What Modi said: “Infant mortality rate of Scheduled Tribe children in Kerala worse than that of Somalia.”

What Media reported: “Modi says Kerala is worse than Somalia”

There has been much mudslinging, political slugfesting and twitter outrage on the issue of PM Modi’s statement in Kerala. As has become a norm nowadays, a section of the media played a condemnable role in twisting the statement to show as if PM Modi was comparing Kerala with Somalia. The reality however was far different from that. The incident, for which PM Modi made the comparison with Somalia, let us see what was said before him on that issue.
The expose on Kerala tribal infant mortality by Outlook Magazine
On July 29, 2013, Outlook news magazine came out with a cover story titled ‘God’s Own Curse’. The cover story was on Kerala, also known as God’s Own Country. So why did the Outlook magazine use the term ‘God’s Own Curse’ for a cover story on Kerala? The sub heading on the cover page stated the following

Since January, 35 tribal children have died of malnutrition in Attapady, in India’s healthiest, most literate and prosperous state. How many before we wake up?

The cover issue of the Outlook magazine had shocking tales of malnourished children and stillborn babies in the tribal belt of Kerala.

Here are some screenshots of the July 29, 2013 cover story by Outlook on the condition of tribal population of Attapady, Kerala. Incidentally PM Modi’s statements in Kerala were on the plight of this very tribal population. The full Outlook cover story can be read here http://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/leech-fields/287024.


Excerpts from Outlook Cover Story on Tribal Malnourishment in Kerala


Source: http://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/leech-fields/287024
Excerpts from Outlook Cover Story on Tribal Malnourishment in Kerala


Source: http://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/leech-fields/287024


Excerpts from Outlook Cover Story on Tribal Malnourishment in Kerala


Source: http://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/leech-fields/287024


In fact for the July, 2013 edition when Outlook had interviewed, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, his reply on the issue of tribal infant mortality was the following


Source: http://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/these-people-dont-eat-properly/287025


Did such an answer by a serving CM trigger any outrage then?
The commendable expose that was made by Outlook did not trigger any outrage. Even when the Kerala Chief Minister gave the most ridiculous and obnoxious statement that the malnutrition was caused because the tribal population did not eat properly, it did not witness any twitter outrage. Of course how can there be twitter outrage or any voice of dissent because the moment that would be done, statistics would be brought it to hide the shameful indifference of the state towards the plight of the tribal population..
But truth cannot be hidden beyond a point. Here’s more evidence to the same.

In July, 2014 National Human Rights Commission had sent a show-cause notice to Kerala Government on the issue of malnourishment related deaths of tribal infants in Attapady area of Palakkad district. An excerpt of the NHRC show cause notice is given below

NHRC Show Cause Notice to Kerala Government on death due to malnourishment in Attapady area of District Palakkad
The National Human Rights Commission has taken a serious note of the inaction on part of the Government of Kerala in miserably failing to provide medical facilities in Attappady area of District Palakkad where 38 tribal children had died due to malnourishment and 849 patients were identified for regular treatment after the Commission took cognizance of the matter.

The Commission has issued a notice to the Government of Kerala, through its Chief Secretary, to show cause why Rs.1 lakh each as interim relief should not be granted to the families of 38 tribal children who died due to malnutrition and inaction on part of the State Government in administering the welfare schemes in time. NHRC Member, Justice Shri D. Murugesan through the show cause notice has also asked the Chief Secretary to submit a report indicating the action taken to prevent the occurring of such deaths due to malnutrition in future and medical facilities provided to the pregnant women in Attappady and other affected areas of District Palakkad, Kerala, within four weeks.

The Commission took the cognizance of the matter on the basis of complaints about malnourishment and that 27 tribal children had died due to malnutrition in Attappady area of District Palakkad, Kerala. It was also alleged that 500 cases of malnutrition and 412 cases of Anaemia were detected between January, 2012 to April, 2013.
The full show cause notice can be read at http://www.nhrc.nic.in/dispArchive.asp?fno=13293


On March 10, 2015 a PTI report was published in The Economic Times in which even the Kerala Government admitted that malnutrition was one of the major causes of tribal infant deaths in that state.


Source- http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2015-03-10/news/59970349_1_kerala-government-attappady-malnutrition


Is Kerala Beyond Criticism ?

Let there be no doubt about the fact that Kerala is a beautiful state with beautiful people. Its lush greenery is envy for many. There is no denial that on many counts of human development indices, Kerala has fared better than most other states. But does that give Kerala the clean chit on every count and make it beyond questioning?

If highly industrialized states like Gujarat and Maharashtra, which for long have been destination for millions of people from across the country for seeking jobs, can be criticized on many other issues, why can’t Kerala be? Kerala may have very high literacy rate but has Kerala been able to provide jobs to its educated mass? If so then why is it that millions of educated youth of Kerala routinely move out of the state for jobs in other states in India and in the Gulf?

There is nothing wrong is moving out of the state for jobs, but one cannot hide the fact that Kerala because of its dismal labor related problems have failed to create a positive environment for industry to thrive. This only means that Kerala may have very high education but that alone is not good enough if the state fails to create viable employment opportunities.

Remember Amlasole of Bengal during Communist rule?

Like Kerala’s Attapady tribal infant mortality, West Bengal had incidents of Amlasole starvations during the Left Front rule. Would criticizing that or comparing their plight that with that of condition of people in some of Sub Saharan regions of the world mean one is demeaning the people of West Bengal? Certainly not !!! If one keeps aside emotions, then the reality is that comparison between two regions for any particular issue does not mean that two regions are being compared in totality. The author is a proud Bengali but he does not take pride in the pathetic condition of Bengal as it is today. In fact there is much similarity between the Bengal and Kerala story. Bengal, like Kerala too has had its share of quality education but absolute dismal condition when it comes to industrialization and quality job creation. Much on the lines of Kerala, it is a state with good people but extremely obnoxious work culture and trade unionism that destroyed its industrial future.

India has been ranked lower than many African countries in Human Development Index- Does that mean UN is insulting India? – Certainly not

In fact, on the issue of comparison with any African country on a particular issue or parameter, why should it be termed racist or derogatory? For those who believe in global equality and who those vehemently speak against racism, how does it matter even if the comparison is with any African country if there are justified reasons?

India has been consistently ranked below many of African countries when it comes to its overall ranking in the United Nations Development Program Human Development Index. In 2015, it was ranked way below Botswana, Egypt, Gabon Morocco and Namibia. Does that mean India was racially insulted? Certainly not!!! It only meant that even though India has made huge strides on many counts, much more remains to be done in some other critical fronts. Further, does that ranking mean those countries which have fared better than India can compete with India in the realms of manufacturing, space science, software industry or nuclear research? Absolutely not and such extrapolations if attempted would be nothing but foolish in nature.

In the same league, comparing the infant mortality among tribal children of Kerala with that of Somalia does not at all mean one is comparing Kerala with Somalia. Only a section of media with a penchant to distort news and create an anti-Modi hype would attempt to do so. Thus, instead of getting agitated and start a vicious anti-Modi vitriolic campaign, the educated lot of India and also of Kerala should introspect as to how India can get rid of such infant mortality related deaths


Breaking the Myths created by Communists and their Cohorts
Kerala’s high literacy rate is a reality. But it ranks high on crime rates too !!!


Even as many like Amartya Sen have always showered bouquets on Kerala for its high literacy rate and have consistently stated that there is much to learn from Kerala, many of such left of the centre economists and sociologists have, without fail, hidden or were perhaps unaware of the fact that crime against woman is much higher in Kerala than in rest of the country. As per National Crime Records Bureau report of 2012, Kerala’s rape rate is 2.9 (per 1 lakh population) when compared to the national average of 2.1. Its incidence of assault on women is 10.7 compared to 3.7 for India.


Source – The Economic Times dated, June 19, 2013 http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2013-06-19/news/40070161_1_kerala-s-highest-crime-rate-infant-mortality-rate


In fact Kerala has often been termed as the crime capital of India and Kochi as the most dangerous city of India.


Image Source- Times of India e-newspaper, dated June 24, 2012


The Stunning Silence over the rape of the Dalits in Kerala.

Over the last couple of weeks, news have poured in of two gruesome rapes of Dalit women in Kerala. Yet it did not surprisingly create the kind of furore from the communists and the secular brigade as it was in case of Rohit Vemulla or Dadri. Neither one has heard much from their Delhi based JNU counterparts on this issue. One is intrigued as to why is there a silence. Why is it that Arvind Kejriwal, Rahul Gandhi or Kanhaiya Kumar and other self proclaimed champions of Dalit cause did not rush to Kerala to show solidarity with the families of the victim? Is it because it happened in Kerala and not in Gujarat? Or is it because there was no upper caste – Dalit angle to exploit from?

Should not those who are pointing their anger towards Modi for his comment have been more vocal on both the issues tribal infant mortality as well as the high crime rates of Kerala and especially that of the gruesome rapes? Or is that whatever happens in Kerala, in the land of the Communists and their Congress comrades, everything has a secular angle (even crime against Dalits and tribal infant mortality) and thus cannot be condemned?

Criticizing on issues does not mean the criticism is aimed at the land or its people in totality

On a concluding note, it has to be reiterated that Kerala is indeed a beautiful state with commendable literacy rate. But that alone cannot be a cover or a defence against criticism of its dismal record on issues of crime and pathetic condition of scheduled tribes there. In fact, they should ask themselves as to why in spite of such high literacy rate, the state has consistently failed to control crime or create an ecosystem for industry to thrive. Spewing venom against PM Modi would not hide the reality of crime and tribal infant mortality of Kerala.


Mr Pathikrit Payne is Co-convener of Modi-Fying India campaign. He is an alumnus of Nanyang University, Singapore. He has over 12 years of professional experience in policy analysis, research and Journalism. He is presently based in New Delhi and does policy research in the arena of Energy Security and National Security.