ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Existence of a North–South Divide in Kerala

An Analysis of Recent Socio-economic Trends

It has been acknowledged that the disparities in the development indicators between north and south Kerala have been reduced significantly post independence. This reduction is typically attributed to developments in the social sector. However, there is considerable difference existing between Malabar and Travancore–Cochin in terms of living standards and key infrastructural facilities. The multidimensional poverty index has also revealed that the incidence of poverty is high in northern Kerala compared to southern Kerala. People-centric policies coupled with decentralisation have effectively reduced the outcome disparity, while the Malabar region still lags behind the Travancore–Cochin region in some key aspects.

The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewer for the insightful comments and providing directions for additional work.

Kerala’s achievements in social development with low per capita income are widely acknowledged as the “Kerala Model of Development” (UN 1975). This development was achieved by public action, which resulted in the state government adopting more redistributive policies such as land reforms, universal education, a public distribution system (PDS) and an expanded healthcare system. Widespread education among the various caste and religious groups was a precondition for Kerala’s achievements in the health and demographic transition.

Historically, Kerala has achieved exceptional levels of social development despite low levels of economic growth1 (Bhat and Rajan 1990; Jeffrey 1992; Ramachandran 1997). Kerala’s per capita gross domestic product, however, was significantly lower than the Indian average during the 1950s–1980s, when the state witnessed its spectacular improvement in education and health indicators (Heller 1999; Oommen 2014). Many scholars were sceptical about the development pattern of Kerala in the light of the economic stagnation and rising social expenditure (George 1999; Tharamangalam 1998; Véron 2001). However, there was no decline in the human development statistics, and also Kerala topped in 1981, 1991 and 2001 among the Indian states (Planning Commission 2002).

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Updated On : 20th Mar, 2023
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