil gets plenty of space to work- the result? contract killings are on the increase,sex rackets are flourishing,even teenagers who are not old enough to get a license, get massive fast bikes to kill people with and everyone starts thinking they can get away with anything if you have money.And sadly at present, you can get away with almost anything in kerala.

(2)we have scant regard for rules, while we are in kerala. Take the malayali out of kerala and you will see one of the best workers in the world.He will obey ALL rules because he knows there will be strict enforcement of rules and fines/punishment will follow.Bring him back to kerala and the first thing he does is spit on the road, throw garbage out of the car window and start disobeying every traffic rule known to man. Even some NRI's revert to their old habits once back in kerala. we must have one of the largest numbers of people who have lived and worked abroad but has ANYONE of these people tried to convey what they have seen or experienced outside kerala to someone here? If for example,every NRI landing at Trivandrum airport, told the taxi driver to slow down and obey traffic rules,that message would get to atleast a thousand taxi drivers EVERY single day.Instead,we rent the taxi driven by an "expert"driver who drives the fastest, weaves dangerously through traffic ,overtakes on the left or right as he sees fit, in order to take you from trivandrum to ernakulam in 3 hours flat ! And when there is an accident,we cry out "the driver was driving too fast ".

Swami vivekananda once said "keralam oru bhranthalayam" and this holds true even now.



@sj I really appreciate your suggestions to curtail bandhs.If you wait for the government to take action , it will never happen.
mc, pcm,silverine, rajesh let us all contribute money to pay a lawyer who can get the matter to judiciary to proclaim Bandhs/hartals as unlawful and implementing sj's suggestions of making bandh day leave for striking government employees as loss of paid leave or to make them work on a sunday.
We can't let petty politicians to take control of our lives. We have to make a start & I still do have my faith in the Indian judiciary.

Anonymous said...

Its a great post, and great discussion. Glad I came across this blog.

IMHO, I see no light at the end of the tunnel for Kerala. Many people are resigned to the fact that the state is going to the dogs. The rest don't care a damn or are busy milking the state for their own coffers.

Kerala has changed much. For one, more people are employed. You see less people loafing around on the streets. And people who are willing to work, seem to be able to make a decent living, which is more than what we could have said of the past.

But, it has also lost a lot of its past charms. Its no more a safe place it used to be - communal riots abound, even school kids have knives hidden under their mundu, you hear more stories of terror. The cleanliness Kerala was famous for, is almost non existent - rubbish disposal in Kerala is a huge problem, which the government seems to have turned a blind eye to. Indiscriminate building of flats are probably the cause of frequent earthquakes and no one seems to care.

I, for one, would love to come back to Kerala at some point in my life. Yet, every time I am there, as much as I enjoy my stay, I realise that this is not a place I can live happily, nor a place I could change that easily.

This is my first time at the blog. But will add to my regular reading list, and looking forward to any initiatives that come out of the discussions here.


PCM said...

The suggestion is valuable, but of not much practical use. The HC has already declared Bundhs as illegal. That is why it now appears in the form of hartals. If you name hartal and ban it, then it will take some other name and reappear. The problem is more deep-rooted than it appears. Like a condition of the body that brings pimples on the skin. You may treat the pimples, but the problem remains.

N A R I YA L C H U T N E Y said...

@ Prof:Menon
"1.Why is Kerala the biggest consumer State, in spite of the Govt. being broke?
3. Where does all the money come from to make Kerala the first in India in consumption of liquor?
4. Though private chit funds and finance institutions have 'sunk' by the dozen, how is it that the hundreds of such companies still continue to amass money?
My feeling is that the resident Keralites are playing with somebody eles's money which has come to them easily and with no effort.
Any opinion? "

Not sure about the second one , but if you see the money in the hands of resident keralites it comes mostly through remittances . If we analyse the money that comes from somebody outside , we can see that there are three stages once somebody goes outside.Think about the people whom you know are in Gulf/ US , you will be able to connect.

1. He/She repays back all his/her loans incurred while securing a ticket to Gulf.

2. He / She complete the family obligations like bro/sis marriage , renovating the house , buying the land etc.

3.Once all these things are done , money still comes in and it is much above the threshold and goes into the things that you have asked in questions 1 , 2 and 3.People start buying more lands , jewellerey , dress and who knows what?. It is this money that I suggested if had gone to entrepreneurial activities would have benefitted the society.

To understand how big a consumerist state Kerala is watch Asianet or Surya T V for one entire day . 80% of the advertisements are from shops who is wooing the consumers with excess money.

Just Wondering whether someone can give a perspective on how govt benefits due to the taxes from remittances :P

P S: My two paise

Anonymous said...

Thanx Mr Menon and narialchutney
for your replies.

Its very sorry to say that present day polititians in Kerala
(both left and right)
have no vision about the State. Discussions like this will give us concrete solutions to many serious problems facing our state today.

sumal said...

You have written an excellent article. It is indeed sad to see the state of affairs in Kerala. We are indeed the "Bihar of South". We might as well be resigned to the fact. It is difficult to see any hope as long as people like VS are at the helm of affairs.
Kudos to you on your excellent post. More power to your pen!

PCM said...

Here is fresh news from Kerala.
The IIT will not be a reality in the next Central Budget.
No more schools or courses will be sanctioned, no more posts will be allowed to be created.
The 1600 Toddy shops, closed down during Antony regime, will be opened.
The mandatory distance from liquor shops to educational institutions and places of worship will be reduced from 400 to 200 metres.
More liquor shops will be opened.
The Universities in Kerala will be made starecrows with the advent of the Higher Education Council consisting of representation from all fields other than education.
Great times in the offing, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

When we discuss the contrasts in the society why do we have to check where get the money to buy liquor from. For any state or country to develop, the people need to be proud of themseleves and their strengths.
We need to look at whats ailing in our society and analyze it consructively. All my life i have been reading people complain that kerala relies on remittance from NRIs. Though this is not an ideal situation , the money thus generated shouldnt be treated any different to the money we obtain from exporting software servicer or even anything.
Prevailing political and social climate in the state is not condusive to new investments. Average keralite hates to see anybody else doing good. The ones who go out and make it big finds happiness in talking down their state and culture. when it comes to the generation of their kids it is even worse.

Anonymous said...

Here Is a GOod articLe by Dr CR SoMan - hope the LINk woRks.

If not, it is the third link in this page:

Another bit of reality...

abhishek said...


It is hard for even NRKs to remain optimistic when the money they send is misused or wasted. Case in point, health care equipment donated by Dr. Aniruddhan and rusting with the Cochin Customs Dept. for past couple of years.

Anonymous said...

That was an interesting analysis on the Kerala Paradox.

Hartals are the single-most curse of Kerala. But somehow people dont seem to tire of it. None dares to raise a finger and no media- including Manorama, Mathrubhoomi - who could actually make an impact if they make a concentrated campaign against it - is not doing anything!!!

CPM has made a mockery of the HC rule on bandhs and renamed it Hartals!

Anyway MC, here is a contest. You can ask people to vote in here.

What will be the purported reason for the next Hartal in Kerala??

a) Central Government's anti-people policies

b) Rising prices on essential commodities etc etc

c) Fidel Castro's death
(This is what i'm betting on . Plan your holiday accordingly )

D) Any other .................


MC said...

@ flaash - Thats very funny..although, as option 4, I would give the proposed USD 5billion fabrication unit planned in Kochi by NeST technologies. This would mean a lot of people getting jobs, and a lot of commercial activity, Kerala progressing and developing! Boy! Nobody in Kerala would want that!!

Anonymous said...


here's an idea

Maybe u can add a "Hartal-Watch" section on the blog and ask people to predict the reason for the next Statewide Hartal in Kerala . Apart from the ones i've given , u can add a few. Will be fun guessing it out ;-)


PCM said...

Hartal watch?
Here are a few reasons:
1. The allegation that Kodiyeri visited the temple is false. Withdraw that!
2. CM announced 5% cut in prizes. Traders can protest.
3. The price of chicken have gone up.
4. Some bus doesn't stop when an MLA (or a lesser leader) wants to stop it!Remember how the Security guard in a bank was transferred for stoppin an MLA's car for five minutes
It actually happened today. Somebody pelted stones at a jewelry shop and there was a hartal!

Anonymous said...

Very well said.
I think the people of this state have been misguided - they have been taught to believe that they are superior to others, more knowledgable than other state, etc, whereas really they are quite unaware of the real situation in other states. The blame must be placed on the political parties. They do not educate - in fact they do not reveal the reality in any matter, only bend facts to their convenience. It may not be incorrect to say that the hippocracy is the nature of the parties. All the parties, with their unrealistic attitude, is hindering development in all fields. The public in general expect the government to provide everything, if possible, free, no one wants to pay for services. Reforming this society will be difficult, only at a point of no go, the situation might change!! Till that date, may be a decade or two away, all will have to endure this contrasting situation. But as is evident here, people are realising the fallacy of the present state of affairs.

Anonymous said...

WiLL anOther civIl disobedieNce Movement be of any help - by not voting at elections in pRotest to politicians?

Generally people who do not vote stay silent.

How about running a proper survey to find out what proportion of people will not vote in the next election because they have lost faith in the system?

If the result is more than 50%, that is a maJority support to change system and action may start there.

abhishek said...


KSSP conducted a survey and found more than 60% of the households surveyed opposed hartals/bandhs.

The lack of a majority turnout at the polls is a moot point in terms of proving that the majority are against the idea. That fact has already been established.

The truth is that the state has been hijacked by anti-social elements: SFI, DYFI, CPI, Congress etc...who have resorted to rule by tyranny. And the scared public is as guilty as the parties and unions.

What we need is a breath of fresh air: a new political organization that has an established code of conduct. One that does not draw its support from unruly college students or militant union members, but from the more disorganized sectors of society. One that believes that the means are as important as the end. One whose members are drawn from the community and continue to work in the community rather get drawn in the world of politics.

In all honesty, instead of blaming the parties and unions, we should reserving that effort for introspection. If Kerala has stagnated and something has seriously gone wrong, then we, the public, are the ones to blame. Because we let people who stopped representing us very long ago, represent us.

Otherwise, why is it that today, there is not a single newspaper or media outlet worth its name? Every one of them is either an extension of a political party or a drab, dreary reporting agency. There is no investigation

PCM said...

You have a point there. As suggested, it would be good to conduct a survey of the number of people who 'willingly' vote. The fact is that even if you don't want to vote, the militant organizations you have mentioned will not give you peace of mind unless you vote. They go from house to house and coerce people to go to the polling booth.
What I understand from the polling percentage is that in places where there are a good number of educated people(like cities and towns), there the voting percentage is lesser than in other places. That is, those who know and are averse to party politics, do not desire to vote.

But, in the democratic system, even if only 30%(or 20) of voters have voted, the winner is decided by the majority of votes polled! Why the other 70-80% havn't voted is nobody's concern.

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