Modi is absolutely wrong to compare Kerala with Somalia

B Ekbal
B EkbalMay 12, 2016 | 14:28

Modi is absolutely wrong to compare Kerala with Somalia

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement on an election tour in Kerala, comparing the poor conditions of Adivasis in the state to the situation in Somalia, has sparked off a controversy. It was not only inappropriate but factually inaccurate for the PM to make such a statement.

It is an established fact that Kerala tops India’s human and other development indices. That Kerala achieved health indices almost comparable to those of developed countries despite its economic backwardness, has baffled economists and social scientists across the world. This remarkable achievement, the so called "Kerala Model of Development", is a discussion topic among academia.


However, researchers who have studied Kerala’s development have also pointed at islands  of underdevelopment among several social groups in Kerala. Several studies have pointed to the dismal health status of fisherfolks and Adivasis. Recently, the state was shocked by a large number of neonatal deaths from the Attappadi Adivasi colonies.

On May 2014, I headed a team of health experts who published a report on the health status of Kerala’s Adivasis. We described their situation as a "silent genocide" because their death rate was more than their birth rate. That said, the statistics also tell us that the health status of Adivasis in Kerala is actually better than some of the BJP-ruled states and in no way lower than poor countries like Somalia.

Kerala’s infant mortality rate or IMR (the number of infant deaths under one year old per 1,000 live births ) is 12 presently. Some districts record single digits while in the Adivasi areas it is as high as 42. However, we must remember that the national IMR average is 40, in Gujarat it is 36 and in another BJP-ruled state, Madhya Pradesh, it is 57 - several counts more than that the figures among Adivasis in Kerala. The IMR in Somalia is 137.


Therefore, obviously the PM grossly exaggerated and unnecessarily invoked Somalia to describe Kerala’s supposed disparities.

Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy has demanded PM Modi's apology.

It was no small wonder that Keralites from diverse political fronts came together, even in the midst of a fierce election campaign, to condemn Prime Minister Modi’s statement. Chief minister Oommen Chandy and CPM politburo member Prakash Karat issued strongly worded statements asking the PM to apologise to the people of Kerala.

However, so far the PM has neither retraced nor clarified his statement. It is possible that Keralites, being very proud of  and sensitive to their achievements in social development, may react while going to the polling booths on May 16. This may adversely affect the NDA’s poll prospects in Kerala. It is also possible that the adept chief minister Oommen Chandy may have seized this opportunity to divert criticism against his ministry.

Last updated: May 12, 2016 | 15:01
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