Is Kerala just another Somalia for our Prime Minister?
Is the BJP-led Centre caressing or belting Kerala by its choice of words and actions, thereby seeking to put us in a dilemma? Kerala is the only Southern state in India from where the BJP has not been able to win a seat either in the Lok Sabha or in the Legislative Assembly.
One can understand the use of raised hopes, flattery and tempting promises to get Kerala to fall in line. But PM Narendra Modi and BJP party president Amit Shah -while in the process of bashing the Left and Right fronts- seems to be insulting Kerala as a whole.
While addressing a huge rally in Thiruvananthapuram, the Prime Minister came up with an analogy on how the two fronts had ruined Kerala with their misrule till date. Many may have applauded when he they heard him say that the infant mortality rate in Kerala was worse than that of Somalia.
But an average Malayaliâ€“whatever be his political affiliations- is sure to be jolted by Modiâ€™s take on Kerala. There are no doubt countless instances of misrule that can be cited against both fronts that have helmed Kerala one after the other in succession. But when the Indian PM roars that Kerala is as bad as Somalia or even worse, itâ€™s like insulting Kerala in front of a global audience.
Our conscience is definitely pricked when a couple of dalit kids have to scavenge food from garbage dumps in Kannur. There are many things that do need to be rectified here, many more yet to be done.
But in an election scenario where even regional leaders shy away from mouthing such fantastic remarks, our Prime Minister seems to be stepping out of all bounds in such an outrageous manner that makes it impossible to act as if we have not heard a thing.
We may get to hear that the speechwriters may have sought to mislead the Prime Minister. However this is not something which we can take lightly. No speechwriter worth his salt could have come up with such fallacy, for the simple reason that we live in an age where all information on the current state of affairs is just a click away.
When an erroneous fact gets written and lands in front of the Prime Minister, he should be capable of noticing such glaring anomaly at a glance. That the Prime Minister is so terribly ignorant of facts concerning one of the states in India comes as a shocker.
No one expects from Narendra Modi the kind of economicsâ€™ expertise that one would expect from someone like Dr. Manmohan Singh. We all know that having an economist as the Prime Minister has no benefits.
But it is indeed mandatory for a Prime Minister to know that Kerala figures among the top in the health-education-and-human-development-index sectors in the world.
What exactly is the status of Infant Mortality Rate (IMR)? Somalia records the highest rate in the world. If the Prime Minister is aware of this, then must he also not know that it is Kerala that has the lowest rate in the whole of India?
While Kerala has an IMR of 12, India records an average IMR of 40. When our respectable Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat from 2002 to 2014, Gujarat recorded an IMR of one more than the national average i.e. 41. (IMR is calculated on the basis of the number of deaths recorded in a year out of a population of 1000.)
So at a time when IMR is 12 in Kerala, 40 in India and 41 in Gujarat, Somalia has an average of 137. In Rajasthan where BJP has been in power over a decade, the IMR is 47. Anyone can check the veracity of these numbers that have been quoted from the website of the National Health Mission nrhm.gov.in which comes under the purview of the Union Ministry of Health.
No one will argue that it is the merits or demerits of a ruling party that lays the foundation for all the gains or ills garnered by a state. It is an outcome that is influenced by numerous cultural, economic and historical factors that have to be taken into account.
Consider the IMR case itself. It is not a matter of pride for a state like West Bengal which was governed by Left parties for over three decades to have an IMR of 31. But then one must also note that a state like Gujarat which is ahead of West Bengal in the educational and economic fields and even historically too, still lags behind Bengal in terms of IMR.
One does not need to be an economist to figure out that Gujarat lags behind Kerala vis-Ă -vis a majority of indicators that make up the Human Development Indexâ€¦a state which was once ruled for a very long time by Modi who now appears in front of us as a prophet of development. One just has to take a look at the statistics published by the various ministries under the Narendra Modi-led Union government.
It takes only a few years of effort by any government to raise literacy levels. What is the current status of literacy in the country? According to the 2011 census, Kerala is in the first place with a literacy rate of 93.91 percent. Gujarat ranks 18th, a state ruled by Modi for roughly some time more than what it takes Jupiter to complete a revolution round the sun.
One should also know that West Bengal ruled for over three decades by leftist Greats ranks 20th with 77.08 percent, while Karnataka ruled mostly by the Congress Greats ranks 23rd with 25.60 percent.
This is not to say that all of Keralaâ€™s gains are a matter of pride. In the subject of modern toilet facilities in homes in India, Kerala ranks only eight with Lakshadweep, Delhi, Sikkim and Goa ahead of it. That Gujarat sits at 15th position and West Bengal at 25th is also not something we can dwell on in glee.
The states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana and Punjab are way ahead of Kerala in the fields of electricity-generation, job opportunities, big industries, capital investment and various other sectors.
Statistics tell us that unemployment rate is highest in Kerala. But then, let the economists explain the irony of youngsters streaming here from Tamil Nadu- which by the way has less than half of Keralaâ€™s unemployment rate- Orissa and Bengal.
Our PM is also a votary of the Swachh Bharat Mission, a countrywide integrated cleanliness drive. None will disagree on this being an appreciable effort. But even here, it is not solely based on the efficacy of the Chief Ministers or the ruling parties that states reap the benefits of such a scheme.
Our own health departments along with the World Health Organisation have for long been conducting awareness camps and the like against defecation in public spaces. The Prime Minister himself takes a special interest in this case. Yet Gujarat lags behind while Kerala is way ahead. Kerala ranks first in homes with toilet facilities while Gujarat is in the 16th position.
Media reports inform us that BJP national leaders have promised to take Kerala 50 years ahead if the party is accorded power for the next five years. But is it possible to hide the reality that many states ruled by the BJP lag 50 years behind Kerala even today?
No one can ever vouch that Kerala has made it to the top due to the talents of her political masters. Kerala has reaped its gains in various sectors based on the foresight shown by various religious groups, British authorities, native kings and social revolutionaries who worked hard over centuries. Whoever equates Kerala with Somalia is actually spitting on the faces of these great visionaries.
Kerala and Gujarat share a similarity only in one arena. Both states love to show off using the money sent by NRI relatives. Kerala is a state which receives one lakh crores of rupees every year. Gujarat too receives a similar sum. There are villages in Gujarat which have bank deposits amounting to thousand crores of rupees per year.
India is the country which receives the maximum number of foreign money orders in the world. China too is behind us. Yet India cuts a sorry figure in the overall Human Development Index (HDI). India ranks 134 among 182 countries of the world in this regard. India had fallen behind from where it stood in 2007.
China, Sri Lanka and even a small nation like Bhutan is ahead of India in terms of HDI which factors in among others education, poverty and basic living requirements. We just wish that the Narendra Modi-led Union Government is able to do far better than their predecessors in this regard.