Why is Kerala more developed than other States in India?

My answer to Why is Kerala more developed than other States in India?

Answer by Raakhee V. Menon:

Thank you for the A2A.

There are not one but several reasons behind the why and how of things regarding the current state of affairs in Kerala.

Kerala was a sea-way business hub much before many of the other areas of present day India. This meant that people were welcoming to other cultures and traditions, and were not close-minded people. There was a lot of intercultural exchange and the ‘frog in a well’ scenario was absent in Kerala.

Being exposed to other cultures so early on meant that the rules of the land were very broad-minded. They were not unfamiliar with affairs of faraway lands and whatever they could incorporate into their own societies, they did.

There was a lot of tolerance to other faiths due their presence in large numbers. There were Arab settlers who came from the Middle East before the discovery of oil. Ancient Christian tradition says that Christianity reached the shores of Kerala in AD 52 with the arrival of Thomas the Apostle, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. Jews are said to have come to Kerala and thrived. And despite all this, each faith still holds on to their traditions and customs, and everyone supports and rejoices each others’ traditions.

We have all lived together in harmony since time immemorial. And that secular mindset has gone a long way to help Kerala reach where it is now. Even today, if you see there is very less sectarianism in Kerala as compared to other states in India. Kerala has never allowed religious fanaticism and putting conservative ideologies behind us has helped the state to focus on more important matters.

Education was seen as a measure of social standing right from the earliest times. As is the case even now, people took a lot of effort to see to it that their children were educated. It’s got a lot to do with the mentality of people. When education becomes a ‘prestige issue’, the pressure to outperform your neighbor or your relative becomes very high. Many feudal and baronial families that I personally know had several employed members, even though they did not need the money to run the households. I’d like to quote the example of my own family here. My ancestors were very rich. But they never put their money to pursue trivial pursuits. They used it to educate their children. Most of them were university graduates. My maternal grandfather was an alumnus of BHU. My paternal grandfather was a scientist working in Singapore. If their children didn’t find the course of their choice in India, they sent them to foreign lands to study. And education taught them to view life and people in a different way. Most of my ancestors were employed…mostly at the court of the King. My great-great-grandfather was the Royal physician. My great-grandfather was the head of administrative affairs at the court of the King. Even now, at family dos, parents take great pride in telling others about how their son is an engineer or that their daughter is a doctor. If you ask a 5 year old child what he or she wants to be when she grows up, don’t expect an answer like ‘I want to be a princess’ or ‘I want to be Superman’. Without even thinking for a second, they would say either engineer, doctor, lawyer, IAS or police. It doesn’t matter even if they don’t know the spellings of any of those words. Yes, that’s how the desire to reach certain goals and the way to succeed in life is injected into children from as early as possible. It’s like ‘if you don’t study, you will end up washing somebody’s dirty dishes/become a mechanic’ 😛

A poor person who could talk sensibly was much more respected than a person who walked around with a pouch full of gold coins and a head full of air. How else did all those social reformers become so successful? They were not rich. They didn’t book halls to conduct sermons. They were simple people with a vision. Even now, being called a viddhi (fool) is considered to be more insulting than being called a pichakkaaran (beggar).

Most of the womenfolk were individually wealthy. Most of them owned property and wealth that the men had no rights on. This meant that there was little or no sexism at play. This ensured a much more satisfied society with little or no frustrations. Happy women meant happy families…basically. Yeah! 😀

All these factors led to the rise and success of Communism in the state. People didn’t believe in submitting themselves to a particular political party like some sort of monarchy. Because the father was the chief minister of the state, now the son will be the next chief minister. And then his son will succeed him…even if he is a bumpkin. This is no different from a monarchy. People of Kerala have always voiced their opinions freely and all this was possible because of education, again. Unless the people were convinced of a cause, they would not support it due to blind allegiance towards any political party. If a Malayali supports a cause, one may be assured that he has studied it thoroughly and knows fully well about what he’s doing. People are pro-development and pro-education…a fail-safe combination, and one that ensures success.

And we did succeed, didn’t we? 😀


Reading through all the comments below, I was reminded that I forgot to add a very important factor to my answer. About the quintessential ‘Gulf Malayalis’. Being a long time resident of the middle east myself, let me tell you some things beyond the ‘There will be a Nair’s Tea Shop on the Moon’ jokes.

So why and how did all those Malayalis land up in the Middle East after all?

When the oil boom happened in the middle east in the 60s and 70s, these countries were still developing. They did not have formal education like the kind available in India at the same time. They didn’t have as many skilled people to actually use the money they were generating from selling the oil to foreign lands to build their nations. Look at a picture of Qatar in the 1970s…

And look at what it looks like now…

The Arabs were familiar with Keralites as their business relationship went back to centuries. So it was only natural that they first looked towards their known friend Kerala for skilled workers to come and help them build their nations. And skilled manpower was (and still is) available in plenty in Kerala. Kerala is a small state as compared to other states in India. But the education levels of people are quite high. The state is just not able to generate so many jobs for its people. If you come to Kerala, you will see how difficult it is now to find a person to fell coconuts or to clean the septic tank or to work as a maid. People are over-qualified. We were traveling in a taxi once and the driver was telling us of how his son is working with CISCO in the USA. He was continuing his driver’s job because he didn’t want to sit idle. Our ex-maid’s daughter has completed her Masters in Computer Science & Engineering and now works at TCS, Bangalore. I could quote so many examples. The thirst for education is a like drug everyone is administered along with their BCG vaccines!

When they couldn’t find employment in Kerala, they moved to other states. They got branded as ‘Madrasis’ and there was a lot of hate that we all know about. Let’s not go there. That was when Malayalis turned to the middle east for employment. The newly-rich Arabs brought in engineers, architects, designers, and supporting staff. Together they built their impressive glittering cities that you see today. The generally workaholic and soft-spoken Malayalis are still trusted a lot by Arabs. They are a little suspicious about other Indians though. I’m not kidding. I have been told this directly by several Arabs. The only places they know in the rest of India are ‘Dilli, Bumbaai, Bingalore’ but they are quite familiar with places in Kerala like ‘Kuchi, Kolikode, Thruvanthaburum, Malburam’ ^_^ My Arab colleagues here tell me of having distant relatives in Malappuram and Kozhikode! The relationship we share with them is very deep. Of course, this did not go down well with many other regional groups and the jokes about ‘Gelff Malayalis’ started to happen. Yes, there are many of us here. Because this place is welcoming. We are respected, we are paid well and we have comfortable lives. And yes, we also get to save up a lot of money and send it back home. Do you know that the Arabs deeply respect us for this? That we work so sincerely and whatever we earn, we send a major chunk back home. One of my colleague’s Malayali driver has been working with them for the past 38 years. He tells me about how his driver is as caring as his own father towards him. And how his driver did not even once ask for a salary raise or complain about anything. The family used to give him enough and more on their own without him even asking for it. He has only praises to shower on the driver’s loyalty and trustworthiness. So is it surprising that Arabs actually like to employ Malayalis?

And we are not ‘immigrants’ here. Unlike how people actually migrate to the US, UK, Australia, etc. leaving their homes and Indian passports behind, there is no migration to the Middle East. We are all here on work visas. We don’t have citizenship here. So eventually, we will come back home.

So people have an issue with the fact that the ForEx being pumped into Kerala is much higher than in other states. That is because of the high number of skilled professionals among Keralites who are being paid very handsomely. So many skilled professionals are not seen here from any other state in India. So it’s only natural that there will be more money being sent home. Plus we get the entire salary in full cash…no tax deductions, nothing. The Indian government welcomes this with both hands and we are seen as huge contributors to the country’s economy. If you listen to the speeches of eminent politicians on Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, you will be able to see how they talk about us overseas Indians.

And being in the Gulf keeps us connected to our roots, no matter what happens…

I do not see this as parasitical in any way. As per the definition(derogatory) of a ‘parasite’, it is a person who habitually relies on or exploits others and gives nothing in return. Are we relying or exploiting anyone? No. Are we giving anything in return, yes we are. On both sides. The host nation where we work in gets our sincere service, and our home nation gets a part of our earnings. Where is the parasitical aspect here?

Because of the money we send home, we are able to build beautiful houses for ourselves, buy cars, gold, make investments, start businesses…we are being able to live a better life, give a better life to our loved ones and also aid in the progress of the state. Three noble deeds. What exactly is wrong in that?

Why is Kerala more developed than other States in India?


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