Kerala model’s mutation over the years

By K V Joseph – The pattern of development, which ushered in Kerala during the third quarter of the 20th century, attracted worldwide attention.

It was eulogized as an ideal form of development as Kerala could achieve impressive level of improvement in various social indicators without a corresponding development of the economy.

The growth of consumerism has paved the way for the emergence of various kinds of undesirable consequences. One of them relates to the attitude of Keralites towards work. A mentality for hard work, essential for economic development sadly, seems to have vanished from the bulk of Keralites. A fall in agricultural production, particularly of paddy, is a clear manifestation of such a mentality.

Though overall prosperity is discernible, the quality of life has also deteriorated beyond recognition. The state is facing new problems like shortage of clean drinking water and the menace of waste management with no clear solution in sight. Heaps of plastic bags containing household wastes are a regular sight from one end of the state to the other.

How to retrieve the model poses a major issue calling for serious attention. more>


A plan for economic development

A confluence of forces — increasing chronic budget deficits, declining agriculture, slowing tourism, reduced foreign remittance, among others — make it necessary to think about new ideas for developing Kerala economy.

It seems Kerala government gimmicks and shortcuts are catching up with the tourism industry, reports The Times of India (“God’s own destination, but heading nowhere,” Apr. 27, 2016).

“The problem is that what you see on the screen is very different from what a tourist experiences when they touch down,” says the report. Seems like the Kerala tourism department has been using the skills from the movie industry in the state to win awards, but lacks understanding of essentials for building a brand. Brand is about trust and promise. Marketing makes promises about future experience that must be fulfilled. Otherwise the trust is broken, and the brand withers. Apparently, Kerala tourism marketing was about “luring tourists,” and the methods are no longer working.

“The basic requirements are infrastructure development and capacity building. Government needs to ensure good quality roads, make tourist spots garbage-free, provide hassle-free inland navigation by mid-size boats from Kollam [2. 3] to Kottpuram, develop eco-tourism clusters to protect Kerala as a green destination, besides ensuring continuous quality audit of tourist facilities,” said E M Najeeb, president Confederation of Kerala Tourism Industry. Tourism cannot function in a bubble, but is enmeshed in the local economy. It is not viable or practical to develop good quality roads, make tourist spots garbage free, or provide hassle-free inland navigation for the sake of tourism. However, it would be feasible to achieve those goals as part of overhauling the Kerala economy for making it sustainable.

First step is to develop a plan for an optimum transportation network for whole of Kerala. Once different modes of transport suitable for different regions are identified and transportation networks are designed, they can be constructed as funds become available. It will not solve the problems immediately. But, over time, will provide adequate transportation — which will never be achieved with the current piecemeal, ad-hoc, fragmented approach. Here is an outline of the priority areas for transforming Kerala economy to be sustainable:

  1. Enhance quality of education
  2. Agriculture producing premium organic agro-products [2]
  3. Plan Kerala-wide optimum transportation networks for phased implementation
  4. Implement integrated wellness and heathcare solutions
  5. Implement integrated water distribution and management
  6. Implement integrated waste management and pollution control
  7. Develop electronics and ICT (information and communication technologies) industrial capabilities, beyond the current services focus

Building malls and apartments will not result in a sustainable economy. Neither will “exporting partially educated people.” As experience has shown, IT Parks, as currently implemented, will also not produce required results. So it is time for serious investment in core industrial capabilities. Electronics and ICT sectors can form core “market activities” for a comprehensive economic development plan, for example, using “Metropolitan business planning” methodology.

To sum up, trying to build the infrastructure needs of tourism in isolation is not viable. But it can be achieved by an integrated approach for transforming the Kerala economy to be sustainable.


Purpose of religion is spiritual exploration

Religion stands for peace and harmony. Yet religion has been used to justify violence throughout human history [2, 3, 4, 5]

In the history of Kerala, warfare has been rare. However, religion has played a more subtle role in contributing to human misery. In Kerala, religion has been an oppressive factor by promoting communal forces, inhibiting social cohesion necessary for economic development.

The purpose of religion is spiritual exploration. However, religion has expanded its influence into cultural, social, political, commercial and educational activities historically. Religion operates with belief frameworks that require suspension of critical thinking. Unfortunately, this enables manipulation of religion by vested interests.

Kollam carnage [2] offers an opportunity for critical assessment of traditional practices in Kerala, many of which have evolved from ancient times. These customs and practices may have had valid reasons in the past, but are incompatible with present conditions. The smart approach will be to discard old customs that do not fit current conditions, instead of clinging to them in the name of tradition.

Malankara Orthodox church head Baselios Marthoma Paulose II calls to ban fireworks in religious festivals (“Call to ban fireworks in religious fests,” The Times of India, Apr. 12, 2016). The causes of the Kollam carnage are much broader and deeper, and a better approach will be to address the root causes.

Fireworks do not have any religious significance, but help enhance festivals and cultural programs associated with celebrations. Hence fireworks are a misfit for religious festivals. One approach to improve the situation is to bifurcate current festivals into two. One focused on spiritual aspects, and the other focusing on cultural and commercial activities. Fireworks (not fire crackers) may be made part of the cultural festivals.

It is a common practice in Kerala to parade elephants in celebrations, including religious festivals. These elephants are mistreated, resulting in frequent rampages and deaths. It is high time for Kerala to outgrow ancient traditions, and adopt practices that are compatible with high population density in cities and suburbs. Elephants are a safety hazard in crowded areas and small festival grounds. Besides, elephant parades are promoting animal cruelty (“These elephants suffer in silence,” The Times of India, Apr. 12, 2016 [2]). Since these are large and frequent occurrences, elephant parades have a negative impact on the social consciousness by desensitizing cruelty.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Ban use of fire crackers (those creating sound effects), instead use fireworks ( those creating light effects) in cultural festivals.
  2. Stop use of elephants in temple and other festivals.
  3. Religious practices, especially organized activities, need to be limited to promoting spirituality. Using religious justifications for social and political activities are conflict-enabling, and decreases social cohesion.
  4. Kerala government should divest itself from religious institutions.
  5. Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Revive agriculture to promote tourism

The feature in The Times of India, “Ecoturism charts a revival course” (Mar. 22, 2016) is informative.

Kerala State Forest Development Agency (KSFDA) has the right approach for tourism development: “Bringing more destinations under community management is the way forward for the department to tap the state’s full potential in ecotourism.”

Finally, there is some sense in the tourism promotion activities by the Kerala government: “Tourism in forest areas brings in a lot of pressure, and to make it non-destructive and sustainable, the participation of dependent tribal communities is vital. We need to educate people on the conservation of nature,” said K. J. Varghese, additional principal chief conservator of forests.

However, the next report, “Unsound marketing means destinations remain unexplored,” contains misguided ideas. “We do have a significant number of domestic tourists thronging these destinations, but to lure foreigners, we need adequate marketing programs,” said ecotourism director Joseph Thomas.

First, efforts for “luring tourists” are misguided. It demonstrates lack of an intelligent economic perspective about tourism. A good starting point will be to think tourism development can also benefit “locals.” Well manicured roads and gardens surrounding charming castles of the Loire Valley [2, 3] in France is an example for developing tourism destinations, while preserving nature, culture and history.

Trying to market specific destinations will be counterproductive. There needs to be a unified marketing theme for all tourism promotion activities. For example, the caption could be “Destination Kerala.” Within this invitation, there can be several themes: 1) beaches, 2) mountains, 3) lakes, 4) forests, 5) wildlife, 6) human agriculture, 7) nature conservation, etc. Specific destinations may be highlighted within these themes. And all marketing efforts need to focus on “Destination Kerala.” Haphazard marketing activities aimed at specific spots will dilute overall marketing effect.

Agriculture by humans is rare or non-existent in developed economies. Reviving organic agriculture in fertile Kerala will provide multiple benefits, including pesticide free food available locally, provide a tourist attraction, and “nature renewal” of abandoned agriculture lands currently lying idle. Such coordinated efforts will help develop Kerala’s tourism potential, at the same time provide supplementary benefits in other areas.


Safe cycling: Who dares may die

In response to a report in The Times of India, “Safe cycling: Who dares may die,” Mar. 4, 2016.

Your report brings out both encouraging and discouraging information about cycling in Kochi.

Your report says, “Cycling as an exercise, for recreation or as the preferred mode of transport is going through a revival.” But, “motorists tend to have some sort of prejudice against cyclists, especially during peak hours, as we are moving at a slower pace. I have been threatened many times and motorists have tried to bump into me on purpose or blown their horns incessantly,” says Hariprashant M. G.

Another disheartening statistics is, “From the 13,167 accident cases involving two-wheelers reported in the state last year, nearly 20.77% of them had cyclists on the receiving end.”

As pointed out in an earlier post, behavior of Kochi (and Kerala) drivers leave a lot to be desired.

There should be a comprehensive plan to make Kochi bicycle-friendly. Copying some of the things they have done in bicycle-friendly Amsterdam would be a good idea.


Efforts on to standardize Ayurveda

In response to a feature in The Times of India: “Efforts on to standardize ayurveda,” “Medicinal plant cultivation: Change in approach needed,” “Not enough facilities to ensure quality of medicines,” Feb. 22, 2016.

Achieving full potential of Ayurveda [2, 3, 4] medicines require a much broader approach than what is currently in use. Trying to fit Ayurveda into the existing framework used by modern medicine is less than optimum. The organizing principle for modern medicine is “treatment of diseases.” With gross simplification, modern medical model for pharmacology consists of:

  • diagnosing, identifying symptoms and causes of diseases,
  • identifying, discovering substances and compounds that can alleviate the symptoms, and
  • treatments for symptomatic cure.

In contrast, the organizing principle in Ayurveda is “normal health.” And the fundamental idea is to assist the body to return to normal health using naturally occurring substances. Hence, the benefits achievable using Ayurveda system with a disease-oriented model, will be less than its full potential. Better results are possible with a personalized, helath-oriented framework.

In modern pharmacology, once the active ingredients are identified and dosages determined, standardization and quality assurance are straight forward.

But dependence on natural substances by Ayurveda inherently makes standardization and quality assurance methods used in modern pharmacology a misfit, due to natural variations in the substances used. A personalized health/wellness centered framework is better suited for Ayurveda. Developing such a health-centered framework is necessary to help achieve the full potential for Ayurveda.

Over dependence on traditions may not always by helpful. In addition, incorporating current medical knowledge, biochemistry, theories of human physiology and clinical practices can help enhance Ayurveda’s effectiveness.