Kerala: Radical Reform as Development in an Indian State


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He also fails to account for the availability of the medical care that he correctly points out is one of the major factors accounting for the better health of women in Kerala. Traditions may help set the ground work for progressive changes, but these traditions must be constantly buttressed by popular movements. Kerala, with a per capita GNP lower than the all-India average ranks first among all Indian states in provision of 15 basic services, including schools, good roads, ration shops, health centers, hospitals, veterinary services, banks, etc. Women are better off in Kerala because they are part of a struggle that benefits the whole population.

Barbara H. Chasin Professor of Sociology Richard W.

Redesigning Local Governance in India: Lessons from the Kerala Experiment

Kerala : the development experience : reflections on sustainability and replicability. Responsibility edited by Govindan Parayil. Physical description x, p. Online Available online. Full view. Green Library.

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K4 K Unknown. More options. Find it at other libraries via WorldCat Limited preview. Contributor Parayil, Govindan, Bibliography Includes bibliographical references and index. Contents Introduction - is there a "Kerala Model" of development? Govindan Parayil-- is the Kerala Model sustainable? Franke, Barbara H. The region also has the distinction of playing host to the world's first development project called the Indo-Norwegian Project for Fisheries Community Development INP for short. It was undertaken under a joint agreement between the United Nations, the Government of Norway and the Government of India.

This project was intended essentially to upgrade the existing fishery sector and improve the standard of living of the fishing community in three villages. It however became the unintended catalyst for launching the whole of Kerala's fisheries into a new western-oriented export drive. A totally new modern superstructure, based on harbour-based mechanized trawlers, with a single-specie orientation shrimp was actively promoted. When the INP started in there were around 38 active marine fishermen. Today there are Spread over villages along the coastline, with their family members they can form a human chain along the km coast of the state.

Fishing communities in Kerala have tribal origins. They later were incorporated into the Hindu caste hierarchy and placed at the bottom of it. In the 8—9 th century many communities in the northern region of the state were converted to Islam and in the 15 th century a large number in the southern regions were converted to Christianity. Caste and religion were the defining identities of fishing communities in Kerala. I am a Malayalee.

Catalog Record: Kerala, development through radical reform | HathiTrust Digital Library

But I was born and educated outside Kerala. Not even in my wildest dreams had I wished to go to Kerala to study or work. One sweltering hot morning in May of I found myself in a little Christian fishing village called Marianad near Trivandrum, the capital city of Kerala State. It was basically a courtesy call to meet community workers who had been living in this village. The visit resulted in a drastic change in my life.


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The community workers and the fishermen in the village entreated me to stay and help them organize fish marketing in their newly formed cooperative. Accepting the offer meant giving up a well paid but unsatisfying job as a business manager in industry. Being young and idealistic I took their request as a personal challenge.

Coming from an urban, upper class background I was appalled by the stark poverty of the fisherfolk. Most of them lived on the sea front in tiny huts thatched with the dry platted leaves of the coconut palm so ubiquitous in Kerala. Dark-bodied muscular men, frail women and pot-bellied children were the most common sight. The majority of the population was illiterate.

The thumb impression or a squiggly sign of the cross was their signature. The health and sanitary conditions were appalling. I was then not aware of Kerala state's high human development achievements. If I was, given the stark reality that lay before my eyes, I would have grossly suspected the claim. The only real wealth of the community was their phenomenal knowledge of the sea and its resources and their modest collection of fishing equipment. Their fishing craft called a kattu-maram literally: tied tree was a raft made from four logs of lightwood. It was propelled by a triangular cotton sail and paddles made from bamboo.

They had a variety of fishing gear - several types of cotton gillnets; boat seines; hooks and line sets; traps. Despite their vast knowledge of the resources of the bountiful sea, to which they had unhampered access, why were they so poor? Finding practical ways to overcome the hurdles to their socio-economic conditions was my immediate mission. I had observed that fishermen were price takers on every front. This was not only for all the inputs which they purchased, but also for fish, the only output of their hard labour.

Kerala State, India: Radical Reform as Development

Financiers who had advanced loans to fishers laid priority claim to their fish - at prices which were rather arbitrarily fixed. Landlords, who permitted fishers to stay on their land adjacent to the sea, took advantage of this to stake control over the right to sell the fish.

I observed that the financiers did not collect interest nor did landlords collect any rent. Both found the control over fish more profitable. To change this iniquitous situation and make it favourable to the fishers was the big challenge. In due course, the collective resolve of the fishers to take control over their fish sales and resist any undue pressures from merchant-financiers and landlord-merchants resulted in a mini-revolution in the village.

The support and advice from the community organizers and myself provided the set-up for a regulated auctioning system controlled by the fishers' cooperative. By this collective action the fishers established two things: 1 their right and freedom to sell the produce of their labour and 2 within the context of the free play of market forces, through the adoption of an open auctioning system, they established a fair first-sale price for their fish.

Fishing with a kattumaram can lead to extreme drudgery of labour. The raft has severe space constraints thereby putting limits to the amount of gear and fish that it can carry. This was one of the important causes for the low physical productivity of the fishers and consequently their low incomes even after gaining control over their fish. However, the kattumaram has several advantages - it does not sink, it is inexpensive; it is easy to maintain and has remained unchanged in form for perhaps over a millennium.

These attributes made it difficult to replace with a comparable alternative. Motorising the kattumaram was one option. Fitting a Japanese outboard motor to this rope lashed raft proved easier than one first imagined.

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A pilot project with four engines was initiated in by the Marianad Cooperative. A year later the project folded up. The fishermen were not convinced that the additional costs and technical snags were commensurate with the benefits of being able to fish a bit deeper at sea and return a bit earlier to land. They abandoned the venture for the moment. However, it took just a decade to be proved wrong.

The technology experiment spurred the need for data on socio-economic and technological aspects of fisheries in Kerala. A chance meeting with the state's chief fishery planner in turned out to be momentous for understanding the gap between planners, their policy advice and the real life of the people.


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A statistical appendix in a planning document that he showed me stated the number of kattumarams in Kerala to be 3 This was a surprise. In my village alone there were over and in the district there were at least 40 larger fishing villages where fishermen used only kattumarams. If such bloomers were the basis of planning for fisheries development it was hardly surprising that fishermen remained poor.

On his part the planner made a visit to the village. He was also convinced of the need to discover and revamp such errors in the system. Delinking of the sale of the fish from the credit and the land markets, led to a boost in the incomes of the fishermen. The idea of the venture caught the imagination of many fishermen from neighbouring and distant villages. They came to visit and learn. Soon a network of cooperatives was formed. The economic viability of the network became greatly enhanced with the fishermen's control over the species which were exported - initially shrimp and then cuttle-fish.

Equally important was the credit provided by the cooperative to the members. This was directed to buy more fishing gear that yielded more fish to be marketed. From the enhanced income, the Cooperative set aside a small saving fund for each fisherman. This was pooled and then circulated again as credit.

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By the network of cooperatives expanded and was ambitiously named the South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies SIFFS , to become an apex body of small-scale fishers' cooperatives. The official government policy from to was to support the modern, mechanized, trawler-fishing sector which arose as an offshoot of the INP. It was given official encouragement and financial support in the form of subsidies because of its export orientation. A mechanised trawler and its gear cost over ten times the investment required for any one of the 22 craft-gear combinations identified in the small-scale artisanal fishery.

The official thinking was that all those currently involved in artisanal small-scale fisheries would either gradually upgrade themselves to using mechanised crafts or just wither away.

Kerala: Radical Reform as Development in an Indian State Kerala: Radical Reform as Development in an Indian State
Kerala: Radical Reform as Development in an Indian State Kerala: Radical Reform as Development in an Indian State
Kerala: Radical Reform as Development in an Indian State Kerala: Radical Reform as Development in an Indian State
Kerala: Radical Reform as Development in an Indian State Kerala: Radical Reform as Development in an Indian State
Kerala: Radical Reform as Development in an Indian State Kerala: Radical Reform as Development in an Indian State
Kerala: Radical Reform as Development in an Indian State Kerala: Radical Reform as Development in an Indian State

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