Kerala, God’s Own Country, is a sharp study of contrasts.
* Out of a population of 33.38 million as per Census 2011, 16.02 million (48%) are males and 17.36 million (52%) are females. The state has a sex ratio of 1,084 (sex ratio is defined as the number of females per 1,000 males) as against the national average of 940.
* The state has an urban population of 48%, and the per capita annual income (current prices) in 2011-12 was Rs 90,816 as against the national average of Rs 68,491.
* Sector-wise, services contributed 63% of the income while secondary and primary sectors accounted for 21% and 15%, respectively.
* Poverty rate has declined from nearly 34% in Kerala in 1993-94 to 12% in 2009-10 in both rural and urban areas. The state-specific poverty line for 2009-10 in Kerala was fixed at monthly per capita income of Rs 775.30, which is above the poverty line fixed by 23 other states. The corresponding figures for Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are Rs 629, Rs 639 and Rs 694, respectively.
* Kerala was the first state to report 100% literacy in a district, and now has a literacy rate of 94%.
*Life expectancy in Kerala is 74 years as against the national average of 63 years. The state has maternal mortality rate (MMR) of 81 per lakh live birth as against the national average of 212 and infant mortality rate (IMR) of 13 as against the all-India level of 47.
Now, the other side of the story.
* Kerala has the highest per capita consumption of alcohol in the nation- more than 1.76 gallons per person a year. Kerala is followed by Maharashtra and Punjab.
* There has been an increase in the rate of suicide from 24.6 per lakh (100,000) population in 2010 to 25.3 per lakh population during 2011.
* Kerala accounted for 158,989 Indian Penal Code (IPC) crimes during 2012 out of an all-India total of 2,387,188 – around 7%. And Kerala was the only state in the country with a high rate of IPC crime at 455.8 as against the all-India average of 196.7. (Rate of IPC crime means number of IPC crimes per one lakh population).
* Crime against public order and riot cases were the highest in the state; and 5 police districts in the state reported over 10,000 IPC crimes during 2012.
*Finally, Kochi reported the highest crime rate of 817.9 among the mega cities as against the national average of 196.7…
The question is – what ails the ‘Kerala model’ of equitable growth, which emphasised land reforms, poverty reduction, educational access and child welfare? Arguments in favour and against the ‘Kerala model’ have been on for quite a while. This should add grist to the mill.