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A fatuous comment

A fatuous comment
Highlights

The society and polity of Kerala fulminated against the reported comparison of Kerala with Somalia known for melancholic conditions of starvation. As it comes from a person none other than the Prime Minister of India, that too on the election eve, it obviously caused greater anger and anguish.

The society and polity of Kerala fulminated against the reported comparison of Kerala with Somalia known for melancholic conditions of starvation. As it comes from a person none other than the Prime Minister of India, that too on the election eve, it obviously caused greater anger and anguish.

At a time when political parties pine to grind rivals into dust, incisive analysis becomes a casualty. Addressing an election rally, Narendra Modi remarked, “The situation with the child death ratio among Scheduled Tribes in Kerala is scarier than that in even Somalia.” This comparison of Kerala with Somalia is preposterous.

Noble Prize winning economist Amartya Sen said that there's a lot to learn from Kerala in delivering quality life. Kerala’s record in fertility rates is comparable to that of even United States. The life expectancy in Kerala is on a par with or is even better than that in China, Japan, South Korea etc.

Kerala achieved a remarkable result in fertility rates by educating women, while China could do it by imposing the single child norm. Even the United Nations Development programme acknowledged Kerala as a shining example in achieving social and human development.

The median per capita income in Gujarat is Rs 6,300 a year, Rs 7,000 in Tamil Nadu, Rs 9,042 in Himachal and Rs 9,987 in Kerala. In terms of percentage of population below poverty line (2004-05 scale), Gujarat is 31.6, Tamil Nadu is 29.4 Himachal 22.9 and Kerala 19.6.

As per the latest data, from the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Infant Mortality Rate among STs in Kerala is 60 deaths per 1,000 births. The overall IMR in the State is only 12, the lowest in the country, according to the Economic Survey, 2015-16, Government of India. But, Somalia has an IMR of 85, according to World Bank.

Even Prime Minister’s home state of Gujarat, despite an impressive record in terms of GDP, exports infrastructure investment, is lagging way behind Kerala in every indicator of social and human development. The performance of Gujarat in this regard is even worse than the national average.

Kerala may have islands of deprivation. But that does not mean the State is worse than Somalia. The data put out by United Nations agencies compares Kerala with high income countries whereas the Gujarat equivalent is an impoverished East Timor, as far as indicators of quality of life as reflected in human development indices are concerned.
This does not mean Kerala has no challenges. The State struggles to sustain its human development performance. It desperately needs faster rates of economic growth and development to generate more jobs to deliver incomes to the people.

Kerala‘s impressive achievement in much better indicators of quality of life is the result of century-old social reform movement and transformational socio-political awakening. A concerted public action strongly supported by well-defined public policy catapulted this State to the company of developed nations.

Kerala has to certainly learn from others. Its over dependence on foreign remittances is unsustainable in the long run. It has to tackle high levels of unemployment, improve power situation etc. But this does not negate Kerala’s astounding accomplishments. Thus, Narendra Modi certainly deserves the critical opprobrium generated by ill-conceived and fatuous comments.

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