Kerala is no model of development

By MA Oommen – Kerala’s social attainments, sometimes referred to as a ‘model’, brought to scholarly attention by the UN study Poverty, Unemployment and Development Policy (1975), has occupied a prominent place in development literature. It is only a post facto generalization of a historically evolved transformative experience in delivering broad-based healthcare (low infant mortality, high life expectancy, high female-male ratio etc), universal elementary education and social justice to a society once deeply divided by caste and class inequities of the worst order.

That this was achieved unsupported by high growth or industrialization has baffled the received wisdom in economics.

Kerala society is deeply fragmented on the basis of rent-seeking coalitions such as caste associations, liquor contractors, PWD contractors, quarry contractors and the like broaching opportunistic alliance with some political party or other for mutual gains. Hartals, a staple of Kerala’s everyday life, are no longer an instrument of people’s protest. It is difficult to endorse the claims of Patrick Heller (1999) and others who consider Kerala a radical social democracy. more>

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