A lot of debates are now going on "Emerging Kerala" the program launched by the UDF government.
All the newspapers and visual media in Kerala are now discussing the pros and cones of the program. These debates might lead us to a totally different discussion on development and growth, is my humble expectation.
I was in Kerala for my annual vacation this July and August. Kerala is really EMERGING! It is no more the state which I used to live as a child / student twenty five years ago.
Today there is a lot of money in there. Here is a simple statistics about my village:
The village I belong to has, say, around 200 homes. The main income of the village now is from selling sand of our beloved river -Chaliyar, which is flowing beside the village. The villagers have 15 boats to collect sand. Together they make an income of around Rs. 2 Lakhs per day.
Assuming they get 175 to 200 work days in a year our village is making a very attractive income of 3.5 to 4.0 Crores per year! Sand price is increasing exponentially. If I assume a minimum increase of 20% every year, our village can make at least 100 crores in the coming ten years! I AM NOT JOKING!
This is the shining / emerging present of our village. People are rocking.
Let us go back twenty five years in history. When we were children we used to play football on the sandy banks of Chaliyar. After the football we used to jump in to the river and drink its sweet water (cleaned by the sand we sold by now)!
Please click below link to see an old video of river bank football. Our childhood had a lot of memorable moments from this sand beach. These sand beaches are not seen by the new generation including my children.
With lots of money from selling the sand, people have avoided farming in the paddy fields. Most of the fresh water fishes like Karuthala, Varal / Bilal, Chereen, Moyyu, Kadu, Poosan, Aaral etc. are rarely seen today! My God they are all extinguishing in my short life time!
Look at the comment of our Planning commission vice-chairman in the emerging Kerala program:
These are the sort of people planning for us! What hell he knows about a paddy field, I wonder.
Let us come back to Chaliyar river. There is a water supply system from the river supplying water to the nearby villages. When the sand level in the river went down, this filter tank is now no more. As of now the pump operator is pumping from the single well at the river bank, I should say, almost directly from the river! I wish somebody make a test on the potability of this water, knowing that all the biological waste like chicken parts are thrown to Chaliyar!
This story is applicable to so many other villages in Kerala. Very soon our history books shall have to write "Kerala once had 44 rivers"!
Now what is the link between this story to the Emerging Kerala Program?
Yes - there is.
Both are creating money, jobs and bringing prosperity (short term?) to Kerala. But AT WHAT COST is the question.
In a state where people are running away from paddy fields and other farm lands, such programs shall bring temporary prosperity, fore sure. People will get few more jobs for the coming FEW YEARS and they will be able to "happily" buy their food and other needs and wants.
But the question is: Is this development sustainable?
Kerala, for that matter the whole world, want projects which are sustainable. Projects which will not affect the already endangered nature, flora and fona. It is not an easy task -I very well know.
What we need is to turn back to our traditions. A tradition where people to live in direct touch with the soil and fields. If the debates on "emerging Kerala" lead to such a direction, we will be doing some justice to our next generation!
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Key words: Oommen Chandy, Kunhalikutty, KM Many, Yusuf Ali, Ravi Pillai, Galfar Mohammed Ali, Asad Moopan, Alungal Mohammed, Ahluwalia.