ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Assessing Reassessment of Kerala Model

A series of scholarly inquiries initiated from the mid-1980s questioning Kerala's deficient economic, industrial development are increasingly exposing the failings of the 'Kerala Model' of social development. But the new social anthropology of Kerala's development merely combines the colonial view with neoliberalism, and fails to fulfil its promise.

About a quarter of a century has gone by since the ‘Kerala Model’ was ‘discovered’. The euphoria over an economically backward region in south India attaining social development comparable to world-metropolis has now died down. The question is asked whether it qualifies as a model at all, being the interactive outcome of a varied set of factors specific to the region, and therefore not necessarily replicable in regions with a different historical trajectory.

Concerns are expressed regarding the relative exclusion of social sections like dalits, tribals and fisherfolks from the model [Kurien 1995; Omvedt 1998]. It is criticised that the distribution of gains from social development is biased against women [Saradamoni 1994]. There is increasing disbelief in the sustainability of such a lop-sided social development, lacking economic advance [George 1993]. The ethical basis of the model, now primarily supported by financial remittances of migrant workers toiling in other parts of India and abroad, often in highly exploited conditions, is questioned. The metropolitan construction of the model to propagate the possibility of social development in poor countries merely by adopting a correct development policy is contested. What is more, it is now ruefully realised that not only Kerala’s literacy but also its rates of mental illness and suicide correspond to the world-metropolis.1

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