Today is the 60th year of the formation of Kerala. On this day known locally as ‘Kerala piravi’, it is only fitting that the state has ticked off another achievement — rural Kerala has been declared ‘open defecation free’ with toilets in every household. It is a shot in the arm for a state where large sections of the population reside in villages. It had been planned for some time that Kerala’s achievement with respect to the ‘Suchitva’ mission (the state nodal agency for sanitation) would be announced on the auspicious occasion of ‘Kerala piravi’ by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. That union minister Narendra Singh Tomar, in charge of portfolios like rural development, drinking water and sanitation, was present at the event in Thiruvananthapuram today highlighted the close coordination between the state and the Centre with the aim of building toilets for every household in the country.
While one can’t ignore the dereliction of successive governments in Kerala towards key jobs and infrastructure segments, the state nevertheless has been a pioneer in human development indicators worthy of comparisons with developed European countries. We take a look at some of those indicators here.
High literate population
Literacy is one paradigm that many know about the state. According to the 2011 census, Kerala’s literacy rate stands at 93.91%, a slight improvement of 3%+ in ten years. The high standards in education are attributed to a range of factors such as the social reform movements in the 1920s and 1930s, dictum for compulsory primary education passed by the royal kingdoms before independence, empowerment of women, Muslim madrassas and ‘pallikudams’ by Christian missionaries. Elected governments after independence also dedicated a significant section of the state budget towards education and building of schools. Female literacy rate of 91.98% is also the highest in the country.
Low infant mortality rate
While low birth rate in Kerala is currently seen as a concern, the state is praised enough for its low infant mortality rate (IMR) – 12 per 1,000 births, comparable with developed countries like the US. India’s national average for IMR is a humiliating 40. The reasons again are manifold: breast milk awareness, proper nutrition for lactating mothers, good healthcare facilities and quality neo-natal services of the government.
High life expectancy
Kerala has routinely held the position of the state at the top with the highest life expectancy. Recent data by the Sample Registration System (SRS) of the Registrar General of India (RGI) shows Kerala’s overall life expectancy at 74.9 years – 72 for men and 77.8 for women. Availability of good healthcare facilities and improved socio-economic factors are to be attributed for the good numbers.
Human Development Index
Kerala’s rating of HDI is 0.790 is the highest in India, resulting mainly from the vast improvements the state has made in the fields of sanitation, health, education and poverty-reduction. The state’s poverty rate lingers at 7.05%, just below Goa while the national rate stands at 21.92%. The figures were released by the Reserve Bank of India in 2013. Social welfare programmes initiated by the kingdoms of Cochin, Travancore and the Zamorins of Calicut are largely to have resulted in the state always ahead of other regions in the country much before independence.
The number of females per 1000 males is defined as sex ratio. The southern state again takes the top spot in India with a sex ratio of 1084 (census 2011) — meaning there are 1084 women for every 1000 men. In fact, Kerala is the only state in the country where the female population exceeds the male population. While gender mobility is still not as efficient as it should have been and regressive practices still exist, matrilineal traditions, high literacy and standard healthcare have helped women achieve top positions in society.