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June 2024
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Development on the backburner
 
K. Gopalakrishnan

For the development of a state an essential prerequisite is peace and harmony. Effective law and order provide the investment climate. None would risk his money at a place where effective governance is lacking. There are many other requirements. But basic need is the atmosphere for development.

That is why state governments go out of the way to ensure the best facilities. With many state governments now vying with each other to attract the investors it is imperative for a state like Kerala to ensure the right climate and correct the long standing impression that the state is not investment friendly.

Unfortunately in Kerala though its political parties swear by development there is hardly any effort to attract investors or build a favourable situation for the investor. Earlier the state was known for strikes, gheraos, union rivalries, clashes and even violence. The labour was blamed for keeping the investor away from the state.

So much so the joke used to be that unions used to be formed even before offices and factories are established. Sure enough flags of trade unions used to be fluttering in front of the proposed factory sites and leaders stalking the land ready to be first in recruiting even before interviews and appointments! Investors naturally preferred to keep off the gods own country as they did not want to risk their funds.

In the first two-three decades of the formation of the state it used to be almost the first in number of man days lost. Anti-trade union lobbies used to eagerly calculate the lakhs and crores of rupees lost in a year due to the loss of man days. Had Guiness authorities included in their search for records included the maximum man days lost area Kerala would not have yielded the place of honour for decades to any other entity.

The state also was known for political instability, placing it a low priority area for investment not by the private sector but public sector too. Employment opportunities used to be only in outside the state, either within the country or outside. Educated Keralite had no other option but to move out of their favourite birth place for their survival and the survival of their near and dear ones.

But in the last few decades things changed. The labour perhaps aware of the consequences did shy away from prolonged strikes, flash strikes, gheraos and inner union and intra union rivalries. There was a metamorphosis. Strikes became hartals, bandhs, etc managed by political parties, business and trade associations and federations. Some trade union leaders and leaders of political parties took to the life styles of the capitalists and the high and mighty. Hartals, bandhs and even strikes could be called without notice and for the mutual benefits of trade union leaders and captains of industry.

Today bandhs and hartals are regular events in Kerala life. We have state bandhs, district bandhs, taluk bandhs with or without notice. Almost anyone can call for a bandh, even those with a dozen supporters a bandh can be called. Only thing is there should be violence fear of which make life at a standstill. Far too many bandhs which affect marriages, tourist traffic, medical attention to the old and the needy.

Examinations, interviews, going back to places of work within India and abroad all get disturbed. Leaders judge the success of a bandh on the basis of the amount of harassment to the people, violence, number of cars and buses burnt, number of establishments closed, trains cancelled. The loss to the state as a whole today is in millions if tabulated on an yearly basis . Needless to add none would invest for loss in production, failure to fulfil orders and inability to meet the schedule of exports.

Added to all these in the last one year are the political violence and consequent hartas and bandhs. Murder of cadres of each other by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Bharatiya Janata party . Both are equally responsible. If, by chance, there is difference it is in degrees. Each murder is followed by a bandh, either local or state wide bringing life to a standstill.

Violence in bandhs include clash of cadres, attack on public property, attack on party offices and innocent getting hurt due to accidental presence in the protest marches or place of assemblage. One notable feature is in most murder the one who is killed is invariabl from the cadre not any leader. In addition Kerala has the unique honour of making a success of all nationwide bandhs against the policies of the Centre . Earlier there were bandhs in protest against the policies of imperialists powers too.

But the recent frequent murders of the CPIM and the Sangh parivar cadres are taking a dangerous turn. It is far too frequent and is having a cascading effect with the state police unable to control. This has vitiated the atmosphere due to mutual distrust. Police failure to effectively investigate the criminal cases in which management of the self-financing professional colleges were allegedly involved too led to needle of suspicion pointing to LDF leaders and the nexus between the high and mighty and police.

State government too were mainly pre-ccupied with the fire fighting of one problem after the other like irresponsible utterances of the ministers, embarrassing sharp differences between the CPI and CPM, inability to control IAS officers and deal with differences in top bureaucracy which led to pushing the matters relating development to the backburner. This also led to trust deficit of investors.

But the political murders have done the greatest damage to development of Kerala. CPIM and BJP, two parties never tired of talking about development, are the main culprits. Primary responsibility of the CPIM, leading the state government need to emphasised. The anger of the BJP central leadership over the political murders have been expressed in strong terms a number of times.

Continuance of political murders and the state government getting engaged in other issues due to inexperience and partisan political approach , can have consequences of a serious nature. The main casualty will be the development of Kerala which may be pushed to the backburner permanently.


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