Kerala: A Unique Place on the Planet!

Kerala: God's own Country!

Kerala: God’s own Country!

Kerala, a tiny southern state of India, has drawn both international and national attention due to its impressive performance in social development and demographic transition. Its human development indicators are the best in India and compare with some of the developed countries. Its achievement of demographic transition is rather unique and has earned worldwide accolades for Kerala. Its population development model is ideal for developing countries who are struggling with issues of population and poverty. Kerala amazes Western demographers because it achieved demographic transition despite poor economic development. It is nothing surprising because for a Western mind everything must correlate with economic development or money!

Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of Kerala is the Female/Male sex ratio: According to the 2011 census, Kerala has 1084 females (up by 26 since 2001) for 1000 male against the national average of 940. In past hundred years, this has steadily improved. Even the most economically advanced states like Delhi, Punjab, Gujarat and Maharashtra don’t match Kerala in female-friendliness and women empowerment.

In the past decade, all districts of Kerala have shown improvement in the sex ratio. As per the 2011 data, the top 3 districts are Kannur (1133), Pathanamthitta (1129) and Kollam (1113) and even the worst districts have better figures: Idukki (1006), Ernakulam (1028), and Wayanad (1035).

Kerala has been setting an example of potentials of human development over last several decades. This beautiful tiny state has emerged far ahead in human development indicators, leaving behind even the economically advanced states like Gujarat and Maharashtra. It also has the lowest rate of population growth, achieved without coercive sterilization policies of family planning ministry. Kerala has the lowest crude death rate (around 6 per thousand), lowest infant mortality (around 10 per 1000 live births), highest life expectancy at birth (75 years) and highest male literacy rate (94 percent) as well as female literacy (92%) compared with the national average of 74% (Male 82%, female 65.5%).

The state is also ahead in the demographic transition curve. It is already nearing zero-population growth and is aging like Japan and Europe.

Many experts wonder: What is Kerala’s model of development?

The answer is simple: Kerala focused on its people and improving their quality of life, a human development model. Although this is pure commonsense but is totally opposite to Western lifestyle which puts GDP growth at the center-stage and then tries to make sense of everything. It is surprising if you talk of putting people at the center of development and make economy subordinate. In the Western world, economy and technology are “developed”, not people who are mere tools to achieve the goal. They are uncomfortable if the spot light is focused on people.

People like Nobel laureate Amartya Sen always remind that people’s well-being depends on many things other than economic growth. While financial strength is always good but things like family and community relations, cultural and spiritual practices, freedom to participate and influence social and political processes, easy access to quality health services, freedom from all forms of insecurities, clean environment, are sufficient leisure time are also important. In this aspect, the tiny Himalayan kingdom Bhutan shows the real path to development. Bhutan is the only country in the world that does not measure its progress by GDP numbers; instead, it uses the holistic ideology of gross national happiness (GNH). It gives equal importance to Sustainable and Equitable Socio-Economic Development, Preservation of Culture, Preservation and Enhancement of Environment, and Good Governance.

Kerala’s people development model has amazed development experts around the world. It offers the right model of other developing countries to follow.

Continue reading: Population Development: What Kerala can teach India and China

About Goodpal

I am a firm believer in healthy people (mind and body both), healthy societies and healthy environment. Please feel free to comment, share and broadcast your views. Thanks for stopping by. Have a Good Day!
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4 Responses to Kerala: A Unique Place on the Planet!

  1. Siri says:

    Goodpal,
    Whats the best way in which we can replicate the successes of Kerala model elsewhere in the country? Is it by investing in Health, education and taking steps towards empowering women?

  2. Goodpal says:

    Answer: All that you mentioned. What is important is to focus on people and their well-being, which means knowing what is limiting their capabilities (Sen) and then taking steps to remove those barriers. Women empowerment has a far deeper and long term impact – it travels to future generations. It helps restrict child marriages of girls and provides them better control of their reproductive health and fertility, among many other positive things.

    Social structure and mindset of people will be the basic hurdle in implementing Kerala model elsewhere. It is the difference in the mental software that makes societies different. Eg, Haryana is more prosperous but is highly patriarchal and suppressive for women. In Rajasthan, women are highly restricted by senseless traditions that centuries ago promoted “Sati.”.

  3. Siri says:

    Social structure and mindset of people will be the basic hurdle in implementing Kerala model elsewhere – I just realized the full import of this statement, I was thinking the biggest hurdle will be the conflicting priorities of the political class to invest the scarce resources, which is not. As you said, more basic reason could be the social mindset.

  4. Goodpal says:

    Please get it straight – there is no scarcity of resources in India. In the past if India was invaded i was attraction of wealth and prosperity here; even today how can you have mind boggling high amount in lakhs of crores of rupees in 2G scam if there is shortage of resources.

    What we lack is the will to do something, beyond talking!!! Allotting money and other physical resources does not automatically translate into benefits of the people. All problems lay in people’s mindset. Why a Gujarati or a Punjabi is likely to be more hardworking anywhere in the world – is all a matter of mindset and mental software that comes from culture and traditions. Likewise there are others (I don’t want to name the communities) who will never move their even a finger and wait for others to help them out – people from such communities never grow in any field. They are always like a malign parasite – that eats away its own support!

    Social structure and system also plays a vital role. Think why Indians do excellently well when they go abroad, and remain useless in India?

    Why Siri shows interest in learning while others stay with the illusion to know everything or fail to open up and learn? It’s all in the mental software!!!!! :)

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