Modernization catches up with Malayalees

Shashi Tharoor has two part article on Kerala which lists all the virtues of Malayalees and we get to see what a brilliant man he is in the following paragraph

Keralites never suffered from inhibitions about travel: so many Keralite typists flocked to stenographic work in Bombay, Calcutta and Delhi that “Remington” was thought to be the name of a Malayali sub-caste. In the nation’s capital, the wags said that you couldn’t throw a stone in the Central Secretariat without injuring a Keralite bureaucrat. Nor was there, in the Kerala tradition, any prohibition on venturing abroad, none of the ritual defilement associated in parts of North India with “crossing the black water”. It was no accident that Keralites were the first, and the most, to take advantage of the oil-fuelled employment boom in the Arab Gulf countries; at one point in the 1980s, the largest single ethnic group in the Gulf sheikhdom of Bahrain was reported to be not Bahrainis but Keralites.[Questing spirit]

He glosses over the fact that militant Communism prevented the growth of any industry and people had no other option, but go abroad to make a living. Tharoor makes it sound as if Malayalees were doing a favour to the nations of the Middle East. Since Communists resisted globalization in Kerala, Malayalees had to rely on the globalization of labor to find work in Arab countries and live like slaves.
Now modernization and competition in Qatar has caught these immigrants by surprise and many Malayalees are expected to be jobless.

The community suffered a massive setback more than two years ago when the mushrooming hypermarkets threatened the smaller provision stores by waging a fierce price war. Community sources estimate that out of about 125,000 commercial registrations (CRs), some 25 per cent of them may be small grocery stores run by Kerala Muslims.
Known in the local parlance as ‘baqalas’, the small-time owners of these outlets ran for help to community leaders. A committee was set up to study the problem and suggest ways to tackle it. One of the proposals made was that ‘baqalas’ form consortia, meaning that some 10 to 15 of them from one broader locality come together and make purchases of saleable goods collectively, so that they could buy and sell things cheaper to survive the price war. But the proposal never worked as it proved to be impractical and difficult to implement. The result was that many of these ‘baqalas’ continue to exist, albeit with difficulty, as jobs and profits have nearly halved.
According to him, considering the trend in Qatar that points to small businesses being replaced by bigger ones, community elders have long been warning those in catering an grocery trade to use foresight and diversify into other areas in vain.[Muslims from northern Kerala worried about future in Qatar]

If this were Kerala, there would be people shouting Inquilab in front of the hypermarts, but since Arab countries are big on human rights, the only thing you can do is swallow the bitter pill. You can run all you want from globalization and modernization, but you cannot hide.
Update: I Prefer That You Kiss My…

6 thoughts on “Modernization catches up with Malayalees

  1. JK, while you seem to zoom in to the reason why keralites had to venture out into the middle east for work, you do not give them credit for actually doing so. I am no supporter of Communism as practiced in Kerala, but that does not in any way make the Keralites who voted them into power less knowledgeable or politically aware.

  2. >Now modernization and competition in Qatar has caught these immigrants by surprise and many Malayalees are expected to be jobless.
    It is not just modernization, but also a planned effort by the local governments to train their citizens, and introduce quota systems thus reducing dependence on expats, and increasing employment for their own citizens. According to a recent BBC report, some countries in the middle-east have upto 90% of their work force from foreign countries, mainly India. The companies prefer them over the citizens due to obvious reasons (low cost, high skilled, hard working, submissive etc).
    Kerala government should be prepared to take care of the worst case scenario!!

  3. Srijith, Tharoor already did all the credit giving, hence I refrained. There is a noticeable difference in the behavior of Malayalees inside Kerala and when they are outside Kerala. The same militant Malayalee becomes submissive and hardworking once they leave the borders.
    So long as Gulf money is coming in, nothing will change in Kerala. Even if things in Gulf change, people in Kerala will take the easy way out – suicide, rather than adapt.

  4. Eventhough, ultimately, people are to be blamed for the current plight of Kerala, traditionally the state had no major representation/mentor at the centre. This, in my opinion, has also played a major role in the lack of infrastructure development. Those who had some clout were always busy filling up their own coffers or infighting. Those who had the will had no political support.
    Moving on from the usual suspects at home, I haven’t heard much of well-to-do/influential non-resident-Keralites doing their bit to improve the conditions, barring a few such as the Cochin airport project. People such as Mr. Tharoor can make a wider impact in practice, if they wish, to sustain the trite “Kerala miracle”, instead of writing scores of articles of cosmetic significance. Else, Kerala will end up being a show-piece, like the elephant procession in festivals….

  5. JK, thanks to your “recent comments” column, I could see your comment on another comment which has my name on it….that is not me….I prefer debates than attacking someone personally. Is there a way you can trace the culprit? or perhaps I will sign-in with Typekey in the future.

  6. P@L, I too thought so. That comment was left by a George, who later posted the comment in your name. Both the comments are there in the same posting. I will delete the one in your name.

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