One of the effects of the pandemic in Kerala, like in most other parts of the world, is that the government’s narrative muffles all other narratives, and this is not just about the containment of the pandemic. Here the government’s narrative about the pandemic enjoys far greater legitimacy than elsewhere, and with good reason. It is true that Kerala’s greater successes in dealing with the pandemic are unique and commendable; however, to think that therefore, the government is right on everything else is probably a huge mistake. Continue reading The Limits of Public Health Management: Time to Rethink Development in Kerala
Part One: Prologue
In 2008, I reported the results of research on Kudumbashree women leaders at the village level, from seven districts in Kerala. Those were the days when Kudumbashree was being projected as the ultimate answer to all of women’s woes, and the chorus consisted of politicians, official feminists, researchers, bureaucrats, development experts – in other words, everyone, well, almost. What I had to say was not pleasant to their ears. However, implicit in my reporting was the essential changeability of Kudumbashree, which was after all a government programme. The discussions around the modifications of the Kudumbashree bye-law and its approval were on during our fieldwork, and even though we reported after it was finalised and approved, it was too early for us to assess its impacts.
I do not write on Kafila as frequently as I used to because I don’t want to be writing stories of impending doom all the time. These are times in which we appear doomed, but it does not help to get obsessed with it; in fact, the obsession may actually hasten the downfall.
But these days, we also hear stories which may be told either way. For example, I can tell the story of the mining going on at Mookunnimala in Trivandrum as yet another episode in the continuing story of the destruction of our natural environment and its impending collapse. But I can also tell it another way, foregrounding the resistance that has shaped up there despite the formation of a deadly nexus of Kerala’s political parties, bureaucracy, predatory capitalists and other criminals against local people. Or, I can tell the story of the ‘development’ of the government school at Attakkulangara in the heart of Trivandrum city as another incident that proves the unrelenting march of ‘urban development’ which is nothing but shorthand for the steady takeover of prime urban space by corrupt officials and venal politicians. But it is also a David-and-Goliath tale of how a few dedicated members of the school’s old students’ association, and nature-lovers and environmental activists who go by the name Tree Walk managed to draw the attention of others, alert authorities, and arrest the steady pace of these forces. Continue reading Don’t let the Magic Fade: Thoughts on Kudumbashree’s Sixteenth Anniversary
A few weeks ago, I mentioned on Kafila a certain gentleman who delivered a memorable address in Government Women’s College, Thiruvananthapuram, which contained sage advice on how to bring under control the unruly bodies of ungovernable women. After that I have been receiving unsigned letters from his admirers who feel that their innocent hero has been most unfairly criticized. Like the grumpy ground-lubber types who are either incapable of ascending or simply unable to climb coconut trees and do not appreciate the free services rendered by the chivalrous heroes high above, I have erred in judgment, they claim. Continue reading Class Feminism vs. Classy Feminism … Or, Everybody Loves the Governable Woman!