November 21, 2007

The Communists' New Clothes

I visited Kerala in August last year, and found it to be a sea change from the dusty and polluted Chennai. The emerald green rain forests after the monsoon silently acknowledged that "God's Country" was not just an empty slogan to describe the state. I was, of course, surprised to see the slogan plastered all over one of India's two staunchly communist states. Then again, it was proof that green had nothing much to with red!

Much touted as the greatest success story of social engineering, the state scores high in almost all of the so-called social indicators of development, that include measures of advancement in education, health, literacy, child-bearing, etc.. The attribution of very high levels of literacy in Kerala to the communists, however, is largely a myth. Kerala became the first state to come under the communist rule in 1957, and has since been ruled mostly by far-left governments. The state, however, had high literacy levels long before 1957. In what remains today a predominantly matriarchal society, high emphasis had been placed on women's literacy by its rulers, the Travancore Maharajas, for centuries.

As this article points out,

... traditionally women in the Nair community had equality in many ways and education was one among them... The first Girl's School in India was started by the missionaries in the State of Travancore in 1819 and this was followed by another school by the Government in 1859. By the end of the 19th century, the state had several girls schools. The relatively high literacy level among women in Kerala is the result of these early efforts.

Here are some revealing statistics on the historical literacy rates in Kerala and India, from the same article :

Year Male Female Total %Inc
Kerala 1951 50.2 31.5 40.7 121
1991 93.6 86.2 89.8
India 1951 24.9 7.9 16.6 214
1991 64.1 39.3 52.2

I wonder what the counterfactual literacy rates and other social indicators of India might be, if it had been ruled since its independence in 1947, by the Travancore Dynasty instead of the Nehru Dynasty!

1 comment :
  1. Kerala and the other 3 South Indian states i think far outperform the BIMARU states on nearly all indicators.

    However, there's a reason why kerala is known as "God's own country but Devil's own people"

    People of the state are trying to ensure that it goes down the drain like Bihar and UP.


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