Kerala

Introduction

Kerala, historically known as Keralam, is a state in South India on the Malabar Coast. It lies along the coastline, and is flanked by the Arabian Sea on the West and the mountains of the Western Ghats on the East. The capital of Kerala is Thiruvanthapuram, and it has 14 districts. The official languages of the State include Malayalam and English, although Malayalam will soon become the only official language in the State. Kerala is one of the most prominent tourist destinations in India for both Indians and foreigners alike, with backwaters, beaches, Ayurvedic tourism and tropical greenery as some of its major attractions.

Demographics

Kerala is home to 2.76 per cent of India’s population, and is nearly three times as densely settled as the rest of India. As per the last census, Kerala has a population of 33 million and women outnumber men in every single district in the state (for every 1000 men, there are 1058 women). 47.70 per cent of Kerala’s population live in urban regions and 52.30 per cent live in rural regions. With regards to religion, 54.73 per cent of Kerala’s residents are Hindus, 26.56% are Muslims, 18.38% are Christians, and the remaining 0.32 per cent follow another or have no religious affiliation. Kerala also ranks the highest in India with regards to social development indices, including the elimination of poverty (Kerala has the second lowest population living below the poverty line, after Goa), access to primary education, and healthcare. This is a result of significant efforts that began in 1911 by the erstwhile Princely states of Cochin and Travancore to boost healthcare and education among the people. Consequently, Kerala has the highest literacy rate in India, 93.91 per cent and the highest life expectancy in India (74 years). Kerala has also been designated the world’s first “baby-friendly state” by The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Economy

Kerala leads many other Indian states and territories in terms of per capita GDP (Rs. 74, 640) and is ranked 11th. In 2014 to 2015, the state recorded a growth of 6.49 per cent  in 2014 to 2015, which is above the national average (4.04%) and its nominal GDP growth in 2013-14 was 13.14%. It ranks first in the Human Development Index among Indian states. The economy of Kerala is dominated by the service industry, as well as by remittances (by migrant workers working abroad, mainly in the Persian Gulf) and in 2012, the state was the highest receiver of overall remittances to India. As of 2008, the Gulf countries hosted a Keralite population of over 2.5 million, who sent home a sum of $9.25 billion. In terms of Agriculture, Kerala produces 97% of national output of pepper and accounts for 85 per cent of the area under natural rubber in the country. Tourism is also a major contributor to the state economy, and is growing at a rate of 13.31%.1.1 million people in the state are dependent on the fishery industry which contributes 3% to the state's income. Segments such as transport, communication, trade, banking and insurance, and real estate also contribute to the economy. Unemployment in 2011 was 4.2%. 

Government and Politics

In Kerala, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the Indian National Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) have dominated politics since the late 1970s, and have shuffled places since 1982. Kerala has a strong inclination towards leftism, which is why the Communist parties have strong inroads in Kerala and it was the first state to elect a communist party government. Strikes, protests, and marches are ubiquitous in Kerala because of the comparatively strong presence of labor unions. In Kerala, it is difficult for a single party to win as the populace prefers to vote for a front. A major initiative to to decentralize the government began in 1993, steering the constitutional amendments of the central government in this direction. As per present norms, the state government devolved around 40 per cent of the state plan outlay to the local government.

The UDF are currently in power, and the Chief Minister is Oommen Chandy, who has been a member of the legislative assembly for over forty decades. The current Governor of Kerala is Palanisamy Sathasivam, who previously served as the 40th Chief Justice of India. The current Leader of Opposition is Velikkakathu Sankaran Achuthanandan of the LDF.

An opinion poll conducted by CVoter-India TV has re-affirmed Kerala continuing its practice of switching between the LDF and UDF every five years, with a proposed win of 86 seats for LDF, a smooth majority of the 140-member state Assembly. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been unable to register a presence in the assembly despite being the third largest party in the state and according to the poll, the BJP is expected to win just one seat. Polls open on the 16th of May.

Issues

While unemployment in Kerala has fallen, it still has the highest rate of unemployment among the big States of the country, and is more prevalent in the rural areas of the State. Kerala has problems with contamination and fecal leakage in rivers, as well as with thick pollution in the air of its major cities. There are also elements of corruption and allegations against communal and political organizations. Kerala boasts high human development indices, but still needs to work on issues related to education and health, including curriculum reform and improving the quality of education, as well as ensuring greater access to quality health. 

The results of the 2016 state elections, which came out on May 19, 2016, are as follows: