Wednesday, November 01, 2006




20:28 IST

The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, participated in the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the State of Kerala at Thiruvananthapuram, today. Following is the text of the Prime Minsiter’s address at the occasion:

“I am truly delighted to be with you on this important occasion of the Golden Jubilee of the State of Kerala. I join you in saluting the great leaders of Kerala who contributed to the emotional and political integration of this great State. The people of Kerala have made India proud. Your creativity, your enterprise, your skills and hard work have won you laurels across the world and across our vast nation. Kerala has progressed a great deal in these past fifty years. I hope the next century will be Kerala’s century.

In the fifty years of its existence as a state of our Republic, Kerala has achieved international fame for its record in human development particularly in the fields of education, health and women empowerment. Among Indian states, it is by far the best in this regard and its record compares favourably with advanced countries in the world. The Kerala Model has proved that people of developing countries can enjoy a quality of life that can equal those of the best through the right mix of policies.

Kerala has been able to achieve this through radical redistribution of assets, investment in human development, democratic participation and collective action. In doing so, it has presented a model to the world that is worthy of emulation and is widely studied all over the world.

Kerala has always welcomed change from all corners and, as visualized by Gandhiji, you have kept your doors and windows open to ideas from across oceans and mountains. The rulers of Kerala were progressive even in pre-independence days, giving priority to health, education and the arts. Christian Missionaries whom Kerala welcomed, further advanced this trend. There were several social reform movements pioneered by Sri Narayana Guru, Chattambi Swamikal, Ayyankali, Mannathu Padmanabhan, Swami Ananda Theerthan, VT Bhattathiripad and others that sought an egalitarian order or fought specific prejudices. Their progressive ideas helped in the state’s development.

Education has played a critical role in Kerala’s transformation. The yearning of every Keralite for acquiring knowledge was best exemplified by the great Adi Sankara himself. Knowledge that was once the privilege of a few was democratized and made available to all. I am told there is a library in every village in Kerala. I hope this will soon be true of every village in the country.

In fact the worship of knowledge and the written word is an intrinsic part of our civilization and culture. In the river-island of Majuli in Assam, God is worshipped in the form of the written word of a manuscript. Sikhs worship the wisdom and humanism embodied in the Guru Granth Sahib. For millions of Indians, Saraswati Puja is a celebration of our devotion to learning. The regular study of the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran shows the value all of us attach to learning.

Here, in Kerala, all these religious streams have come together and lived together in harmony. Kerala has for long remained an admirable symbol of the idea of “unity in diversity”. I urge each one of you to make sure that Kerala continues to be a fine example of our composite culture. Kerala should show the entire country, indeed the entire world, how people of different faiths can live together, work together, in peace and harmony.

Your investment in human development has contributed to your social and geographical mobility. Keralites have traveled to far corners of the world, performing a wide range of services. I take this occasion to specially greet non-resident Keralites living abroad and sending their savings home, Their remittances help your economy and contribute to our national resources. The overseas Keralites are the biggest beneficiaries of open borders and free movement of people. They can help in generating new thoughts and ideas for the progress of this State.

While the people of Kerala will continue to do well outside, we must also make sure that we create conditions in Kerala that will enable every Keralite to live up to her or his full potential. Some feel that the Kerala model may be fraying on the edges; that it is unable to generate adequate growth to build on its excellent record in welfare and human development. Kerala also needs new avenues of economic growth and employment generation. The State must invest more in skill-based education to increase the employability of its youth. The recent outbreaks in epidemics that affected Kerala also point to the fact that while curative services have increased their spread, public health issues remain weak.

Kerala has demonstrated the importance and efficacy of public investment in social sectors. However, public services are the instruments through which human development takes place, not an end in themselves. We need to work to upgrade the quality of public services and make them more efficient, more relevant to our times and more focused on meeting current needs.

Kerala has already taken a major lead in tourism, which has considerable employment potential. Kerala also needs new investment in horticulture, dairy farming, agri-business, information technology and the services sector. It must build on its excellent human resource base to promote the manufacturing and service sectors. I am aware that the agriculture sector in the State faces several challenges. Paddy cultivation seems to be on the decline, threatening many livelihoods. Plantation crops such as tea, coffee, spices and traditional industries such as coir and cashew are passing through periodic crises. Many feel that this has been caused by the winds of globalisation and the threat of imports.

The problem may lie elsewhere – in poor productivity. Kerala is known for its outward look and is a beneficiary of the outward flow of its people. We must tackle the problems of these crops, not by shutting the doors but by applying modern science and technology to improve yields and productivity. I am confident that Keralites will be able to meet this challenge successfully. The UPA government is drawing up an integrated plan for resolving the problems of these crops. We will design supportive policies for traditional industries like coir and cashew. I assure you that our Government will do whatever is needed and possible to sustain and revitalize the plantation economy in Kerala.

Fifty years is a short time in the life of a State. In these fifty years Kerala has built on its strengths. Most importantly, the people of this state have challenged insular thinking. Historically, Kerala has been open to international trade and commerce. This has made it possible to Keralites to be global citizens and outward-bound.

Kerala has engineered a politics that is both inclusive and mature enough to engage with the challenges of a globalised world on equal terms. Kerala has created a society that is tolerant of differing world views. Kerala’s culture is enriched by multiple influences fromdifferent parts of the world and India.

Kerala also represents a society where change happened from below and not dictated from above. It is a tribute to those engaged in public life in this State, its political leadership, its social leadership and its intellectual community of creative artists, academics, writers and others who were collectively engaged in contributing to a transformation of relationships from dependency to self respect and dignity. This is an appropriate occasion to remember and salute the contribution of Kerala’s leaders and thinkers in all fields.

The UPA Government will extend wholehearted support and co-operation to the various development proposals made by the Chief Minister during his speech. The demands for setting up an IIT and Institute of Science in Kerala, will be further examined and I will ask the HRD Minister to give particular attention to the needs of Kerala.

The time has come for Kerala to look ahead and think anew. A few hundred meters from where we are gathered today, is a statue of the reformer poet, Kumaran Asan, with the following lines from him inscribed.

Mattuvin chattangalel Mattuvin chattangale! Allenkil mattum athukalee ningalethanl (Reform, change the rules! Else those very rules will be your downfall)

This is a clarion call for change and for a permanent revolution in thought and action. If we don’t heed that call, yesterday’s dogma can become today’s prejudice. Yesterday’s change agents may become today’s status quoits. This call is all the more relevant today when we are living in a world where fundamentalisms of thought are challenging the people and their notions of humanity and social justice. To counter these, we need to nurture the impulses of creativity, restlessness, and change. We need to constantly question the environment around us.

Centuries ago, Kerala imagined a society built on equity and shared prosperity. The festival of Onam is a festival of remembrance and rededication to those goals. This imagination is still relevant for much of India. I call upon the youth of this State to show how we can combine the struggle for social justice and equity with a drive to be more creative and productive. To my mind that would be the fitting way to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Kerala. I wish you all a bright and prosperous future. I wish your celebrations all success.”


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