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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 33 New Delhi August 6, 2016

Need for the Left Democratic Front to Usher in a Paradigm Shift in Kerala

Wednesday 10 August 2016

by Renji George Amballoor and V. Mathew Kurian

The voters of Kerala gave a thumping majority to the Left Democratic Front (LFD) Government in the recently concluded Assembly elections with a definite mandate for change. The LFD secured 91 seats in the 140-member Assembly and the United Democratic Front (UDF) was reduced to meagre 47. Kerala is known for the see-saw approach in electing a new political conglomeration to power every five years. This time around, the seats secured by the LDF in comparison with the UDF and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is a reflection of the eagerness and aspiration of voters for working out new development alternatives for Kerala.

The story of Kerala’s development experience is that of many paradoxes. Social thinkers and economists have described Kerala as the ‘land of development paradoxes’. Low mortality along with high morbidity rates, high literacy with leapfrogging mental illness and suicides, high rates of emigration and outmigration alongside with inflow of domestic migrant labour from UP, Bihar, Assam, North-East, etc., improved life expectancy together with life-style diseases and the problems of aged population, expanding the service sector together with low performing manufacturing, productivity differences in the workforce within and outside the State, consu-merist culture with profound dependence on goods and services from other States, ever increasing serpentine queues before the outlets of the State beverages corporations, fallow paddy fields in Kerala where rice is a staple food, etc. are some of the manifestations of development paradoxes in Kerala. The frequent power-cuts and water famines in spite of south-west and north-east monsoon rains, anthro-pocene-induced ecological damages, deteriorating quality of the education sector, governance deficit, the neglect and suffering of outliers, grotesque role of speculative income, the growing deficiencies in public service delivery, dearth of citizen-friendly work culture, government machinery remote contolled by the corporate private sector, agrarian distress, etc. are some of the challenges before the state and its stakeholders. Ushering in a new paradigm for just and sustainable development is thus a challenge.

The programmes initiated in the past like ‘Peoples’ Planning’,Kudumbashree’, ‘Ayalkootam’, Group Farming’, ‘Resource Mapping’, and such other citizen-empowering programmes need to be rejuvenated for consolidating the gains. The LDF think-thank needs to devise innovative and citizen-collaborative schemes in agriculture and horticulture for ensuring food security. There is a need to encourage every household for generating surplus energy from non-conven-tional sources, harvesting rain water for enhancing the ground water table, introducing eco-friendly organic farming, localised solid waste management and recycling, etc. The new government must devise programmes for ensuring sustainable livelihood for outliers. The rack-renters, in their eagerness to maximise their profit, have been recklessly bleeding the natural resources of the State. The LDF Government should consider solutions for optimising the use of natural resources within the sustainable renewable capacity. Maintaining a fine balance between natural ecology and development activities is the need of the hour. A new citizen-friendly work culture needs to be cultivated among the staff in the government offices and departments. Corruption has become widespread and has witnessed a sky-rocketing growth. For ensuring sustainability, corruption has to be reduced and the process has to start from the top.

In the long run, Kerala cannot sustain its economy only on remittances, speculative income emerging from the property and real estate sector. The increasing crime, drug abuse, alcoholism and crime against women and elderly have stained the image of Kerala. Lack of suitable employment within the State is driving a lot of Keralites to adopt the brand name—’Marunadan Malayalees’ through emigration and out-migration for a decent livelihood. The present rate of employment generation is inadequate to meet the growing aspirations of the youth. Along with the service sector, the State should encourage agro-based industrialisation for employment creation.

The LDF Government should plan for a paradigm shift in the development strategy of the State. In the absence of such a shift, development paradoxes will keep multiplying and the sustainability of the development process will be challenged. Kerala is identified as a trend-setter for other States and regions. Let the LDF Government during its five-year tenure, flag off an inclusive people oriented sustainable development strategy for the people of Kerala.

Dr Ranji George Amballor is associated with the Government College, Quepem, Goa as an Associate Professor in Economics. She can be contacted at e-mail: amballor[at]yahoo.com Dr V. Mathew Kurian is associated with the K.N. Ray Centre, M.G. University, Kottayam as its Joint Director. He can be contacted at e-mail: vmathewkurian[at]yahoo.co.in