|Area||38,863 sq. km|
Kerala: At a Glance
Hedged in between the Western Ghats with its highest peaks of Anamudi and Agasthyarkoodam on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west and blessed by North-East (October – November) and South-West (June – August) monsoon seasons this evergreen land of Kerala on the South-Western part of the Indian peninsula, with mountains, hills valleys and lakes, deserves to be praised with the epithet ‘God’s own Country’ which the famous English Poet Dylan Thomas used to eulogise the Wales Countryside. The geographical data of Kerala is North Latitude between 8018′ and 12048′ East longitude between 74052′ and 77022′.
A Living Heritage
The long interconnected lakes having rich wealth of estuarine fishes, mussels and clams and with coconut groves and occasional paddy fields on either side constitute National Water way III of India stretching from Thiruvananthapuram in the south to the northern most districts. This ancient conduit to take merchandise by heavy boats to the ports of Muziris (Present Kodungalloor) Aleppo (Present Alappuzha) Ayi (Present Vizhinjam) Kollam and Beypore thronged first by Romans and afterwards by Chinese, Syrians, Arabs and in recent centuries by Europeans for trade is now the golden Pathway of tourists and luxury boats. A few of the interconnected lagoons witness some of the most spirited boat races in the world such as the Nehru Trophy, Uthruttathi and Aranmula boat races. The total length of the waterways is 1687 Kms. The famous beaches of Kovalam Varkala, Cherayi, Muzhuppilangadu and Bekal brace up nearer the National Waterway III though, otherwise well-connected with the international airports of Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode and also the newly coming up Kannur airport. N.H.47 traverses the state from the south end to Palakkad for Bangalore and N.H.17 from Kochi to Mangalore for Mumbai. Besides them there are state highways such as the M.C. Road, Kochi-Madurai, Thiruvananthapuram – Thenkasi, Kozhikode-Mysore, Vadakara – Virajpettah – Bangalore roads. With 1, 54, 679 Kms road length Kerala occupies top-notch position in road connectivity.
Contribution to Bharat Varsha
Viewing from the historical angle one would find that Kerala’s contribution to Indian nationhood was outstanding. ‘Bharat Varsha’ has always been a concept of the Intellectual and emotional unity of life in the Indian sub continent even when it was under the tutelage of opposing rulers. When the peninsula was plunged into intellectual vacuum and darkness with the eclipse of Jainism and Buddhism Sree Sankaracharya emerged from the village of Kalady near Kochi from Kerala and established intellectual centres or mutts at the far corners of Bharat Varsha and brought about that intellectual unity. The serious confrontations with foreign forces on the shores of Kerala resulted in deeper interactions producing tolerance of the neighbour’s faith. At the dawn of the twentieth century Sree Narayana Guru reinforced this secular ethos of Kerala by reinterpreting the true spirit and authority of the Hindu scriptures. The biggest singular contribution of Kerala to Bharat Varsha is this secular ethos.
Kerala Model of Development
Kerala has been hailed as a model of development for having achieved a status fulfilling all the parameters of social well-being comparable to those of the developed countries of the world. The state achieved total literacy almost two decades back. It has the lowest infant mortality rate and life expectancy is 71 years for both male and female, which is the highest in the country. Maternal mortality rate is also the lowest. The state has also the lowest birth rate. This spectacular achievement in spite of having only a moderate per capita income has led economists to look upon Kerala as an economic miracle. Behind these achievements several factors are discernible such as the spread of education among all sections of the population as Dr. Amarthya Sen so forcefully emphasised, a large non-resident population and their remittances back home, successful cultivation of commercial crops especially rubber and spices, spread of cooperative movement, the services of social organisations in education and healthcare and fairly high wages for labourers. Kerala has been the first state to achieve democratic revolution, and no wonder, she heralded the phenomenon of bringing a communist government to power through ballot in world history.
Kerala has also been the first state in the country to implement land reforms. The State is giving impetus to the decentralised system of development carried out through assemblages of families in every locale, called Kudumbasree under the Grama Panchayat. Kerala’s system of decentralised development has been looked upon as a model by other states and many foreign countries. Incidentally Kerala is the only state with hospital facility in every village Kerala also enjoys the highest communication infrastructure in the country.
Economy Looks Forward
Focusing on economic development in the state one would find that the tertiary or the service sector has performed exceptionally and consistently well over the years of the state. Development on the industrial sector has been very little satisfactory owing to a variety of reasons but chiefly the unavailability of land at affordable prices for the purpose. The state government is making all out efforts to make rapid strides in IT industry in the state, the results of which are visible in the increased revenue from export of IT products. But Kerala’s forte is in tourism industry which has been growing at a fast rate. Hill stations life Vagamon, Munnar, Thekkady and Wayanad are attracting more and more tourists besides the beaches and backwaters. Incidentally, Kerala has the highest thorium deposit in the world. Once the country achieves the technology of laser isotope separation of thorium, this mineral will fetch for the country an economic bonanza equal to that of oil in the gulf countries or even bigger than that production.
Increased Food Crop Production
On the agricultural front, Kerala’s food crop is not sufficient for her needs. Paddy cultivation has been steadily losing in extent and yield. The production has come down from 13 lakh tonnes to 6.29 lakh tonnes over the years. The state is making concerted efforts to increase the extent by farming paddy on fallow lands and promoting better agricultural practices. The results are extremely encouraging. Kerala is the largest producer of natural rubber in the country and it is also the biggest producer of spices like pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon etc.
Future with Sea-borne Commerce
The long coastline of Kerala with an array of minor ports have promoted the development of fishery sector as an important component of Kerala’s economy and source of employment. Kochi Port and Cochin shipyard have made Kochi the hub of commercial activity. The transshipment terminal being built at Vallarpadom Under the Central Government will further increase commerce in the southern region in a few years. If and when the deep sea mother port at Vizhinjam proposed by the State Government becomes a reality Kerala is poised to become the commercial hub of entire South Asia.