Kerala’s Revolutionary Approach
Though India’s overall poverty rate was 14.96% in 2019–21, in the state of Kerala, the poverty rate was only 0.55% in the same period. Although it has a low per-capita income like other developing states, Kerala has managed to maintain a quality of life comparable to developed nations, as indicated by high literacy, few infant mortalities and a low birth rate. This has been achieved thanks to the Kerala government’s unique approach to poverty alleviation, which scholars have termed “the Kerala model of development.” Here is some information about Kerala’s revolutionary approach to poverty alleviation.

Successes of Kerala’s Revolutionary Approach to Poverty Alleviation

Specifically, the Kerala model emphasizes local wealth redistribution programs amidst a political culture of fiery anti-poverty activism. Since 2016, the Left Democratic Front has led the state. Consider its Five-Year Plan 2022–2027, which emphasizes spending on housing, job creation and other progressive policies to tackle remaining poverty. One recent policy has relieved all the living expenses (health care, shelter, food, welfare) of the 64,000 remaining impoverished families in Kerala. The plan emphasizes “health, education, housing, social welfare, social justice, and gender justice.

It is clear from this that the Left government prioritizes the needs and civil liberties of lower-income and marginalized people, thus integrating them more fully into the economy and creating productive forces. Some scholars have argued that Kerala’s success testifies to the effectiveness of Keynesianism, a school of economic thought that asserts that government intervention in the economy (via social programs, regulations, etc.) spurs growth. 

During the COVID-19 crisis, international organizations and media lauded Kerala for its vigilance in mitigating COVID-induced hardships. Initiatives included tracking and tracing, increased pension benefits, subsidized loans and food rations. In May 2020, the Kerala government disbursed seven months’ worth of pension to 4.4 million households. In times of economic crisis, the people need bread; and the state of Kerala needs no reminder. It gave 15 kg of free grain to all families regardless of income status. Every month, it distributed food kits with essential staples to people eligible for rations.

Kerala’s Support for Agrarian Workers

Whereas the Kerala model emphasizes wealth redistribution and welfare programs, other states have undergone a shift toward deregulation and neoliberalism since economic reforms in 1991. The changing economic situation has negatively impacted the livelihoods of India’s small farmers, who comprise 60% of the subcontinent’s population. In order to corporatize the agricultural sector, the government has increased trade liberalization, cut down agricultural subsidies for small farmers, and — more recently under Prime Minister Modi — withdrawn credit banknotes that favored local markets. As a result, prices and small farmers’ incomes have plummeted. 

Labor laws have also changed. Striking has lost its efficacy due to a 2020 law requiring 60-day notices; working duration has risen from 8 to 12 hours per day in Karnataka, which will perhaps set a precedent for other states; and unionization has become more difficult. India’s farm-dependent population has fallen from 59% in 1991 to 45.6% in 2019–20.

The crisis is so severe that 30 farm-dependent people commit suicide daily, in many cases due to unpayable debts. Ever since the Indian agrarian crisis began, Kerala has been at the forefront of the fight to protect small farmers’ interests. In 1999, multiple groups convened in Kerala, including a farmers’ union and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M), to form the Brahmagiri Development Society (BDS). The BDS provides livestock farms, veterinary services and mortality insurance for farmers in Kerala and neighboring states. By bypassing corporate intermediaries, it offers livestock at fair prices and thus increases farmers’ incomes.

Even in the midst of the Indian agrarian crisis, Kerala’s social democratic style of development offers its farmers the ability to live healthy, plentiful lives. Through the BDS, Kerala has consistently challenged the Indian State’s attempted corporatization of the agricultural sector. 

Lessons from Kerala’s Revolutionary Approach

From 2020 to 2021, three unpopular bills passed by Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prompted a national farmers’ protest and strike that garnered 250 million people, breaking the record for the largest demonstration in human history. The bills effectively allow big agribusinesses to hoard produce and decide prices. 

It is in such a context that Kerala’s social policies inspire the new generation, who are increasingly understanding the power held by the masses. But Kerala’s current leaders know that they must maintain a balance between social welfare and infrastructure. They wish to avoid the three traps of high welfare/low growth; low welfare/high growth, as shown by the Gujarat Model; and low welfare/low growth, as shown by the Uttar Pradesh Model. Since 1999, the Kerala Infrastructure Fund Board has invested $1.85 billion USD into various sectors, including IT development and electricity. The Left government demonstrates to India that high welfare and high growth are not mutually exclusive. 

Kerala’s Finance Minister T. M. Thomas Isaac, a Central Committee member of the CPI(M), said in an interview with The Tricontinental that Kerala plans to build the “Kerala-Fibre Optic Network.” This will be “a superhighway of internet owned by the state” that will ensure free Internet for every Keralan citizen.

“We are not a socialist country”, says Isaac, “we are part of Indian capitalism. But in this part, within the limitations, we shall design a society that will inspire all progressive-thinking people in India. Yes, it is possible to build something different. That’s the idea of Kerala.”

– Eric Huang
Photo: Pixabay

Around 43% of the population in India has internet access. Unfortunately, internet access growth has paused due to economic issues and tight government restrictions. The government usually cuts internet access for “elections, protests, religious festivals and examinations.

The shutdowns are all over the country but mostly affect the poorer regions of India. Internet access plays a major role in the economy and education equality. The regions that lack stable and affordable internet access face issues such as students dropping out of school, alongside other economic challenges.

Additionally, reports suggest that regions that do not support the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruling party suffer restricted internet access. According to these reports, the Kashmir region faces other human rights abuses and the lack of internet access only emphasizes the economic inequalities that other marginalized Indian communities experience.

Understanding the Conflict

Kashmir is a disputed territory between India and Pakistan. The region has witnessed numerous violent rebellions. In 2019, the region was reconstituted as two union territories, Kashmir and Jammu, under Indian control. With an increasingly Hindu nationalist country, tensions have heightened due to the majority Muslim population in Kashmir.

Many residents lost a substantial amount of political and civil rights when India gained control over the area. This event resulted in the emergence of opposition and rebellion. The past five years have been marked with violence from anti-Indian separatists, Jihadist rebels and Indian security forces. And the Indian government, BJP, has been training and arming militias to fight “anti-Indian insurgencies,” but it has also been attacking the rebel Kashmir region by cutting off internet access.


India has imposed internet shutdowns throughout the country and Kashmir has experienced the majority of these disruptions. The BJP justifies these shutdowns as security measures to combat the ongoing rebellion. Recently, the region endured an 18-month internet shutdown, which further aggravated frustrations. These shutdowns have resulted in human rights violations, hampering communication among residents and limiting access to external information. Journalists have faced challenges in fact-checking and reporting, often having to leave the area.

The 18-month shutdown took an economic toll on the area and its residents. Hospitality services were not able to receive any bookings and had to rely on loans from friends and families to maintain regular bills and payments. The ongoing shutdowns all over India have already cost the economy around $600 million.

Although there has been a restoration of internet access to Kashmir, the region still faces intermittent shut-downs in conjunction with slow and limited access. India has faced backlash from countries, like the United States (U.S.), for allowing human rights violations. But even in the face of such criticisms, internet shutdowns are still prevalent, especially in Kashmir.

Positive Updates

India has made stronger commitments to human rights, with the Supreme Court ruling that access to the internet is a fundamental right. Notwithstanding, the government has yet to cut down the internet shutdowns. However, pressure from other countries and international communities might continue to push India forward in protecting human rights.

A joint letter was published in 2019 on Access Now, calling for India to keep the internet “open and secure” in Kashmir and surrounding areas. This letter was signed by over 20 international organizations to encourage the Indian government to return internet access to the area. Many Indian groups from the ‘#Keepiton Coalition’ have spoken out about the lack of internet access in Kashmir and Jammu.

Looking Ahead

In 2021, some internet access was upgraded to 4G after the Indian Supreme Court, the Apni Party leader, the National Conference president and even some members of Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, called for the restoration of 4G internet. Kashmir is slowly rebuilding after the devastation of COVID-19 and the lack of internet access. And as a result, several schoolchildren are finally able to continue their schooling.

Kathryn Kendrick

Photo: Flickr

Citizenship Amendment Act Protests in IndiaBlood, tears and the echoes of piercing cries have filled India’s capital New Delhi for weeks now. People participating in peaceful anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in India have face the wrath of violent police officers. India’s youth has taken to the streets to fight against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The CAA allows for the marginalization of the Muslim community by restricting their ability to gain citizenship in India. This has created great discomfort for many of the 138 million Muslims currently living in India, who make up around 13.4% of the total population.

The bill appears to be most beneficial to Hindus, who account for 80.5% of India’s population. Its introduction has caused a national uproar as it highlights century-old religious intolerance in India. Many argue that the bill is in violation of Article 15 of the Indian constitution, which prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. The public has drawn similarities between the current situation and the problematic partition of Pakistan and India.

How does the CAA actually affect citizenship?

The CAA specifies that illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh can receive Indian citizenship if they have proof of residence for six years under the condition that they affiliate with Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian religious communities. However, Muslim immigrants from the same countries must have proof of residence for at least 12 years; it is argued this component contravenes Article 14 (equality for all people) and Article 15 of the Indian Constitution. The bill reduces the Muslim community to “second-class citizens” based on their religion alone.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his dissatisfaction with the Citizenship Amendment Act protests in India. He defended the bill, claiming there was no harm in trying to uplift the religious majorities in India, especially because they were discriminated against in other countries, like Pakistan. His party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has previously promoted policies and ideologies that favor Hindus and disfavor Muslims.

Further, members of the party have openly labeled Muslims as “terrorists” and have asserted that Hinduism is the dominant religion. Recently, BJP representative Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath claimed that the protests are stopping India from becoming a global power. However, he offered no explicit elaboration as to how they are doing so. It is evident that influential parts of the Indian government support and promote anti-Muslim sentiments.

Jamia Millia Islamia, a university in New Dehli with a significant population of Muslim students, is a center for Citizenship Amendment Act protests in India. Despite the peaceful nature of the protests, several videos of physical harassment at the hands of law enforcement have surfaced. This footage shows police charging students with lathis; many criticized this act for being unwarranted.

The Path to Equality: Pleas to the Supreme Court

Awareness about the CAA’s unjust components has spread across the country. Because of this, numerous petitions against the act have been filed at the Supreme Court of India. This same method was implemented previously against Section 377 of the Indian Constitution, which criminalized homosexuality. The Supreme Court later repealed the law thanks to the various protests and petitions filed across the country.

As the government continues to defend the bill, the public’s last hope is the Supreme Court, the only institution that can stop the implementation of CAA. On January 22, 2020, the Supreme Court did not issue a stay on the petitions filed against the bill and instead gave the central government four weeks to respond. This further angered the public and has continued to help the youth hold consistent protests all around the nation. However, as of March 5, the Supreme Court announced that it will consider petitions against the CAA after resolving matters pertaining to the Sabarimala issues.

The path taken by the protestors has proven to be effective in the past. The youth of India aim to strike down the CAA in court with the law on their side. Citizenship Amendment Act protests in India display the changing mindset of the country’s youth. These protests also promise hope to those ostracized by the government on the basis of religion. As religious tolerance is now a priority for the majority of India, unfair practices promoting inequality are bound to disappear in the near future. As for the present, the Supreme Court will decide whether CAA can be implemented in India within the next few months.

Mridula Divakar
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Indian PovertyThere are quite a few economies around the globe that aren’t doing very well, but one country’s economy is beginning to emerge as a potential powerhouse: India.

India is well acquainted with poverty and has been for many years now, with a large portion of the country’s population living in slums and other unsanitary conditions. Approximately 33 percent of the population lives in poverty, with only 62 percent of adults being literate, and only 49 percent of girls attending secondary school largely due to economic reasons.

The recent change in India’s economy could alter this. India’s stock market has reached new highs in recent months with a stable rupee.

Politics have had a large effect on India’s recent success, with the election of new Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, or BFP, experienced its first win in 30 years. The result is a more optimistic India that hopes to heal a broken bureaucracy.

Nicholas Smithie, Chief Investment Strategist at Emerging Global Advisors, says Modi is more likely to tackle major obstacles, such as a poor infrastructure, than previous prime ministers. Modi and the BJP work on a pro-growth platform, focusing on government approvals and advances in labor and education.

India might only be getting lucky. Certain aspects of the global economy — slowdown in China, money printing in Japan, Russia’s recession, stagnation in the European zones and falling oil prices — aren’t hitting India quite as hard. The deflation around the world is proving helpful to India, which has suffered high inflation. India has a rare opportunity to capitalize on new political officials and economic reform. International corporations are growing eager to invest in India, now assured that India’s policies will foster economic expansion.

As India’s economy emerges with a strong, stable foundation, the future of poverty reduction looks a little brighter. As the economy improves, families are better able to afford food, clean water and sanitary conditions. Educational opportunities are allowed to expand as the economy grows, creating a more secure future for Indian children, particularly girls. The path to recovery and to reducing poverty in India is long, but with a stronger economy and a hopeful leader, India seems to be on the right track.

Alaina Grote

Sources: The Economist, UNICEF, U.S. News

Photo: Flickr

India is the world’s largest democracy, and on May 12 it concluded a month-long national election process in which 814 million eligible voters went to the polls and selected 543 members of the lower house of parliament. In the election, Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party claimed victory as the decade of dominance by the Congress Party came to an end. The high rate of political participation and voter enthusiasm amongst India’s population is promising, but the looming issue of poverty remains.

With a population of over 1.2 billion people spread out over 1 million square miles, India is the second most populous country in the world. However, according to many reports, poverty in India is widespread and nearly a third of the population is living in poverty. India’s Planning Commission estimated in 2013 that there were over 270 million people living under the poverty line. Other studies put that number closer to 310 million, but it is clear that no matter what the criteria, poverty remains a defining issue for India in the 21st century.

The World Bank estimates that 77 percent of India’s poor live in rural areas with 60 percent of Indians living in small villages with fewer than 5,000 people. The 77 percent in rural areas is comprised of nearly 240 million people, with the remainder of India’s impoverished amounting to over 70 million in urban areas. In recent years, rates of rural poverty in India have been declining, though the change has been attributed to urban migration and negligible advances in living standards. Similarly, India’s population growth has led to an increased poor population despite decreases in overall poverty rates.

Part of the problem seems to be Indian citizens’ relatively low access to health care. According to the World Health Organization, the life expectancy for Indian citizens, 64 years for males and 68 for females, is below the global life expectancy of 70. India’s infant mortality rate and education system is also a point of concern. Attendance at primary schools has become increasingly common for Indian children over the past decades but the adult literacy rate is 62.8 percent.

India’s government reported earlier this year that its economy grew by 4.6 percent in the first quarter of 2014. Positive economic growth has become common in recent years, but this figure is far from the regular 8 percent annual growth rate which India experienced before the global financial crisis of 2008. In the time since the crisis, investment has stalled and the rupee’s value has decreased as India’s national deficit has continued to grow steadily.

With the installment of a new prime minister with a pro-business mindset, only time will tell if India regains its pace for economic growth. The future looks promising but the reality of India’s alarming poverty is omnipresent. Nearly 70 years after gaining independence, India has attained political stability and is in the midst of coaxing economic stability to follow suit.

– Taylor Dow

Sources: Daily Mail, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, World Bank, WHO
Photo: The Independent India