The difference of Kerala

The locals call Kerala ‘God’s Own Country’.  The paradise like state is full of natural resources and an ideal place in terms of human resource development index in South Asia – the literacy rate has reached cent per cent and the disparity  rate  is the lowest.  All communities in the state have been living peacefully for half a century. But, the communal harmony may be hampered as the ruling party of the central government, the Bharatiya Janata Party, is triggering intolerance to gain popularity among the low-caste Hindu communities for its political interest.
After visiting Kerala, Ershad Kamol narrates the inside stories of the state.

sit1It was really a surprise to see beef being served as a regular dish in restaurants of Kerala when the whole of India is currently divided over the question of tolerance towards the eating habit of the Muslim minority.
Shaji, a Hindu cab driver, said the intolerance debate would not affect the sectarian harmony in Kerala where all communities including Hindus, Muslims and Christians have been living peacefully for many years and were never involved in any sectarian rift.
The evidence of his observation is found at the Palayam intersection, a busy place at the centre of Thiruvinanthapuram, the capital of the state, where followers of Hinduism, Islam and Christianity say their prayers in the morning respectively at a temple, a mosque and a church located at the three points of the intersection.
Mohammad Rashad, a university student, said he never faced any problem to follow the rituals of his religion Islam and never heard anybody facing such problems either. ‘The situation here in Kerala is different from other states in India in terms of education, per capita income and sectarian harmony among others,’ Rashad said.
Thiruvinanthapuram city and its adjacent small towns are, indeed, gifted with natural resources including backwaters, beaches, mountain ranges, waterfalls and tropical greenery. Hardly any big bungalows or slums are found in Kerala, which is located on the Malabar coast of India.
The state has witnessed significant emigration, especially to the Gulf states during the Gulf Boom in the seventies and early eighties, with its economy depending significantly on remittances from a large Malayali expatriate community.
In comparison with the rest of India, Kerala experiences relatively little sectarianism. According to 2011 Census of India figures, 54.73 per cent of Kerala’s residents are Hindus, 26.56 per cent are Muslims, 18.38 per cent are Christians, and the remaining 0.32 per cent follows another religion or no religion.
Kerala is also regarded as the ‘least corrupt Indian state’ according to the surveys conducted by Transparency International. Kerala has the lowest proportion of homeless people in rural India – 0.04 per cent and the state is attempting to reach the goal of becoming the first ‘zero homeless state’.
sit2It happened, the locals said, due to the education boom in the state that was initiated by both the Christian and Muslim missionaries and later gained momentum through the conscious public and political decision by incorporating a democratic socialist welfare economy since its inception as a state on November 1, 1956.
Kerala hosts two major political alliances: the United Democratic Front, led by the Indian National Congress and the Left Democratic Front, led by the Communist Party of India CPIM. The alliances have shared the power alternatively in the recent past.
Sagar Sreenivasan, a performing arts teacher at a private college and also an aspiring filmmaker, said cent per cent population is literate of whom 50 per cent are graduates. ‘Minimum wage is Rs 15,000 and living cost is ever increasing as per capita income is on the rise,’ he said.
‘People here in Kerala are earning more money doing good jobs, especially in information technology sector in home and abroad. But, nobody is interested these days in cultivation and as a result the state imports agriculture goods from neighbouring states,’ shared Sreenivasan.
‘Even coconut cultivation, once the most common profession of Kerala people, has drastically dropped. Only in a few places, people cultivate tea and coffee,’ he informed.
Migrants from the West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Tamil Nadu do the hard-work and low-income jobs, he added.
But, corruption is a growing concern in Kerala, said Bandhu A Prasad, art and film programmer.  ‘Both alliances are corrupt—the congress-led alliance do it quite explicitly when the CPIM-led alliances do it cleverly for which it is difficult to trace.’
Both alliances these days are coming up with populist policies, which are not implemented effectively, he said. ‘The latest is the decision of imposing ban on sale of liquor to control citizen’s expenditure for liquor consumption with an aim to divert these funds toward family expenditure,’ he added.
‘When all the neighbouring states did not impose such ban, will it be possible to control liquor sale? And sale of locally produced hard drink toddy has not been banned, which is very popular,’ he informed.
He also said that strikes, protests and marches are ubiquitous in Kerala due to the comparatively strong presence of labour unions, which sometimes hinder normal life, development and tourism.
A Pune based cine-journalist and film festival organiser Latika Padgaonkar said, ‘When the state is almost literate and full of natural resources, roads are dirty and full of traffic congestion. The situation was not like this when I visited the place few years ago.’
Besides alleged corruption among political parties and labour organisations, sectarian harmony, about which the Kerala people have always been proud, is also becoming a growing concern in Kerala.
For its political interest, Bharatiya Janta Party has instigated the propaganda among the low-caste Hindus that the minorities including Christians and Muslims are privileged in the state. ‘Such campaign is getting popularity set against the backdrop of corruption charges against Congress and CPIM,’ said Shelly J Morais, an aspiring filmmaker.
Muslim bigots, the locals said, on the other hand is triggering radicalism among Sunni followers, Mujahid and Jama’at-e-Islami.
Locals express concern that if the loggerhead between the two radical parties results in a sectarian conflict in the ‘paradise state’ of India, it may affect the economic and human resources development growth of the country.
The writer is a cultural affairs editor of New Age

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