Kerala: Good Human Development Indicators, Globalization And The Effects Of Globalization

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Kerala is one of India’s 25 states, situated in the southwestern tip of the country. It was formed in 1956, by integrating the Malayalam-speaking states of Travancore and Cochin and the British province of Malabar. The state of Kerala has occupied an eminent position in the development debate since the early 1970s, when its government implemented a singular development strategy.

Unlike most developing economies, Kerala’s policy-makers followed a successful ‘basic-needs-first’ strategy, which prioritised the improvement of socio-economic standards of its population. Several factors explain the success of Kerala’s development strategy.One of those factors is Kerala’s dense population distribution, which makes it cost effective to implement redistributive policies. Kerala’s social development strategy consisted of an extensive programme of social policies, combined with one of the most extensive programmes of land reforms in the developing world.

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One of the central pillars of the development process was the food programme. Despite its low economic basis, Kerala’s successive governments have implemented a large redistributive programme that resulted in impressive levels of social development. Kerala’s success has been largely attributed to the actions of organised collective movements, both in the formal and informal sectors, in the form of militant peasants associations and labour unions.;The modern world is a form of globalization and global trading where all nations prosper and develop fairly and equitably is probably what most people would like to see.

Various factors such as political decisions, military might, wars, imperial processes and social changes throughout the last few decades and centuries have pulled the world system in various directions. Today’s world is based on ‘Global Politics and Economics.’ The present generation lives under the international system based on the belief in global unity; which will eventually enable the world to organize its affairs from the view point of international character.The idea of globalization is not new in the history.

The remarkable fact about the twentieth century is that in our times the assumption of diversion of world among different nations is universally accepted. But it is held that this diversion should somedaybe ended and an area of unity is not an impossible dream. Kerala may be as significant a schoolhouse for the rich world as for the poor. “Kerala is the one large human population on earth that currently meets the sustainability criteria of simultaneous small families and low consumption,” says Will Alexander of the Food First Institute in San Francisco.

The state of Kerala in India has human development indicators comparable to some of the most advanced European nations, and far superior to the national average. These successes have common strands: Regulation has become flexible and transparent and simple rules have replaced complex ones. Several sub-national governments have used technology to simplify regulatory compliance and reduce corruption. Most have actively fostered better local education and infrastructure services.

Most have embraced local industry clusters. Most have consulted constructively with local business.  The traditional concept of planning focused on the expansion of production of goods and services and the consequent growth in per capita income has been transformed to the enhancement of human well-being. Well-being as an indicator of prosperity is measured on how the planned efforts have succeeded in providing better opportunities for people especially the deprived and those who are living below the normative minimal poverty line, to enjoy a productive and socially meaningful life.

As the economic prosperity measured in terms of per capita income does not always ensure enrichment in quality of life reflected in broader dimensions of well-being, it has to be measured using indicators such as Human Development Index and the Incidence of Poverty, the indicators that are more sensitive in reflecting changes in attainment levels at different periods of time. Human Development Index is a composite Index which measures the three critical dimensions of well-being such as;

  • Longevity – the ability to live long and healthy life,
  • Education – the ability to read, write and acquire knowledge
  • Command over resources – the ability to enjoy a decent standard of living and have a socially meaningful life.It is derived from the per capita consumption expenditure.

Education in the present day world has been considered as the single most important means for the individuals for bringing about social and economic advancement through enlarging their available set of opportunities and choices, which provides sustained improvement in well being.

The level and spread of education is not only an important precondition for economic development but also playing a critical facilitative role in the demographic, social and political transition in the society. Education is therefore the best social investment and as such it is the priority for countries seeking to develop and sustain their level and pace of development.

The Social well-being of the people, one of the basic indicators of economic performance assessed for the large 20 States in India based on the analysis of four sets of issues such as basic education levels, gender bias, health and general awareness shows that Kerala gets the highest rating and ranking and Maharashtra comes next to Kerala. The present generation lives under the international system based on the belief in global unity; which will eventually enable the world to organize its affairs from the viewpoint of international character.

Today the world is changing rapidly. The world from the Stone Age to 1800 A D had not undergone so much change as it witnessed during the last two hundred years. Invention and ideas of yesterday have become outdated and outmoded today. As a result of this we have now men belonging to different eras cherishing different value-systems.

Man is born in stream of culture and must continually swim in it. The whole society has a culture consisting of material and non-material substances. All culture has the same basic organization, although the cultural traits developed by different societies vary from on to another. All the parts or components of culture are influenced by modern technologies of media and information technology.

It gave the people of different countries a new science, new sense of unity and new source of inspiration for advancing culture, civilization and knowledge. The world moves so fast, events happen so quickly in every sphere of life, that success is impossible without keeping in close touch with the latest development. Kerala had to suffer a lot as a result of the process of integration of economy with the international market place much before the advent of globalisation. In fact, for Kerala, globalisation started the moment the colonial raiders set foot on its soil, inaugurating the western conquest of India.

Kerala’s agricultural products found its way to the European markets and, in course of time, domestic production had to be fine-tuned to the vagaries of international market place. Coconut, coir, cashew, spices etc which were and continue to be the mainstay of Kerala’s agriculture faced ups and downs consequent on the changes in demand and supply at the international level.During that era of international integration, Kerala seldom faced competition for its products from foreign produce in the domestic market. For two reasons: one, during the period of colonial rule, most of the plantations and coir companies were owned by the English capital and, as such, it was against their interest to throw open the domestic market for these products.

Secondly, when the country attained independence and started moving in the direction of import restrictions that also helped the domestic producers. It is for these two reasons that Kerala’s agrarian economy could survive despite its integration with the international market place.It appears that a fear of `globalisation’ is behind much of the impassioned rhetoric that seeks to torpedo the efforts of the United Democratic Front (UDF) Government to bring in multinational investments into the State. That fear has only been fuelled by reports of projects that seek to `privatise’ and sell off Kerala’s natural resources such as water and mineral sands.

Not surprisingly, such concern immediately fans the flames of paranoia and near-xenophobia, as if lurking round the corner is the Great Unknown Alien Other who will gobble up everything that is native to Kerala, including its culture and traditions.In itself, globalisation may appear a neutral phenomenon, impervious to social and national heterogeneity. However, it is anything but neutral. This is because globalisation is not an exclusively economic process.

It is also significantly political, technological and cultural.The sceptics say that despite its benefits, trials and tribulations, the global economy isn’t particularly different from that which existed at previous periods of human history. The radicals, however, view today’s global marketplace as much more developed than even two or three decades ago. Worse, it is indifferent to national borders.

So disruptive is globalisation, they argue, that the era of the nation State is over. They agree with the Japanese business writer, Keniche Ohmae, that nations have become mere ‘fictions’.The reality of globalisation, however, as with much else in the true world, lies in between these two extreme visions. And Keralites, in particular, should know that.

After all, Kerala is arguably the earliest and most globalised of Indian States. It has a long history of commercial and cultural contact with the outside world. Long before `globalisation’ became a fashionable word, Arab, Chinese, Greek and Roman traders sought out Kerala for spices. And culturally, Kerala has been influenced by Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism and Judaism.

Kerala’s engagement with the world thus began long before the current debate and fears over globalisation. Rather than be wary of globalisation, Kerala should take advantage of it, shedding common misconceptions. One of these is that globalisation is the same as westernisation or Americanisation, since the US is now the sole superpower, with a dominant economic, cultural and military position in the global order.As Giddens points out, many of the most visible cultural expressions of globalisation, such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, are American.

But consider the growing examples of `reverse colonisation’, where non-Western countries influence developments in the West. Whether it is the curry revolution in London, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things winning the Booker Prize, Bajaj autorickshaws in Indonesia or globally-oriented high-tech companies from Bangalore filling up orders for Western consumers, globalisation works both ways. Keralites working in the Gulf know that well, having converted many of the streets there into mini-Keralas. Compared to other Third World States, from the point of view of social development and civil liberties, Kerala is well placed to `handle’ or `absorb’ globalisation.

Kerala is still striving to ensure social security measures envisaged in the directive principles of the Indian Constitution such as right to work, living wages, security in work place etc. Today the economy of the nation itself is facing grave crisis due to the impact of globalization, and the labour sector is in the dark shadows of economic and social problems. The threats faced by the economy of the nation, industry, agriculture and thereby the labour sector are due to the impact of the global pressures and hence beyond our control.;Anti globalization campaigns are hot items these days.

Especially this is very much true with the state of Kerala as the news papers, left intellectuals, social groups of all kinds are engaged in discussions on social issues, globalization, imperialist and colonial designs of IMF, WB and Western powers. Interestingly no body discuss about the questions of unemployment and increasing suicide rate among the youth.It seems that the above mentioned group and youths of an upper age group which belong to the age bracket 25 and above are against everything and often look at things with doubt and suspicion. They discuss and discuss engage themselves in futile discussions all the daylong.

But the new generations, which are in the colleges or in the age group of below 23-24, are relatively free from the above malady. Where as the people above such an age bracket more or less very negative and doubtful. This is not general. There may be exceptions.

Recently there was a Global Investors Meet (GIM) initiated by the government for attracting investment and to project Kerala as a business; investment friendly State. Even though there was a kind of agreement among major political parties about the need for having a good investment climate still many groups attempted to create troubles. Ayankali Pada, CPI(ML) Red Flag and youth groups of CPIM ; CPI and recently formed Kerala Social Forum are the major constituents that oppose the policies of the government on liberalization and reforms. But who oppose the reforms, liberalization and globalization more vehemently than the above-mentioned groups is non other than state government employees and those who are in the organized sector.

Major employer in Kerala is the state government and its departments. So the workers attached with this see reforms and liberalization with doubts. They think reforms, liberalization and globalization as a threat for their livelihood. Reforms reduce the Bribe (rent) seeking possibilities for them.

Rent seeking behavior was a typical feature of the former communist states or wherever there exists high state control. High state control gives tremendous chances for making extra money through illegal way for the corrupt government officials. But with liberalization and reforms there will be more transparency and in the liberalized regime of industrial licensing system there is no need to bribe any one.So most of the trade unions that represents the interests of state government employees are against liberalization and reforms.

A more apt case is the teaching community alone. This is not only true with Kerala but true with other states as well. For instance public sector bank employees across the country often call strikes against privatization fearing VRS as well as more disciplined and strict work environment.Idle mind is devil’s workshop.

This is true with Kerala’s youth. Lack of involvement and engagement lead them to varied non-productive activities. Many commit suicides due to frustrations. When one sit idle and in the event of failure to find a job often turn for political involvements with the hope to find a livelihood by serving the public.

Many others engage themselves in discussions. They attempt to change and transform the whole social system. In this attempt they waste a lot of energy.Who are interested in the sustenance of this habit of Keralites in Kerala? Newspapers and writers are of course interested in having these kinds issues.

Largest circulated daily Malayala Manorama is also interested in this game. For magazines, which covers only social and political issues of course survive with such ‘known non-issues’. Sustenance of the intellectual community much depends on such discussions. If such news no more appear in the papers who will read newspapers? For the writers to write and comment some decent subject is required.

Writing about common topics sometimes could be interpreted as something below dignity.Teaching community after all interested in sharing their wisdom with others. That is their hobby and they are supposed to do that. To support them there are comrades ready with their wisdom properly backed by Marxian logistics and to add to the spirit of discussions there are local intelligentsia with their social analyses based upon different party ideologies, newspaper stories and magazine articles.

More so common intellectuals who shaped their thinking upon the words from men of letters like Sukumar Azhikkodu, Sara Joseph, Sugatha Kumari, other poets, short story writers and novelists etc. In short these are the groups that play a crucial role in creation of public opinion in Kerala and more over they play an important role in shaping the social thinking.With the liberalization and reforms taking deep root in Kerala society many social actors are not so happy about it. One classic example is teaching community.

They are as such not very happy with the new developments simply because students are no more in a mood to call strikes everyday. Students have to share a portion of the cost of education these days. That itself changed the mentality of the student community. Moreover they have become more career oriented these days. Few years back even in the 1990s too, colleges were having more holidays than working days. But today that has changed. Again teachers are not so happy. With less strikes in colleges and universities, workloads of the teachers have gone up tremendously.

Students are no more interested in outdated ideological and futile discussions. Youngsters of Kerala these days are more pragmatic than their seniors. While the elders go for serious discussions, youngsters want to engage themselves in something that gives results.So the restless teaching community along with state government employees declared a strike that went on for more than one month.

But it did not click as they expected. Naturally this generated a whole lot of frustration. One youth activist and ideologue who is in his late 30s said that now the government is so arrogant and with the failure of that one month strike calling such kinds of strikes in the future will be difficult.Gone are the days.

Once upon a time a protest meeting arrange by the trade union movements used to attract thousands. But today the size of the meetings arrange by trade unions are very small. Tragedy of Student Unions are another interesting case. students are no more getting enrolled in to the student unions.

It is no more easy for student unions to find candidates for college union elections. Kerala campuses were once upon a time used to be centers of many extra curricular and co curricular activities. But today things have changed.;But then who suffers from all this? For the politicians it is a set back.

They are not getting young blood for campaigning for their elections. Youth leaders in the age group of 25 and above also suffering a lot. They are unable to put pressure on the party leadership to accept their demands. In fact there is no need for youth wings for the political parties as there is very little followers for political parties from that category.

Whether any body these days coming into public/social service ( politics) other than from political families with any ideological commitment from among the youth is also a serious question. The thing is that people are no more interested in politics that we understand by the term. If politics is all about Development and Economic prosperity then people especially youth may take notice. Otherwise who will care for it? Many in the developing world have been welcome to the ideas of globalization, but are wary of the realities as well.

Work Cited

  1. John Gray. “False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism”. The New Press.1998, pp.1-2;
  2. Kelkar R V. “The Global World.” Eastern Book Company.Lucknow, India.2004. pp 24-80;
  3. Noam Chomsky. “World Orders Old and New”. Columbia University Press.1996 pp. 71.;
  4. Dyjan.Do We Really Want a Globalisation. Manorama News. March 2. 2006;

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Kerala: Good Human Development Indicators, Globalization And The Effects Of Globalization. (2017, Mar 14). Retrieved from

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