Saturday, October 22, 2016


Keralite society and the larger world

An  agricultural society of the past grappling to come to terms with Industrialization and Services sector….crisp way of labeling Kerala as a society.

It is nice to study Kerala as a society..or so modern day Kerala which is a combination for all practical purposes of Malabar and Travancore.

To my observation this state is ailing on many fronts but is enduring the ailment silently hoping for a better tomorrow of some kind. Is it education that can act as a transformational force..or is it Corporatization….or is it Foreign exchange…solutions are being sought.
For most part of my life I have lived in the Karnataka state and was an observer of Kerala.Every time I see the monolithic Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore  I wonder why the state of Kerala failed to create such an edifice which leaders in this part of the World assembled almost after independence.

Every other day I watch Malayalam news channels and see protesters baring their chests against  Police using water cannons and involved in lathi charge and young people brutally beaten….inter party murders at other times..most of the time the Democracy of Kerala is discussing and swording such issues to the exclusion of many other which could add to the development of the state and the region.

Almost a decade ago I happened to visit an arrack shop in Kozhikode searching for a friend and found a huge multitude of people in the shop….that too in the afternoon. I was left wondering the amount of human energy being wasted which could have been put to constructive work.

Keralite society needs direction needs healing and short-term and long-term healing procedures out of its erring ways. If these are not implemented fast there could be economic take-over of the state by external forces. Something drastic has to be done to orient the state into more refined ways and tap and channelize the abilities of people for larger good.

Let us look at the history of modern day Kerala. Traditionally divided into many fiefdoms into conflicts from time to time and the ports of Kerala like Cochin, Kodungallur, Calicut and Ezhimala in the center of international trade mostly from the Arab countries and thereafter the European invasion through Calicut, first by the Portuguese and finally by the English. Add to that the control of Malabar by the Mysorean forces for nearly eight years and the socio-political changes there-of..and it appears to me by 1850 the English had complete control of modern day territory of Kerala. They were wary of Malabar but were better positioned towards Travancore –a lop-sided development policy the effects of which are even felt to this day. Note that at one time Malabar accounted for a large share of world GDP because of its trade in spices which eventually went into disarray for many reasons. Much of English administration was centered around Madras and many parts of Kerala were ignored or bore an indifferent treatment. The primary reason being that the trade in spices were replaced by the trade in Tea and Jute which saw cities like Kolkata ,Mumbai (Bombay) and Chennai(Madras ) growing in prominence and the state of Kerala as we see today nowhere in the fulcrum of Economic momentum. Keralites more so the Nairs and Menons of Malabar who found favor with the English were accommodated in these cities which created a brand of non-resident keralites who none the less owed allegiance to the state arising to some standing at the national and international level around these times. Needless to say names like Krishna Menon and V P Menon would fare in this list.

In post independent India and the growth of public sector found a bunch of people..a significant bunch..move into most key cities of the country and and the following opportunity to contribute dramatically to Economic activities of various kinds. This is interesting and far-reaching because it created a genre of people across most states who owed some form of allegiance to their native states and also add to this the post-independence phenomena of mass migration of youngsters to the Gulf..many of them settled there and also to be noted is the migration during the English era of people from this region to the Malaysian Peninsula to work in Plantations.Every thing mentioned above tries to trace the over-all contours of Keralite society as we know it.

Geographically speaking there is a problem that Keralite society was victim of. The Western Ghats on one side and the Arabian sea creating a narrow tract at the most some sixty miles in width restricted into motions only in the North-South direction.The Western Ghats has an aperture at Palghat called the Palghatgap which was the only known free entry zone into the modern state of Kerala..else it is a struggle to negotiate the Western Ghats.Few other state have these Ghats within the boundary..think of it for a second…Kerala is the only state confined by this range in Toto..a military disadvantage faced by the people, because who controls the Palghat Gap controls the movements into the Kerala regions and since ages in the face of Military conquest the people living within this region could easily be out numbered by any invader. This has happened on many occasions so to say adding to the woes of this state.

What are the far reaching changes adopted in Kerala in the recent past. Liberalization and privatization of Education.. meaning expansion of opportunities for professional education in the private sector. It is yet to bear the results it is destined for but in many ways can be treated as a welcome move that large educational platforms are created in-house and populace could travel to near-by cities for education and also add to that the economic growth that such sectors could create. The second change would be the effort  to create technology parks to grapple with modern day software eco-space.. yet to provide serious results but none the less a step in the progressive direction. The third would be positioning of Kerala more seriously as a Tourist destination which must be providing results.

I was watching with caution the efforts of the state at prohibition which could be seen largely as a political move. Prohibition implemented all of a sudden will have large scale social and economic churn and back-lash..any effort at prohibition must be gradual over a ten year period or so systematically decreasing the supply of liquor to the common folks and also increasing the price. If done all of a sudden it can lead to boot legging and other law and order crisis. I watch with dismay the large proportion of common folk standing outside government out-lets trying to buy liquor..such a phenomenon is unseen in much of the other parts of the country.

It is a weakness of the system of education both formal and informal that large parts of society land up into the habit of alcohol or similar substance abuse. Media time in all major media must be devoted for few minutes every day to encourage people into prohibition; the liquor lobby would be against this , but some trade-off must be arrived at for a more strategically firm social fiber.

Thanks to the mobile telephony and internet revolution the social composition of the working population is changing. Youngsters in their teens from all over the country can be seen working at various outlets in Kerala these days ;lads who adapt to Keralite ways quickly and successfully.

What should Keralite society of the future look like? It has inherited a troubled past and needs to leap-frog into a future that is fanciful and promising vis-à-vis the new world order.A daunting task but must be adhered to.There are no quick-fix solutions. But before we proceed any further it would be worthy to point out some of the constructive points as we see it. Keralite society has a vibrant and successful cinema industry which to my observation makes responsible movies to a large extent.. there has been constructive progress even in the other areas of fine-art..a responsible public that take keen interest in public affairs, sometimes it is over-reaction, add to that a media which has been keen to highlight issues of the common man, a tilt towards the Capitalistic model of society in the recent past, a more responsible approach to public assets, growth in infrastructure projects and also the ability to have adapted very quickly to the mobile and internet revolutions.

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