The early usage of term ‘Kerala Model’ dates back to 1970s, a period of time when the Communist Party took initiatives to establish the Centre for Development Studies in Kerala and accommodate high-profile economists in such institutions in order to create a new narrative in the field of development economics.
However, the term gained currency after the release of ‘ An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions’, a book written by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and his co-author Jean Drèze. The discussions and lectures centred around the book had brought back ‘Kerala Model’ again under the spotlight.
The Communist leaders and self-proclaimed economists profusely quoted Amartya Sen and his book to establish their propaganda of ‘Kerala Model of Development’, which seeks to establish that the achievements of the present state of Kerala are a direct outcome of socio-economic policies of the various Left Governments in the state.
Taking the narrative further, the Leftist journalists had launched massive propaganda through mainstream media, highlighting the myth of Kerala Model under the guise of the book marketing campaign.
Rattled by the Communist propaganda, Amartya Sen and Jean Drèze published a note in the subsequent edition of An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions’. However, it did not get much public attention and the CPM leaders continue to misquote Amartya Sen, harping on the myth of the Kerala Model.
What Amartya Sen and Jean Drèze said about the ‘rhetoric of Kerala Model’?
“The term ‘Kerala Model’ has often been used in this literature (the literature cited in the text), and more distressingly has occasionally been attributed- entirely erroneously- to our analysis. We have never used this particular ‘rhetoric’. There is much to learn from scrutinizing the experience of Kerala- and of the other high-performing states- ‘but there is little evidence for seeing Kerala as a model to be mechanically emulated’.” (Notes- 3. Indian in Comparative Perspective), An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions page No: 346.
Rejecting the propaganda of ‘Kerala Model’, Amartya Sen and Jean Drèze explained it in simple terms that there is little evidence for seeing Kerala as a model to be mechanically emulated. However, even now the CPM has no qualms to misquote Amartya Sen and claim the patronage of Kerala Model, sweeping the achievements of Travancore in the fields of education and health under the carpet.
Interestingly, much later in 2016, Amartya Sen verbally thrashed the CPM over its ‘Bengal Model’, accusing the Left party of ruining the economy and industrial development in the state of West Bengal. “The Left has played a major role in destroying industrialisation in Bengal. We must accept that. Only when they decided that policies must be changed, the people decided to change the government instead. I think there is some problem in the way with which the Left party thinks over an issue,” Sen said while delivering a lecture at a college in Santiniketan.