An Open Letter to Mr Adani on the Occasion of Onam

Dear Mr Adani

Writing to you from Thiruvananthapuram, where you recently signed an agreement with the Kerala government, undertaking the construction of the international container terminal at Vizhinjam off the Thiruvananthapuram coast.

The Malayali press went wild in their delight ; the politicians beamed in triumph (well, most of them. Some of them –guess who — could not, having discovered that they had shot themselves in the foot); the contractors and sundry middlemen in the construction sector rubbed their hands in glee. This is Onam season in Kerala, and Onam, you may know, is our national festival. You are very much in the talk here. To the contractors and our miserably corrupt and craven political class, you are Maveli reborn in flesh and blood. To the poor fisher people on what is arguably Kerala’s poorest coastal stretch, you are a newer version of evil Vamanan himself, threatening to banish them to the nether-world. There was a time when the political left in Kerala reinterpreted the Maveli myth as a vindication of the Welfare State. But since the welfare state has been almost as good as dead in the minds of Kerala’s mainstream political classes, the throne has also been conveniently empty.The mainstream press has set you up on it indirectly but definitely, and that’s pretty much evident. But Malayalees who love this land and are not blinded by hollow –false– national sentiment can see that not only are you the very opposite of Maveli, but also that this Emperor-figure has no clothes at all.

You know it too, Mr Adani, and I hope you will not deny it.Though I am quite opposed to your ambitions, I find it pathetic that you have been set up so comically, really, with your ambitions quite naked, upon a dilapidated old throne too narrow and too plain for their ample buttocks. Do not have any illusions that the grandeur of Bali Chakravartin is now yours. In Kerala the image of Maveli — the wise and immensely generous asura Mahabali- has been sadly appropriated by advertisers and degraded into that of a peddler of petty consumables.That is not very far from you. Unwittingly or wittingly, you are today the peddler of false dreams and exorbitant desires in Kerala. Mahabali Chakravartin’s majesty will never be yours and rightly so – for you probably do not even know what it is. And you are not the first to be paraded so. Many decades ago, Birla was welcomed here by our political class with much fanfare as the new-age Maveli. Like you who appear invincible because of your association with the hegemonic politics of our times, he too appeared to be far above ordinary Malayalees because of his association with hegemonic nationalist developmentalism of those times. He did not last much despite his minions’ best efforts. You will not last too.

You will not last because Kerala is too ecologically fragile a place to bear your ambitions silently. Wily officials and politicians must have told you (at least that is what they have told the people here) that the project will affect only a small stretch of the coast, which is cut off from the mainland. They have probably assured you that the fisher community alone will be affected and that since they are a minority, there is no scope for strong coalitions against the project. How foolish! Hasty tampering with Kerala’s fragile ecological balance will be rapidly transmitted to the mainland as well; the fisher community on that coast, especially, has a history of one of Kerala’s most spectacular anti-capitalist mobilisations ever, with strong international connections almost from the time of its inception. Such histories may be dormant but they never really go away, so no one should even imagine that dispossessing those people is easy! And the big plus, your advisers must have pointed out, that in this instance of dispossession, the state is entirely on your side. But here too history is not on your side. States too have specific histories, and the state in post-independence Kerala has always been the welfare state in the popular imagination and it has indeed persisted, despite the incessant attempts of most politicians and many bureaucrats, as well as the police, to convince us that it has changed. There is great popular resentment against these forces and their idea of the minimalist state that seizes public resources for big capital, and your project provides the perfect opportunity for them to coalesce and converge. Yes, the lies about the Vallarpadam port were swallowed rather passively – but its total, complete failure now that is solid evidence that shows how politicians and officials lie through the skin of their teeth. The Vallarpadam evictees are living proof of the state’s callousness. The scale of loss in your project is of course much higher in comparison.

True, Malayalees may be now dazzled at present by all the promises that their political classes and the mainstream media have flashed before their eyes. But we have always been a curious lot, and late modernity here makes us all hypersensitive to risk. Do not think that the media here will blow your trumpet forever even if you placate them forever. Given its entanglement in the market-centric competitive business of turning everything into entertainment, the mainstream media here will soon become hungry for newer stories, and those will include ones that expose all the wheeling-dealings that have made this deal possible. Literacy, unfortunately, cannot be rolled back, nor can media and cellphone penetration be easily reversed. Kerala has some of the world’s highest figures in all three, and that’s not good news at all for you, Mr Adani.

Very soon, people will begin to notice the huge gaps between the figures that circulate in the mainstream press about Vizhinjam and the figures quoted in official documents like the Draft Construction Agreement. They will begin to wonder why so few of the world’s prominent transhipment port operators were so uninterested in Vizhinjam if it had so many natural advantages and despite the Kerala government’s determination to see it through at any cost. They will learn more of the feasibility studies conducted first by the Vizhinjam International Seaport Ltd. and the AECOM, both which found it totally unviable financially. They will be appalled by the lack of transparency of their own rulers who still do not want a full public discussion of the third feasibility study they commissioned, conducted by the firm Ernest and Young – which clearly points out that the project will be financially viable only if the government makes huge concessions on port tariff, bears a larger share of the Viability Gap Fund (VGF) than that’s permitted by the law through indirect methods like letting you develop real estate on land acquired for the port (as environmental activists have pointed out, 12 out of 126 pages of this report are about this real estate prospects). They will be shocked by the knowledge, evident from the minutes of the relevant meeting, that authorities in the central Finance Ministry had opposed this when Kerala applied for VGF. Further, they will learn of the informal parleys that our rulers have had exclusively with you, and even more importantly, they will recognize that you and the government are trying to fool them into thinking that the official environmental clearance for the project has been secured! Once these lies are exposed and the bluff called off, they will become more receptive to the concerns that environmentalists and the fish worker community have been raising, currently drowned by the high-pitched calls for growth at any cost. Yes, Mr Adani, that will happen, no matter what your advisors tell you, no matter what the dirty tricks department of the Kerala government have up their sleeve, no matter what the local beneficiaries of this destructive project do– the contractors, predators who are already sizing up our hills and rocks, the vile class of government officials who plan to fatten off its pickings.

I am sure our crafty rulers have told that you will not suffer like Coco-Cola since you are Indian – Coco-cola was readily projected as foreign and hence could be projected as an intruder. Ah, Mr Adani, what sad ignorance of history these officials show! While we are now politically part of India and share many cultural features with other Indian peoples, we have always been more open to the rest of the world through the Arabian Sea. Nothing Indian has been unconditionally accepted here, especially Indian big capital. If Hindutva seems to have become more acceptable here, that is not because we have suddenly woken up to its truth, but because very local circumstances have allowed it. In this example, the great insecurity of sections of the upper caste Hindu population at the assertiveness of the dalits and the prosperity of the minorities, especially Muslims. Others have of course seen advantage in pandering to the party in power but that is a temporary phenomenon. Whatever that may be, there are no local circumstances except the general increase in greed  typical under neoliberal hegemony, that favour national big capital here. And in any case, in the high Hindu imagination, Kerala has always been in the margins, sometimes even classified along with various Mlecchas including the Yavanas and the Hunas, and it hasn’t changed a lot in the present- day Hindutva imagination.

Even the general concern for ‘vikasanam’ – translatable as both ‘development’ and ‘expansion’ – cannot be relied upon for too long. Here is where the discourse will boomerang, actually. The project is already exciting small-time development predators, and very soon, people will see through your claims about bringing ‘development’.

Let me tell you about the picturesque village of Vellarada nestling at the feet of the Sahya on the eastern side of Thiruvananthapuram district. A region of stunning natural beauty, one would have thought it an ideal eco-friendly weekend or picnic destination for city-dwellers and others, but that prospect seems to have disappeared in the high-tide of greed in the wake of the Vizhinjam port project.

The Sahyadri at Vellarada which shields Thiruvananthapuram from the harsh summers on the other side.
The Sahyadri at Vellarada which shields Thiruvananthapuram from the harsh summers on the other side.
The tranquil lake at its foot.
The tranquil lake at its foot.

vellarada 6

Vellarad 4

The imposing rocks atop the Sahya in this village have been eyed by predators for some time and activists there have strongly resisted it. The threat is now magnified with property brokers buying up large chunks of land there for quarrying, explicitly citing the massive need for rock to build the breakwater at Vizhinjam. Though authorities have claimed that the rock needed for the breakwater would be obtained from Tamil Nadu and brought to Vizhinjam through the sea, it leaves the decision finally to contractors, and so this seems very plausible. The citizens of the Thiruvananthapuram who have been witness to the terrible devastation wreaked by predatory quarrying mafia at Mookunnimala and the near-impossibility of dislodging the mafia once it manages to sink its claws into the region, cannot be expected to take very kindly to the arrival of these parasites. A major all-Kerala anti-quarrying struggle may well take shape, which will definitely expose the fact that the ecological costs of Vizhinjam will be paid by not just the coastal people but by Malayalees located far away from the coast.

In other words, your project will further devastate our land – after all it is a narrow strip of land between the hills and the sea. As fragile as the image of this land as imagined by the poet Balamani Amma: a narrow green banana leaf spread out at the foot of the mighty Sahya mountains. Yet you are projected here as abhinavaparasurama, the new birth of the Brahmin warrior of Hindu legend. The inheritors of his violent legacy have long claimed of course that he is the ‘founder’ of Kerala. But just you can never inherit Bali’s legacy, you cannot also claim Parasurama’s, for even though your project may raise some land, it will destroy much more. Secondly, versions of the Parasurama myth relate the story of the warrior-sage making peace between human beings and serpents, assigning them separate spaces and linking them in bonds of mutual respect, tolerance, and care. Your presence, in contrast, is not only destructive of Nature, it is also hugely divisive as far as human beings are concerned.

Indeed, this brings to my mind that you are by birth of the Jain community (I do not know whether you are a believer but I see that Jain websites have claimed you proudly and surely the Jains are a community of believers, not just a Hindu sub-caste). I wonder if you know the significance of the anti-brahminical heterodox faiths in Kerala. These were largely eradicated by Brahminical Hinduism here but their legacy lingered on in a kind of indigenous ecological ethics. For instance, the Buddhist tale of Jimutavahana which rewrites the story of Parasurama’s peace-making in the founding of Kerala . It is distinctly different from the Brahminical Hindu version in that it extols self-sacrifice and unflinching commitment to peaceful and loving co-existence instead of the conquest and colonisation that the Parasurama myth celebrates. Not for nothing was Harsha’s Naganandam adapted by Kerala’s tradition of Sanskrit theatre.

In Kerala, it is impossible to imagine the plot of Naganandam except as unfolding precisely on those mountains that now face destruction. It is a greatest moral tragedy of our times that members of the Jain faith who once took to trading and eschewed agriculture for fear of killing even the tiniest of life – and thus reminded everyone of the ultimate interconnectedness of all living creatures – now engage in business that will ruthlessly decimate plant and animal life and cause immeasurable harm to human populations on the coast and in the mainland.I am told that some mountains in the Vellarada area are relatively free of threat because they have been claimed by Christians and Hindus as sacred spots. But all of the Sahyadri ought to be sacred for the Jains, and yet a prominent member of that community clears the path for its devastation! What a tragedy, Mr Adani!

The present in Kerala demands Jimutavahanas who will establish a society based on mutuality and mutual respect between human beings and all other forms of life. We need a dispensation which will make coastal sea and land sustainable community resources, which will bring them back to life. We need to create livelihoods for people that will require reverence of Nature. Don’t place too much faith on our political class; they will swing according to the tide. And certainly don’t place too much store on Shashi Tharoor. He’s a smart one for sure, slicking back his cool coiffure to charm Mallus and keeping them guessing about where his political affiliations really lie – but he just demanded that the British should pay India reparations for all the damage they did. Mark my words, one day he will secure his applause by speaking eloquently of why you, Mr Adani, should pay us Malayalees reparations for the terrible consequences that this port project would have by then, unleashed on us.

With the sincere hope that you take your ship away from here so that it does not sink beneath these murky waters,

J Devika

15 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Mr Adani on the Occasion of Onam

  1. This is one of the examples of exploitation of Corporatocracy around the globe. The only power against this Corporate agenda is power of the united people. May we stand united in all these threats to humanity. Thanks for sharing this post.

  2. Vijay Krishnan

    Dear Ms. Devika

    As a malayali, I must tell you that this article is disappointing. Not because I believe that Vizhinjam is a sensible project, but because your opposition to it ignores the fact that something has to be done. Kerala cannot hope to be a sustainable economy unless we get used to the idea that things need to be built (apart from incredibly expensive residences). Ports seem like a sensible idea because we have the coastline for it.

    Will there be a cost? Yes, obviously. Will the project run into trouble? honestly I can’t say it won’t, because the trouble I expect is with labour unrest. Not sensible labour unrest that demands a fair wage and protection for the worker, but instead the kind of crazy politically motivated unrest that demands that the malayali worker be paid more and get benefits, but work less. the unrest that declares that the nokkukooli is a legitimate form of compensation (and not hooliganism)

    so here’s what I’d like to see. I’d like to see malayalis rise up and hold Adani to account for the Vizhinjam project; not to demand that he goes away, but to ensure (a) that it comes in at the cost that they’ve projected and (b) with the kind of environmental and other protections that are needed. If the coordination committee (i’m sure there is one by now) can sit down with the neoliberal capitalist running dogs and hammer out that alliance, kerala has hope.

    If that fails, there has to be a rational reason for that failure. And you (whoever you are) had better have an idea as to what happens next? Do we continue to be a net exporter of human resource? Do we decide that Kerala will only be as good as the external world allows it to be?

    Please understand that at this point, Kerala runs on remittances. The lifestyle, the welfare state, all of that would collapse but for the money that’s sent in from outside the state. Leaving behind a population that’s aging, and will need more support. Or a population of women who are unable to work because they’re saddled with all the responsibilities of childcare.

    I do believe that our governments are failing to protect the vulnerable from being exploited. But declaring war on capital isn’t the way out. Regulation is. If our government takes the easy way out and throws this out because it can’t be bothered to regulate, that would be the last in a series of epic failures. And your voice would have been one amongst those that condemned kerala to being a bonsai state.

    1. jdevika

      Dear Mr Vijay Krishnan

      Yes, I couldn’t agree with you more that something has to be done – and that’s been a concern since very long. But that’s no reason to do things that are outright harmful. Yes, something other than big residences needs to be built, but fostering precisely real estate building in the name of ‘development’, using a port project, declared financially unviable by two agencies, as a front, is not acceptable! As for Nokkukooli, maybe exorbitant wages need to curtailed but given that the port is not likely to be built by Malayali labour, there is no immediate threat. Secondly, a fair wage in our political climate will inevitably be shouted down as too high since wages are no longer set by local circumstances. In any case, if only you cared to examine the longer history of labour since the 1990s and not relied on media hysteria over isolated incidents (a strategy deliberately chosen by many media houses, say insiders) you’d have seen that labour unrest has fallen sharply in Kerala and wage rates have not increased overall because of muscle power. You also don’t see that Adani’s profits rest precisely on the non-regulation implicitly promised by the Kerala government — if we were to follow the path you suggest, Adani would withdraw for sure. This is evident in the peculiar pattern discernible in the last feasibility report — first suggest a plan that looks good for Kerala and mindful of environmental concerns of Kerala and long-term sustainability (like the plan to source rock from elsewhere and transport it sensibly), and then add a line that throws it out in effect (leaving final choices to contractors). Let us harbour no illusions about capital: they are out for profit, they are not out to ‘develop’ any part of the world. There can be ‘there is no way out’ in this case. I am socialist by inclination but I am not against small, regulated capitalism that will protect us from behemoths doomed to failure like the USSR — it is certainly possible for us to imagine an alternative world where things are made easier for small entrepreneurs who generate employment and use resources sensibly within a culture of respect for Nature . Adani and his ilk are not an absolute necessity for capitalism; it is just that they are made to appear so.

      1. Vijay Krishnan

        Thanks for engaging. Just a few things this time

        one, the reasons for diminishing labour unrest in India (which I’ll take on faith) can be put down to a number of (speculative) factors. the absence of any real industry where unrest could occur is what jumps into my head, but that might just be me.

        two, I don’t agree that “big” capital is necessarily bad capital. Unregulated capital, otoh, is probably not something that’s good. But the pressure that the left exerts is always to drive away, not to regulate. To present the matter in terms of “environment good, adani bad” when that dichotomy might not really exist.

        three, that adani’s project would fail but for the concessions made by the government, is debatable. But even taking your argument that he’s in it to build flats (which would be silly, because there’s more money in ports than in housing), why is that necessarily a bad thing? again, the government’s role is to recognise that he’s building flats, and make sure that the deal is in the public interest.

        what i think I’m trying to say is that while I share most of your apprehensions about this project, I am as vehemently opposed to your solution (who was it who said that the problem with marxism isn’t with the diagnosis, but with the treatment?). Malayalis are educated enough and aware enough not to be treated like children, and the fact that leaders on both sides present issues in terms of stark absolutes is troubling. OTOH, here’s the perfect chance to show that the kerala model can include neatly regulated, non-corrupt industrial growth as well. of the adani style, not the kannur cooperative style (which is what you’re endorsing, i presume).

        1. Vijay Krishnan

          ps: I didn’t understand how nokkukooli is related to migrant labout. As I understand it/have experienced it, it’s always related to migrant/non-formal labour. And if you’re suggesting that migrant labour does not get benefits, that’s just bizarre, so I hope not. :-)

        2. jdevika

          (1) My judgment on big and small capital comes from my reading of the history of capitalism. Big capital now is global, and there is incontrovertible evidence — from a mountain of research from all over the world — that big capital now for most escapes regulation effectively, and everywhere. it is only extreme vigilance from the public that has, historically, stalled it, that too, perhaps only in relatively minor ways.Small capital and the informal sector can be equally environmentally damaging but is more amenable to regulation and community vigilance. As for Adani specifically, he doesn’t have a great record on the environment front for sure; rather, his propaganda machinery is very fine-tuned. In such matters, the only good guide is history — economic theory, especially of the currently-fashionable sort, uses ideal-types and derives conclusions from them, hardly engages the messy material world outside in any real terms, and indeed, has served to justify dominant interests than gain critical distance from them.

          (2) I simply can’t see how you can justify the indirect way of ensuring Adani’s profit through massive government investment on the one hand and through real estate on the other. We DO NOT need new players in real estate; we have enough. Secondly, the economic benefit from real estate building of the kind we are seeing in Kerala is definitely lower than the cost we pay it, especially environmental costs. Adani’s real estate is not going to be very different — except for cosmetic ‘green’ aspects that are quite dubious.As for the port, it is quite good financial sense that we do not invest huge amounts of public money in ventures that we have been warned about through sound-enough analysis as financially unviable for Kerala! I don’t see why the people on the coast (in the immediate sense) and people in faraway villages (such as Vellarada) should pay such a huge,huge cost, to this scheme of things where the beneficiaries seems to be mainly Adani, his contractors and staff and such sundry groups. Why the first two reports were rejected by the govt is not even clear! Add to this loss what taxpayers contribute, and all citizens here have to suffer in terms of environmental damage to health and everyday life! How can Adani-style real estate benefit public interest is unclear and especially because the govt is not even encouraging public discussion on the third report! If Kannur coops have failed to deliver, the losses were limited to a relatively smaller population, but this port project which seems to be propped up on real estate, will destroy livelihoods and health in a much more wider scale, both directly and indirectly.

          (3) Nokkukuli is associated with local labour that has lost opportunities either through migrant labour or by new packaging and transporting technologies. Migrant labour is rarely known to have demanded nokkukuli, and in fact, they are paid lesser and are known to live in quite miserable circumstances.

          1. Vijay Krishnan

            I’m tempted to say, let’s agree to disagree, because I know exactly where you’re coming from, and I respect that. What I’m not clear about, is what the solution is, if what one accepts all that you say.

            But let me try once more. All theories of how economic systems work, must perforce change. And they change not by themselves, but because of some agency. The best example I can think of is London’s clean air act, which followed rampant pollution by the industries in their ferrvour after the industrial revolution. All the jurisprudence and policy on compensation and liability grew out of peoples’ movements and hardship.

            So people do have a duty to protest against being disenfranchised, and to demand that the government look out for their best interests as well. But in Kerala’s case, it seems as if any alteration of the status quo is met with denial. Not with an attempt to solve the problem in everyone’s interests. So it’s not about Adani, whether he’s right or wrong or represents all that’s evil, I don’t know.

            But I would like to see the opposition suggest a viable alternate policy. As I said before, if this isn’t going to work, what? If small industries were functioning adequately in kerala, and there were jobs at home for everyone, I’d not be so caught up with this. But that’s not the case. Kerala seems to produce migrant white-collar workers, and not much else. How is that going to change?

            1. Sangeetha Nair

              It baffles me to note that the while the pair of you happen to talk money, you have conveniently ignored that the region is already a revenue earner through tourism. The port is a classic example of killing the geese that lays the golden egg.
              Just building a port was unviable so the govt changed it’s dream project into a real estate nightmare. The the below link is from a report I had written when the VISL was groping in the dark. There are subsequent reports which elucidate the lies told by Kerala government to get the project rolling. I am happy that finally someone else also sees the neon sign at the end of the tunnel which reads Hotel.

  3. There is little to disagree on the matter that ‘accumulation by dispossession’ that accompanies this kind of ‘development’ must be resisted. But the author has failed to reflect that even the welfare state and prosperity of previously marginalized groups that she celebrates is in large part supported by economic dependence on the hyper capitalist economic system of the Gulf countries, or bailouts from the Union government.

    Kerala’s remmittances are 35% of its GDP. This is simply unsustainable. Just for comparison, in the US, 40% of GDP arises from government spending, 20 % from health, 10 % from transport, 10 % from tourism. I am not trying to say that the US is a benchmark, but just pointing to the varied employment picture such statistics imply. In Kerala on the other hand, the remittance statistic implies that most productive labor actually works outside the state.

  4. Vijay

    This is in reponse to Sangeetha above:

    1, I reiterate that I’m not being paid by the Adanis to make Vizhinham Kafila’s favourite infra project.

    2, your figures aren’t complete. In the least. You’re speaking only in terms of direct income generation from the project itself. If there’s a link to the sea that runs through kerala and towards investment, that has the potential to transform that region. irrevocably. i use those words advisedly, because I’m still not convinced it would be for the better. But. and here’s the big but. I don’t think it’s automatically evil, I think it’s something that could be good for everyone if people would just hold each other to account

    3, the other reason your numbers are inaccurate are that they don’t mean anything. these numbers are paltry compared to the number of jobs we’re going to need if people who are currently abroad need to be given jobs back home. Tourism might work as an alternative, but not at the level that you’re seeing now, and with increasing those numbers, the ecological cost is likely to be high. it’s debatable whether it would be as high as the port, but it’s not something you can just ignore.

    4, what’s the alternative? show me one working model of an economic plan that would work for kerala as it is (not as you would like it to be) and I withdraw all my arguments.

    1. jdevika

      Dear Vijay

      Sorry for the delay — I meant to respond to your earlier comment. Your demand that opponents of Adani’s port should provide an alternative vision for ending unemployment in Kerala is not only unfair, it is also illogical. It assumes that Adani’s port is going to end unemployment in Kerala. Further, it ignores the concerns of Kerala’s petty producers and self-employed people on the coast who have been supporting themselves on their own until the government and big capital started messing up the coastal environment in a big way. This is typical of the new Indian middle-class who think that they are India, and everybody else is simply disposable. That governments can behave very differently is evident from the fisheries policy of the erstwhile Travancore government, which aimed at blending concerns about raising fish catch with the increased well-being of fisher folk and sustainability, well-ahead of its time. The problem with the Malayalee middle class now is that they think this place exists solely for them! Mr Adani’s port is not going to generate the kind of employment that gets counted as productive and contributing to sustainability of life but it is going to perhaps generate a lot of short-term money-making which will be illegal and criminal as well — rock quarrying, sand mining, and real estate in Kerala are not only done in ways destructive to this land, but also through well-known illegal and even criminal ways. The jobs that a few middle class people get cannot become the rationale for public investment that feeds private capital. Secondly, coming to the unemployment situation, a few things: first, it is well-known that Kerala’s labour market is a peculiar one. There is acute shortage for labour in some segments while there is enormous crowding in others. That gives us some indication of the nature of the problem, and not just its proportions. In some ways, unemployment in Kerala would have been resolved if only the Malayalee middle class got over its disdain for certain kinds of jobs. They may involve physical labour and not pay well as corporate jobs, but that’s better than scrounging off your parents. Again, there is a curious labour shortage in the public medical sector, which pays quite decent salaries with perks, but the new Malayalee middle class which has educated its undeserving kids in the private sector will not go there simply because they need to make good their investment in education by overcharging patients in the private sector. There are many other such sectors which have jobs waiting but are not filled up because the middle class is simply unwilling. And even more galling is the fact that a big number of the products of the private engg-medical -MBA sector here is simply unemployable! Admit that Kerala was a pioneer in many new fields, especially IT — but we have failed to produce an employable working population for this sector. In other sectors, such as higher education, there is shortage of skilled labour because managements sell the jobs for huge amounts and appointments match not the needs of the sector but the managements’ ease.

      I also believe that this raising of a pre-1990s concern — that jobs must necessarily be provided by the state in Kerala itself — as a way of propping up the designs of well-known growth predators like Adani is not innocent. Since liberalisation we are no longer constrained by that concern, even culturally. The state’s role is supposed to have change from employer to faciliator, but that doesn’t require that the jobs have to be only in Kerala and at unbearable environmental cost to the entire state’s population! And please don’t tell me that Malayali youth today are like the young people of the 1940s and 50s who migrated only, and only because they had nothing else. I have been teaching young students here for the past 15 years, and I am yet to meet a single student who wanted to stay back in Kerala because this is such a great place! Now skilled young people migrate not just because they can’t find jobs here but also because they require a more cosmopolitan and liberal environment to thrive as human beings. Kerala is one of the most narrow-minded, misogynist, and homophobic societies that I have known and it is no wonder skilled young people run for their lives. And that cultural change cannot be effected by packing the land with buildings, killing its rivers and hills, and opening McDonalds’ outlets. If that was the case, Bengaluru or Bombay would have been the ultimate liberal paradise!

      1. vijay

        I’m sorry about the delay in responding, and this conversation is, admittedly, getting a little long. If and when you find it tedious, please feel free to stop, because I’m enjoying this, and could go on.

        I think you’re not understanding my position. I’m not saying that Adani is a knight in shining armour. I’m not saying that this deal is a good one. I’m not saying that the fisherman can be asked to come out with a policy statement.

        What I am saying is that the opportunity exists to negotiate a compromise, or to at least go through that process so that you can come out with a position as to why you’re saying no. If the naysayers carry the day, I would not be disappointed: if they choose protest and emotional blackmail over sensible discussion, though, I would be.

        I guess the difference between us is that I don’t see industry as being irreconcilable with the idea of ecological protection. people who have an ecological consciousness, though, would have to be sensible go-betweens for that to happen, because the industrialist couldn’t care less. nor ought he too, because his primary concern is the bottom line. other “stakeholders” (to borrow the fashionable term) must fill that breach, and that’s what I’ve been trying to say ought to happen. instead, you’re driving people away.

        I’m going to ignore the swipes at privately trained doctors/engineers (I’m a government-college educated doctor myself, working abroad for personal reasons; I agree the government sector ought to be staffed better, but I don’t agree with your value judgements, and I think there’s a lot of nuance to that, which I’m not going to go into, thank you) and skip straight ahead to the work-where argument.

        Right now, Kerala has immigrant labour filling those jobs which you’re saying malayalis find too menial to undertake. as an extension of your own position, that ought to be fine, because it’s a product of liberalisation that brings people to work in kerala, following demand and supply.

        That their lives back home are inadequate because the state hasn’t provided them with as much, is just something I’d like to point out, because that’s usually what makes people leave home for work.

        but the trouble with kerala turning into a remittance economy are multifold. One, there isn’t anyone with a stake in what happens to the place any more, because the NRI/NRK is receding into a gated-community existence (again, I’m speaking of the middle class, only becasue they wield disproportionate influence, and everyone’s trying to be middle class in the long run). second, it’s leading to a situation where only the elderly, spouses (usually wives) and children live in kerala. and probably not even the wives and children in the next generation, so we’re leaving my parents’ generation almost completely in the lurch, to be cared for by paid workers. even if you accept this as a possible product of liberalisation, surely you’d acknowledge that the alternative is better?

  5. prasad somarajan

    Dear ladies and gentlemen,
    All are talking about development, industrial development, massive employment after vizhinjam project. Two weeks back the chief minister himself pointed out that it will not bring more than 2000 employment opportunities. It will surely bring real estate development in and around vizhinjam. Currently, in Kerala we have more than 1.8 million vacant flats and 300, 0000 vacant villas.Vacant means un occupied, which are bought either by black money or NRIs. That means another hundreds of thousands of flats and villas will be constructed and that too will be un occupied.
    Please think of the construction materials such as rock, bricks, cement blocks, sand and cement required for these un occupied flats and villas. From where these materials are coming? From the western ghats. From the sahyans. Please see the exploitation of the nature in Mukunnimala, vellarada. All these mountains will be going once the so called real estate development is moving in the same pace without understanding the nature’s equilibrium. Vizhinjam project will enhance the destruction of mountains( as it requires millions of tons of rock), diminishing tourism developments and fishing activities.

    I only challenge those who support the Vizhinjam project( without understanding the total impact on the society, nature abd next generation), if the vizhinjam project is not bringing the claimed benefits such as employment, increasing the per capita income, improving the living standard of the neighbourhood people with clean potable water, sufficient healthy food, hospitals, educational institutions, public transport system and good governance within the next four years or 8 years,
    can you people take the responsibility of the failure and compensate the society by pledging your total assets and income for loosing
    1) public money ( govt. Spending is nearly 5000 crore) ie our tax money
    2) How do you compensate the destruction made on the nature? Is it possible to rebuild the mountains?
    3) How do you compensate the eco system damaged due to this project?

    Please do not try to experiment with malayali’s memory any more( See Vallarpadam project situation, politician’s declarations, medias headlines regarding 6 line road for container movement, 2 lane rail way, hundreds of thousands employment opportunities etc. Please go to the old news paper cuttings)

    Please pledge and proceed

    Thanks and regards

    Prasad somarajan

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