The International Context and the "Kerala Model19
In terms of social indicators of human development, Kerala's performance, as is well-known, is remarkably impressive. Its record, whether in overall literacy rate, or in female literacy rate, or in infant mortality rate, or in the ratio of females to males in the total population, is far better not only than that of any other state in India, but even in comparison to most of the countries of the third world. Indeed its performance in these respects is in no way inferior to that of countries like China (on average). And in some respects it is even superior, notably in its success in bringing down the birth-rate in a non-coercive manner. It has a remarkable public distribution system, and the average level of nutrition of its population (judging by anthropometric measurements) is better than that of the country as a whole.
The fact that Kerala has been able to provide such impressive levels of health, education and nutrition to its population despite having a per capita domestic product that is comparatively low and even stagnant for a long period of time has made many authors speak in terms of a *Kerala model*. This model provides a contrast to the traditional view which sees development as a sequel to growth, which postulates, in other words, that economies should give the highest priority to growth of per capita output; and if growth occurs then human development would follow. The Kerala model, by contrast, shows that the elimination, or at any rate the alleviation, of the miserable conditions of life which the bulk of the population in the third world faces, does not have to await that distant day when growth has taken place to a sufficient extent for its 'trickle down* to make an impact upon the people.
To be sure, admiration for the Kerala model is not synonymous with pooh-poohing growth. What it is synonymous with is a rejection of the view that growth, no matter by what means it is brought about^ is essential for development. While the admirers of the Kerala model
*Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Social Scientist, Vol. 23, Nos. 1-3 , January-Marchl995