Kerala, Yes, we are famous for our keen interest in politics, love for middle-east and the lazy evenings by the sea.
Nehru's socialism policies went against the balanced approach maintained by Travancore and its tolerance and openness to new people and ideas. from Syrian and Egyptian christians to Parsis, Gujjars and Jews all found home in here. All contributed to the wealth, which the Travancore Kings never lavished on. Dedicated to Lord Padmanabha.
During the time of Independence, Travancore was in 2 minds, whether to join Indian union or declare independence. British were weak just after WWII, India lured the King with retaining all his privileges and even a maintenance allowance on one side and forced takeover on the other. Prime minister or Divan's attempts to keep Travancore separate with a presidential system was however interpreted to the the King as Diwan' s attempt to gain full power. Thus Kerala became a part of state of Madras and later after much convincing, the Hindi speaking North realised Malayalam is different from Tamil and thus born Kerala.
In the same period of Independence movement, Travancore was slowly giving people more representation. Apart from caste discrimination and social stigma which to an extent was eradicated by Sree Narayana Guru and many others, there still remained a landlord, landless setup which was brewing discontent. Though landless, under poverty and vulnerable, the idea of revolutionary communism at any cost bred faster than Gandhi's movement.
Both the Kingdom, British and then the Union was hunting down each and every one of them, as they saw it as a threat to existence. However, Communist revolutionary ideology and life of Che and Marcos along with glorified stories of malayalis martyrs kept the fire burning in the youth, to dream of a communist land where equality is certain.
Revolutionary Communism & Socialism found a middle ground in Kerala, by the time the state of Kerala was formed. World's first democratically elected communist government rang hopes of ideal world and the win reverberated across the world. However, what came by was a Stalinist ideology and neglect from Union Government ( plainly displeasure ) which had little idea of this narrow strip of land with just 14 member seats in parliament.
With the party unable to meet its ideologue, 1950s saw destruction of factories and businesses of the so called Rich. The Communist government enacted the Land act as a measure of eliminating any feudal structures. A landmark act that changed the course of Kerala's future. None can own more than 10 acres of land. Anything above 10 was taken over by the government and distributed to landless laborer. Some elite castes tactfully escaped with plantation crops being exempt and allegation of including particular crops in by influence.
Turning land into small bits for the landless was a grand idea, but went horribly wrong in real life. As small strips of land, labour intensive crops traditionally grown in Kerala turned unviable. It was the return of poverty. In feudal system, during times of crop loss, the landlord's buffer stock is put to use, now the landlord himself is out of income. Government found a solution in Public distribution system, a peace time rationed quantity of grain and fuel which but was plagued with corruption.
For many years, even now, many of them aren't willing to even look at the negative side of the act. But it is a fact and as is reality. Ramifications of the act is directly visible even today as mechanised farming remains impossible.
Since the 1960's agricultural output had negative growth. To improve stats, the government added plantation crops and now even rubber included with minimum fair price.
But on ground, it was poverty, with survival support by kin who were moved to singapore.
Attack against business owners continued, wiped out the entire contribution to GDP by private businessmen engaged in activities ranging from coir, cashew and rubber to extinct businesses like textiles, electricals etc. Believing in spirited speeches of a wonder land called USSR and Cuba, men hoped for and died for the wonderland.
By end of 1960s, Kerala government, now in line with central government, requested for investments from public sector and brought in many industries including HMT, paper mills etc. Even Milk production and distribution was a government undertaking and was much like ration. Alongside, people who gained exposure to outer world, realised that communism was not the way to liberation from poverty. The first set of migration began, at a time when US and EU were badly in need for labour.
By 1970s, inbound remittance from NRIs and their advice on need for education showed a renewed surge in educational institutions founded by christian missions, SNDP, NSS etc. With families moving above poverty, the common motto became, study till you get a government job or Middle east. The socialist concept of "government should create jobs", remained with malayalis till late 90s.
From 1970s to 2000s, nearly a quarter of Malayali population sought work outside Kerala. Across India and middle east, to africa and even Peru. Kerala became a capitalist state from a different perspective. It became the largest exporter of in demand human resources, now considered human capital. From unskilled labor to skilled ones to skilled with specialisation, Kerala managed to remain in sync with changing standards of labor in international market.
Lure of homeland brings many NRI settle back at home, only to fly again as his investments in an attempt for livelihood in Kerala falls prey to trade unions.
Over the period, atleast one person from a family was NRI and Kerala also moved towards nuclear families with great importance to health. Personal hygiene to hospitals and vaccinations, Kerala shot up to the level of first world countries without having a GDP to sustain even 10% of it. The state revenues and budget was smaller than Mumbai or Delhi corporation budget, barely any income tax collection while retail and entertainment flourished.
Irony, the equality paradise we sought at homeland was the very reason we were forced to leave our loved green lands, willingly became nomads across the deserts of Middle east, chilling Canada and even work among tribe wars of Africa, pumping oil, fixing leaks to designing and deploying complex enterprise solutions.
Today, we are exporting entrepreneurs, running businesses in middle east and worldwide on behalf of middle east royal family members, fund managers and angel investors. We do not have major retail players of North India in Kerala purely because the numbers they refer to and the reality is way different. So, surprising for a non malayali, the biggest of Indian malls, jewelry shops and standalone silk saree stores are based in Kerala and even a part of tourism circuits.
Though a consequence of communist ideology and negative investment climate, there lay a hidden boon. Bare minimal industrial activity and even agriculture, nature managed to survive. Now, it is another question for economists to decipher. The kind of population density and level of balanced ecosystem is at odds.
We did terraform the rolling hills which was covered by little vegetation into evergreen rubber estates, created coconut farms in the coastal soft plains originally covered by short bushes and mangroves and paddy fields created by draining swamps in 1900s. But now nature is reclaiming the wetlands, attracting migratory birds and tourists. Teak and other introduced species are being replaced by endemic trees in an attempt to kick start the original ecosystem of the region. All this packed well, did good in tourism industry with Kerala being the No 1 destination before the cost of vacation turned absurd.
Then came the no alcohol plan. With an ill conceived acting good policy of introducing a ban on alcohol, in phases, Kerala already have lost huge revenues generated by Bars and now has a monopoly to sell alcohol only through its outlets. Each year 10 percent of outlets will close down, and only 5-star rated hotels can serve liquor The consequences are already felt in tourism industry with a blip in number of Domestic tourists. Even without considering the fall in alcohol sales and tour industry blip, with no other source of income at sight, Kerala government will be having interest payment commitments exceeding its revenue by 2018.
It is a paradox that, while every malayali is individually far ahead compared to average Indian individual wealth, personal living standards rivaling first nations, our government is neck deep in loans and will likely run out of revenue to even service the interests by 2018.
The paradox, BMWs and Porsche on single lane pot holed roads headed towards malls while talking about roads in EU and protesting against parking fees. Willingly paying for near 15 malayalam news channels, with TVs running from dawn to dusk at every home, this political news hungry population, however protest against an increase of even 1 rupee over utility rates.
That's the Malayali, workaholic in middle east, live sans protest, alcoholic in homeland, born to protest.
Way back in 19th century
Sri Swami Vivekananda called
"Kerala, a mental asylum" / "കേരളം ഒരു ഭ്രാന്താലയം
Today Nobel laureate economists including Amartya Sen more or less shares the same views.