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Kerala Model of Development: Achievements and Challenges

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Today, growth and development are the two most discussing matters around the world. There are different trends in each country in their path of development. No doubt, the ultimate aim of any country or the human endeavor is to achieve development. There are many discussions and debates on the various approaches to development. Here the so called Kerala model of development is one among them. The title is associated with many persons such as Professor K.N Raj, Professor Amartya Kumar Sen and institutions like Center for Development Studies, Trivandrum etc.

Kerala is one of the smallest states of India, located at the southern part of the country. The state has different peculiarities in its geographic structures, environmental resources, demography etc. The state is also popular as ‘God’s Own Country’. Anyhow, its population and density rates are higher compared to any other states in India. But the developmental experiences and achievements in both economical and social are attractive one for any other economy or countries.

General Features of Kerala Model Development

To understand the Kerala model of development, first it is better to know its features. Some of them are mentioned below.

a) High Political Consciousness

The political activism among the people of Kerala is more vibrant than the rest of the country. People are highly sensitive and actively participating in election campaigning, voting etc. Further the political history of Kerala reveals that, two opposite parties are returning in to powers at a regular 5 years’ of interval. This peculiarity of higher political activism among people helped the state to bring many changes in the economic and social developmental aspects of the state.

b) Highest Human Capital Indices

The human capital of Kerala is attractive for any other economies. Kerala ranked first in the Human Development Index (HDI) in the country. There are many other attractive indicators like higher literacy rate, low Maternal Mortality Rate and Infant Mortality Rate, Higher life expectation rate, skilled workers etc. Majority of the Keralites are going abroad for job. That is why, the major portion of foreign remittances of India is from the people of Kerala.

c) Domination of Service Sectors

The contribution of the service sector to the total Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) is very interesting. The contribution of service sector dominates in every year. It may be because of the limited availability of land. Now, the supply of agricultural land is declining. Further the scope for investors is also lower in Kerala. In fact, the service sector is contributing highest level of output to the overall output of the state.

d) Social Developments

Kerala has achieved many social developments and improvements in its social, political and economical aspects. The most attractive feature of Kerala is that, it has achieved high standard of living with lower per capita income. The basic needs including infrastructural such as communication, hospitality etc are functioning efficiently in the state. It is a paradox that the people of Kerala are enjoying high standard of living with lower per capita income.

Some Challenges of Kerala Model Development

Even though Kerala holds first rank in many of the developmental indices among Indian states, there are questions which challenging the sustainability as well as its fame. Some of the major criticisms of Kerala model development are mentioned below.

a) Low Investment and Industrial Growth

Kerala’s model growth is not in support of industrial growth. Since it is highly depending on service sector, the manufacturing sector has some limitations such as lower investment, lower availability of land etc. This is why investors are not willing to invest in the industrial sector of Kerala.

b) It becomes a Consumer State

Since there is limited scope for agriculture in Kerala, it has become a consumer state. It is not producing much primary outputs such as food items. Instead, the state is depending other states for many commodities, particularly for food items. So, the consumerism of the state is an emerging issue because of the life style changes, Now, the morbidity rate has increased a lot.

c) Growth with Foreign Remittances

As mentioned above, majority of the people of Kerala are going abroad for job. So, the major parts of the foreign remittances to India are contributing by Kerala. But, critics are arguing that, the achievement of Kerala with the support of foreign earnings is questioning its sustainability and future. This is the main reason of affecting global financial crisis immediately on the economy of Kerala.

d) Increasing Inequality

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Recent studies about Kerala economy is disclosing many paradoxes, various types of inequalities are increasing in the state. The discrimination among marginalized and urban areas is one of the core issues. Many sections of the society are excluded from the Kerala model growth such as tribes, backward groups and other weaker sections of the community. These people are still unable to access higher education, government jobs etc. In fact, Growing inequality is a great challenge of Kerala model development.


In short, Kerala model development is one of the most discussing models of economic development and growth. The most interesting fact about the Kerala model development is that, it has achieved higher standard of living with lower per capita income. Its developmental indicators are amazing. They are competent with the developed nations of the world. Anyhow, the Kerala model development has challenging some criticisms also.


jonnycomelately on November 09, 2017:

I have recently returned from a 4-week stay in Kottayam District. Very worthwhile in terms of learning about your State and your people...and my personal enjoyment. I felt very safe there, enjoyed the food, cleanliness of streets compared with some other parts of India. I was particularly happy with almost daily magnificent heavy downpour which helped to clear the humidity. (Is there someone I should thank for that? Wink wink.)

I plan to return next year.

Jasna P T on November 09, 2017:

well written. highly useful for the students

icv (author) on April 04, 2016:

Thanks jonnycomelately for making this discussion very interesting.

I think Kerala is doing so. In the last two years, the state government has given special promotional schemes for organic farming. Well known economist, Dr. Thomas Isaac was one of the leaders of the program. It brought many benefits. This policy helped the people of Kerala to consume fresh vegetables. Moreover, it also helped to control the vegetable food inflation. These kinds of sustainable method has to be promoted everywhere. Thanks.

jonnycomelately on April 04, 2016:

Thanks again for your reply, Irshad.

I like to envisage a team, made up of individuals each expert in a particular field, getting together in a sort of think tank, to tackle an integrated solution.

Like an economist, a biologist, entomologist, horticulturist, engineer, hydrologist, etc..... all focusing on an area to be researched.

You have many well-educated people in India and, importantly, the need for such research and technical innovation.

Of course there are still huge hurdles to clear away, but the journey and the effort will be exciting and ultimately really worth the effort.

icv (author) on April 04, 2016:

Yes, you are right jonnycomelately

You have posted a valuable point here. I think, government needs urgent intervention in these matters. The recent budget of Kerala (2016, February)) has given special emphasis on the preservation of water sources and rivers. And a considerable heavy amount has allotted to cope this issue.

I am also glad to highlight the point you made. It is not just a problem of Kerala or a particular region. On the other side, sustainability is a global issue. I think, we need to work with mutual cooperation at the global level to solve all these issues.

jonnycomelately on April 04, 2016:

Irshad, I wonder if you could express your views on one area of interest to me; it has an economic as well as an environmental aspect to it:

I was staying briefly at Varkala, and was amazed at the quantity of fish and other marine species being harvested nightly from the sea around the coast.

These are all primarily caught to satisfy tourists staying at local resorts. To provide fresh catch every night, there are thousands of fishermen out there in boats, with lights to attract the fish.

This is not a sustainable industry. The ecology of those waters is being raped and pillaged, possibly beyond the point of potential recovery. In an attempt at being economical for families of those fishermen, they are in fact (I suspect) providing a very bleak un-economical future.

Would you care to comment on this? I am open to being enlightened if you have an alternative point of view.

icv (author) on April 04, 2016:

Thanks jonnycomelately for your comment. I welcome you to visit Kerala again. Now Kerala is challenging with many issues like fiscal crisis, migration issues due to Arab issues...

I hope, all such problems can be solved by utilizing the efficient human capital of Kerala.

jonnycomelately on March 08, 2016:

Mr. Irshad, thank you for this Hub. You have thrown some light upon the State of Kerala. I have an interest in your country, having visited there about 2 years ago to take a brief look at Azolla research, both there and in Tamil Nadu.

You mentioned the limited amount of agriculture in Kerala, because of the density of population. I would like to visit again sometime to study further the efforts which are being made to increase food production; particularly in relation to integrated horticulture and agriculture.

Best wishes in your own research and thank you again.

icv (author) on June 09, 2015:

@ Shafeeq Ap. Kerala model of development is one of the models of economic development in India. It is a good model, but it has some criticisms also. So this model of economic development is not a perfect role model, but it shows some different and attractive features of development....

Shafeeque Ap on June 09, 2015:

Is it a role model???

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