Kerala govt to not use the word ‘colony’ to denote SC/ST settlements

K Radhakrishnan, who was elected as an MP from the Alathur Lok Sabha constituency in the recent Lok Sabha polls, said that the people living in the settlements would decide on the names.
K Radhakrishnan
K Radhakrishnan
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The Kerala government has decided to stop using the word ‘colony’ to describe settlements of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities in official records. The decision was taken by the outgoing Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes and Devaswom K Radhakrishnan, who signed an order in this regard.

Addressing the media before resigning from the minister's post, Radhakrishnan said ‘colony’ derives its meaning from the word slavery. “India was Britain’s colony. Landlords in each of the areas had designated colonies under them. So, when we hear the word colony, it creates an inferiority complex among the people residing there. Hence, we will use a name that is favoured by the residents living in the settlement,” he said.

Radhakrishnan, who was elected as an MP from the Alathur Lok Sabha constituency in the recent Lok Sabha polls, also said that using names of people for settlements will be avoided as it would lead to disputes because of political and personal inclinations. “Let the settlements that have their names after people continue to exist. But no new ones should be named. In Wayanad, when we went to ask what names they preferred, one settlement said ‘Unnati gramam’, another settlement said ‘Prakurthi’ gramam. We should also reduce the usage of the word nagar for such colonies,” he added.

Laksham Veedu or the One Lakh housing project was the idea of veteran communist leader M N Govindan Nair, who helped create a roof over the head for thousands of families across Kerala who failed to receive land even after the famed land reforms Act. These settlements came to be known as Laksham Veedu colonies. The 240 sq ft twin houses with wall separation and pit latrines were heralded as a housing revolution when it was launched in 1972 but have been flayed for ghettoisation of Dalit families and their exclusion from mainstream. 

Many of these settlements are now receiving a makeover with support from various housing programmes like the Life Mission. The word ‘colony’ is often used as a casteist slur to denote the residents of such settlements.

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