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Kerala gets better

Notes from God's Own Country

Apparently Kerala (my little state) has decided to move forward progressively, inspite of stupid opposition from vested interests. Two things - one on conservation and one on governance - caught my attention.

Complete ban on plastic grocery bags.

If police finds you holding a bag, instant fine of Rs.50. Most grocery bags have merchant's identification on it and merchants get an instant fine of Rs. 500 or so. Biodegradable packing material like paper can be used. Still better, you can get a tote-bag, take it to the store to do your shopping.

F.R.I.E.N.D.S helpdesk

It used to be such a pain to remit bills and taxes. You had to go to multiple offices, stand in long queues etc. This invariably required you to take several days off every month, just to pay bills.

Now, the government has oppened up a service center. Go there, go to the helpdesk, get help on what you need to fill out, get a token, come back at the pre-set time, give the total amount and the staff disperses it to various departments. Utilities, revenue taxes, DMV are all in one “helpdesk”, one building, one office.

Can't go there, but know what/how much you need to pay? Just pay it in any bank or post office.

F.R.I.E.N.D.S stand for Fast, Reliable, Instant, Efficient Network for Disbursement of Services.

Getting worse

It is not all roses here anyway. Water shortage is getting acute. Opposition parties still behave irresponsibly. The current government seems to take an effort in being a bit responsible.

  1. Kerala is indeed getting better. While US is still debating use of cell phones while driving, Kerala has already banned it. Spot penalty of Rs.50/- if you are caught using a mobile phone while driving.

    Posted by: Babu on March 8, 2003 09:42 PM
  2. Well, hopefully the 5 year cycle does not destroy the things in place. What the Congress proposes, Left parties disposes. What the Left parties proposes, Congress disposes. We citizens gives them turns, one after the other.

    Posted by: (\/)ystic on March 19, 2003 03:14 AM
  3. It is sad to see people of many walks of life take up the IRAqQ issue so seriously, in cluding the CPI.
    If only these same so called concerned people would do the same for domestic issues like hartals and the adivasi problem(being denied of their own land), this place could go forward. If these same parents and teachers and students unions would do what they are doing on the IRAQ issue, we could at least stop hartals.
    But the fact remains keralites just like to ape what someone else does(especially the white). Cant understand a people who cannot see their own land getting messed up with the rot in the social system.
    Does anyone know if tomorrow is NOT a HARTAL?(SAME AS A BANDH!!)

    Posted by: Alfred G on March 25, 2003 09:49 PM
  4. Alfred - yes, things are still bleak for unorganized people (ie, people who are not affiliated with any particular political group). I believe this is mainly because of too many Malayalis unwilling to do any kind of job in Kerala - they have no issues when they are outside Kerala!

    These days, with money being so hard to come by, lot of Keralites are taking up any job, without considering their education.

    You should've seen the thin crowd that came together for supporting Hartal. This gives me hope.

    It is another matter whether people have courage to tell the politicians to go to hell. Actually, a village in Palakkad - I don't remember the name now - banished all politicians and political activities since 2000 because their pleas for good drinking water were never heard. The villagers waited in groups to beat up any hartal enforcers that would turn up.

    Posted by: Babu on March 26, 2003 05:36 AM

    Internet: A place where we, the educated Keralites and fellow Indians (many of us after finishing our schooling in our poor wretched homeland and escaping from there at the first chance we get) post fiery criticism about our state and country for its lack of many things which we expect to exist. Most of us do this from the comfort of our homes/digs in mostly western countries or USA. Most of us are intellectuals. Quasi intellectuals we are? May be. May be not. Then again may be. We deride our homeland’s politicians for good, yet we ourselves do not want to participate in the political arena. We would rather vent about how bad things are from the coziness of our living rooms faraway from our beloved country and state.

    Oh! We listen to western music along with Indian music, but we have western musicians like “pink floyd” and Yani as our favorites. Many are experts in American and western politics. We like transparency, quality democracy, and good roads to name a few. Mostly great things one cannot find easily in India. In search of these and other great things we fled India. We found these great things in Europe and America. We liked what we saw and decided to stay. Then the creative urges took over. We designed nice little blogs and posted our frustrations about how bad things are in our homeland. We have great ideas about how things “should” be in India.

    A country is made up of its people. It achieves progress with the effort of its people.It takes qualified educated people to make this happen. But especially in kerala and India in general, qualified educated people flee the place at the first chance they can find.

    Many of us would argue that the condition in our homeland is not conducive for us to have a career and life of our likening. We would rather flee the country than stay home and work to improve the conditions. We blame the politicians for the bad state of affairs but we ourselves do not want to enter politics or public life and work to make any progressive changes. We create web logs. We discuss esoteric books. Tough books they are. Mostly we do this faraway from India. All these are creating dialogues, one can argue. Dialogue is a good thing? Isn’t it? . Better than monologue we assume.

    So the life goes on and on and on. Phony is the keyword. Red wine and steak have an affinity for one another. Hopefully cricket will lose its support in India. Let the rain begin.

    Posted by: rj on June 7, 2003 07:02 PM
  6. #5 (rj):

    - "venting from afar without participation". That, is a very good point. It mostly boils down to a matter of choice available in Kerala. How do you choose between the bad and the bad? I believe it is partly Keralite's heritage. Quite a few people who *live in* Kerala don't participate either, some don't even vent.

    - "we decided to flee and stay back". May be true to certain extent. Though this smacks of generalization that everybody has decided to stay back in US and Europe.

    All other points are valid too. In fact, so valid that a quick google search revealed the same comment on my blog and JK's blog ( too. All from the - I'm assuming - comfort of your own living room in US (I'm not guessing about you being in US - it is evident from server logs). Which makes me believe that you are frustrated too. And you are expressing it by attaching on to other Malayalees' thoughts? I think you should start your own blog - your writing is excellent and additional dialogue is always better :-)

    Anyway, I'm not sure how this blog post is "fiery criticism". In fact both the points I mentioned in the original post are great things - things you don't see in US or Europe.

    That said, do I like Kerala. I love Kerala. If it means anything to you, I don't intend to settle anywhere other than India. Now, as you pointed out, people go abroad to grab opportunities. I think that is not a bad thing. In fact, it is a great thing for Indian economy. Economy runs on money, not on political ideology. By default, resident Keralites used to eye NRI's suspiciously. These days, most people have realised working with NRI's is a good thing for cash flow. Is the condition suitable in Kerala for NRI's to invest? My point is that Government should make the climate suitable to attract investment. Quite a few political leaders in India/Kerala still live in 1950s. May be that has to change.

    Good comments though - I appreciate it.

    Also, I like Yanni, Pink Floyd, Pandit Chaurasia, M.S. Gopalakrishnan, Yesudas, Dr. Balamuralikrishna and quite a few other Indian musicians. I don't think liking Yanni and Pink Floyd is going to affect my love for Kerala :-) Same goes for Payasam, Red Wine, Steak, Aviyal, Pappadam, Dosa, Achar and Meen Puli.

    Posted by: Babu on June 8, 2003 08:37 AM