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THE UNSUSTAINABLE ‘KERALA MODEL’

Related Topics: Environment & Biodiversity, Natural Disasters, Gadgil Report

 

Note

The Unsustainable factor of ‘Kerala Model’ is discussed in this article, published in ‘The Hindu’ newspaper.

 

Context

  • In 2018, Kerala was overwhelmed by an unprecedented flooding combined with landslides which caused many deaths.
  • What was new compared to the times of equally high rainfall in the early part of the last century was the flooding due to inept dam management and the vulnerability of the terrain induced by the pattern of land use.
  • In 2019, it is the landslides that have caused most deaths which points to the role of uncontrolled economic expansion.

 

What is ‘Kerala Model’?

  • The Kerala model of development is characterised by achievements in social indicators such as literacy, life expectancy, infant mortality and birth rate and by “striking performance in raising living standards and in providing access to basic facilities”.
  • The achievements of Kerala in social indicators are comparable even to those of the advanced countries.
  • Based on the pertinent observation of Amartya Sen, the state seemed to have attained high social development at a relatively low level of income by comparison to the rest of India.

 

Why it is Unsustainable?

  • The foremost criticism of the model is the inability to meet the employment aspirations of the people, pushing them to live under authoritarian regimes overseas.
  • The laudable public provision of health and education has been financed by borrowing.
  • Kerala has the highest per capita public debt among States, implying that the present generation is passing on the bill for our own maintenance to future generations.
  • Kerala has not done so well when viewed through the lens of gender justice.
  • High levels of female education have not led to an equally high participation of women in the labour force or in governance, even though they participate equally in elections.
  • The main drawback of the Kerala model of development, which relies on remittances for its apparent prosperity, is its failure to strengthen the base of the economy, particularly industry.
  • The whole process of redistribution and social progress will be jeopardised once the remittances are discontinued.
  • The key factor retarding the industrial development appears to be labour agitation, which was acclaimed as the determining factor in the redistribution process.

 

Recent Natural Calamities

  • Two consecutive years of a natural calamity exacerbated by human action are a revelation that the Kerala Model has run its course.
  • The extraordinary events that the state witnessed this year range from fountains sprouting out of the earth due to the hitherto unknown ‘water piping’ to constructed structures shifting, physical phenomena not yet widely understood.
  • There has been overbuilding in Kerala, with absentee owners having invested in luxury houses they do not always occupy.
  • As a result poorer households are crowded out of safe locations on the plains to precarious ones on the hills.
  • Wherever landslides happened, there were granite quarries on the other side of the hill, according to government data on damages and a recent mapping of Kerala’s granite quarries.

 

Failure of Public Policy

  • Public policy has failed miserably to regulate land use including rampant quarrying, which destabilises the earth’s surface, with political patronage.
  • In 2015, Kerala State government did away with environmental clearance for quarries in existence for three years.
  • In 2017, the state government relaxed the rules for quarrying further.
  • It also weakened the provisions of the legislation governing conversion of agricultural land into construction sites.
  • The rice paddies had both produced food and served as gargantuan sinks for rainwater.
  • Kerala’s political class, irrespective of their ideologies, have responded to commercial interests over the welfare of ordinary people.

 

Way Forward

  • There is no certainty that the remittances will continue forever and thus timely action should be taken to make use of the remittances to strengthen the economic base.
  • The people of Kerala need to acknowledge that their consumption pattern must change as it has adversely impacted the natural environment, the consequences of which have begun to hurt them.
  • Any developmental activities like construction of roads and buildings in ecological sensitive areas of the state should be accompanied with remedial measures for slope stabilisation.
  • Mining should be conducted for construction activities, but the authorities should ensure that it does not affect the environment.
  • Kerala should involve local communities and rebuild itself in a sustainable manner, recreating not only the lost man-made capital, but also its “natural, human and social capital”.
  • Government should consider implementing the provisions of Gadgil Committee report which discuss ecological problems of Western Ghats.

 

[Source: The Hindu]

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