Over the years there has been a common misconception that Kerala follows a unique model of development; despite having low per capita income compared to those of industrialized nations, the rank in human development index of the state is exceptionally high. This claim has been supported through various reports of surveys conducted by the government institutions, NGO as well as international organizations. It has been found that Kerala has remarkable achievements in the field of literacy rate, sex ratio and healthcare which formulated a popular belief of Kerala being a developed state. However the results obtained through a wider in-depth analysis, seems to be contradicting the popular belief. Therefore in this article we will address the developmental issues of Kerala and debunk the various myths accepted as facts resulting in popular misconceptions.
Myth 1: High Literacy rate means highly educated state.
Literacy rate defined as the total percentage of the population of an area at a particular time aged seven years or above who can read and write with understanding. There has been a popular belief that a state with a higher literacy means a state with more educated people. Even though it is true that literacy is the stepping stone to be educated, it does not mean that, this relation will actually be hold in reality. This can be seen in the form of decline in higher education in Kerala. Therefore a long distance beyond literacy needed to be covered to be considered as educated.
This however does not mean that overall literacy level is of less significant. Kerala through its constant, tremendous efforts able to achieve universal literacy in the state. This seems to be unusual for a state with majority of population residing in rural areas engaging in agricultural activities. At this point it is to be noted that literacy rate is a simplistic and quantitative indicator. Thus it does not include qualitative perspective of education. When qualitative perspectives are included through a wider index such Education Development Index, Kerala no longer able to retain its top position, it is in fact not even able manage to be in the list of top 10 states. [ see ref (1)]
Myth 2: Higher Sex Ratio means Better condition for Women.
There is a popular misconception that higher Sex Ratio means a favorable condition for development of women in the society. It is however not true when it comes Kerala. Despite Kerala having highest sex ratio of 1084 females per 1000 males, there is a high cognizable rate of crime against women (i.e, 62.43) in Kerala which significantly higher than that of national average of 52.24. At this point one might argue that cognizable crimes are based on reported incidents and being a literate state there is less chances under-reporting of crimes in Kerala as compared to other states. This argument can easily be challenged when we analyze the conviction rate. Kerala is among the state with highest conviction rate. Therefore the crime against women is actually higher in Kerala.
Even though Kerala successfully able to educate its women, it however could not promote women’s participation in economic activities. This can be evident from the fact that workforce participation among female as per census 2011 is merely 18.23 percent (males with 52.73 percent) which is one of the lowest in country. Therefore Kerala has failed to promote gender equality when it comes to economic opportunities. [see ref (2),(3),(4)]
Myth 3: Kerala has the best healthcare in India.
There is no denying the fact that Kerala has a remarkable record when it comes to healthcare. It can be evident from the fact that Kerala has the highest life expectancy of 73.5 years which is almost 10 years higher than National average of 62.5 years, and is among the state with lowest infant mortality rate. In addition to that Kerala also have a high availability of toilets with 95.4 percent of total population having access to some form of latrine facilities.
However the state has been struggling in some crucial areas. Kerala despite being among the states with highest average annual precipitation, is the worst performer when it comes safe drinking water. Only 33.5 percent of household in Kerala is having access to safe drinking water. Consequently Kerala had to face a high number of cases of water-borne diseases specifically in case of diarrhea and dengue. It is to be noted that the number of cases of these diseases are high but the number of deaths are significantly low. Thus there is an urgent need for the state to shift its attention on prevention instead of cure. [see ref (5), (6), (7)]
Myth 4: Kerala has a robust economy.
There is a common belief that since Kerala is among the top states to export labors across the world and receives remittance as much as of 30 percent of GDP along with world-wide tourism, it therefore must be having a robust economy. This is likely to be another myth need to be debunked.
Even though the GDP growth of Kerala is significantly more than that of national average it however failed to generate required job opportunities. Kerala is among the states with highest unemployment rate and considerably low workforce participation of women. Consequently a huge portion of workforce of Kerala, forced to migrate in search of better employment opportunities. Note that most of the internationally migrated workforce of Kerala is getting employed in gulf nations. This convergence of workforce makes Kerala more vulnerable to international economic volatility.
All these factors collectively positioned Kerala among the states with highest income inequality. Therefore Kerala has failed to promote economic growth along with the path of equity. [see ref (8), (9)]
Myth 5: Kerala is a tolerant society.
Kerala could seems to be a peaceful society when it looked upon from communal perspectives. However when it look upon from perspective of political ideologies, there seems to be a high degree of intolerance. It can be evident from the fact that the God’s own country has also been a center of violent political clashes which have tolled on hundreds of lives. The southern region of India including Kerala is gradually becoming a center for radicalization and misguided of youth.
Such Education is worthless in which political affiliation of an individual becomes a bigger identity than his capabilities.
It can clearly be seen from facts mentioned above that Kerala as popular misconception is not following any kind of unique developmental path, known as Kerala Model. It in fact not even following any form of comprehensive strategic path of development. This argument becomes more concrete when we include other factors such as geographical advantage, high literacy at the time of independence as well as the fact that Kerala has never been under any form of major foreign invasion. Therefore the development we see today is only the stepping stage and mostly the outcome of higher developmental progress goes back to ancient period as well as the geographical advantage that Kerala enjoy. Hence it could be concluded that the present level of development could have been achieved even without any major intervention of government of Kerala.
- Income inequality is measured through Gini Coefficient method which does not include the major component of Kerala’s economy i.e, Remittance. Since the index only consider consumption expenditure and remittance as a form of household income would eventually be if not fully then partially be spending on consumption. Therefore the index is still remains valuable.
- Most of the data are latest available. Since these are the data from official sources it still remains old but reliable.
- Kerala’s political clashes are mostly based on news report as the official government reports are not available on these incidents. Therefore this remark though valid still remains debatable.
The objective of this article is for knowledge purpose only. It is not meant to preach and kind of hate. Kerala is an integral part of India and we all directly and indirectly responsible for its success as well as failure.
- http://ncrb.nic.in/StatPublications/CII/CII2015/FILES/Statistics-2015_rev1_1.pdf (note: Sexual assault was given highest weight)