Re-examining the Kerala Development Model
By admin March 3, 2016


Over the past few decades, the South Indian state of Kerala has made significant advances in development and the improvement of the quality of life for its average citizen. The beginnings of what has become known as the “Kerala Model” of development arose from the establishment of the Centre for Development Studies in Thiruvananthapuram in 1971. The first International Congress on Kerala Studies occurred in 1994 under the organization of the Communist Party of India. The conference was designed to design a new path of development for the state of Kerala. Rather than taking an explicitly neoliberal approach to economic development, Kerala focused on equity, human development, and democratic decentralization. Subsequent Congresses have continued in this tradition, reexamining policies and creating new development goals and strategies.

Since then, many of Kerala’s demographic and Human Development Indicators (HDIs) rank well above India’s national averages. Birth rate, life expectancy, maternal mortality rates, and infant mortality rates are comparable to developed nations. Earlier this year, Vice President Hamid Ansari announced that Kerala had achieved 100% primary education status.

Kerala’s community-based approach has lost momentum over time as political leadership has swung back and forth between left and right ideologies. The economic and social changes have also brought unprecedented challenges. Switching to a more educated and service-based economy has strained the agricultural sector in the state. While incomes have increased, so has inequality. The state has become more dependent on imported foodstuffs and remittances. There has been an influx of migration from other areas of India and unemployment remains above the national average.

The fourth International Congress on Kerala Studies recently met in January to discuss these issues and to create a new agenda, an agenda that will be due before the Assembly election in April 2016. While Kerala still has a high standard of living, in order to maintain such, it must take advantage of this moment to examine what has worked in the past and what develop gaps and bottlenecks still need to be addressed moving forward.


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