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close this bookKerala: Radical Reform as Development in an Indian State (FF, 1994, 140 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAcknowledgments
View the document1. Introduction to the 1994 printing
View the document2. The land of coconuts
View the document3. Kerala's achievements
View the document4. Behind Kerala's success
View the document5. Food for all
View the document6. Health
View the document7. Education
View the document8. Land reform
View the document9. Helping workers
View the document10. Overcoming caste
View the document11. Women and the Kerala reforms
View the document12. Lessons from Kerala
View the documentNotes
View the documentNotes to the introduction
View the documentBibliography
View the documentInstitute publications
View the documentAbout the institute

1. Introduction to the 1994 printing

The apparent recent victory of world capitalism and market economies poses severe challenges for the third world. While capitalism can produce a variety of consumer products and generate wealth for some, it is accompanied by problems, including growing inequality, that render it a highly questionable force for improving the lives of the world's poor. At present, there seem to be few viable alternatives for development that emphasize justice, environmental sustainability, and the empowerment of ordinary people. One possible alternative is the "Kerala Model," which we describe in this book.

Since the first printing of this book in 1989, Kerala and India have experienced both continuity and change. In this introduction, we shall update Kerala's most significant events and trends in approximately the order in which the main information is presented in the book.1

Kerala's Continuing Success

Since the 1986 data in our first printing, Kerala has continued to improve its quality of life indicators, staying far ahead of the rest of India and low-income countries world-wide. Table 16 provides 1991 statistics to update table 1, page 11, of this book. 1991 is the most recent year for which all the statistics are available.

We see from table 16 that Kerala has improved its per capita GNP at a rate faster than the all-India average. In 1986, Kerala's per capita GNP was 63% of the all-India average; in 1991 it had risen to 90%. This figure may reflect the improved ability of Kerala statisticians to collect information on the income from overseas, mostly Middle East Gulf states workers sending remittances back to Kerala rather than a major increase in earning power of people inside Kerala. We shall discuss overseas workers later in this introduction.

TABLE 16: Comparison of Quality of life Indicators, 1991




Low-Income Countriesa

United States

Per capita GNP (in $)





Adult literacy rate (%)





Life expectancy (in years)





Infant mortality (per 1,000)





Birth rate (per 1,000)





SOURCES: GOK 1993:8,9,91, 96,147; Bose 1991; World Bank 1993:238-39, 292-93.

a. Low-income refers in 1991 to 40 economies with per capita GNP of $635 or less. With China and India excluded, it refers to 38 countries, almost the same as the 37 countries used in table I for 1986 data.

b. We estimated the $ figure for Kerala by taking the ratio of the 1991 Kerala rupees figure against the national rupees figure and multiplying by the World Bank figure for the national GNP per capita which is given in $, presumably at the most appropriate exchange rate for that year.

c. Kerala's adult literacy rate for 1991 is taken from the 1991 Indian Census, prior to the literacy campaign discussed later in this introduction. By the end of 1991, Kerala's rate was near 100%.

d. We could not locate a combined life expectancy figure for Kerala. The figure 69 is for men, 72 is for women. The 1993 figure for women rose to 73 (Alexander 1994).

e. Kerala's 1992 infant mortality rate was 16 (GOK 1994:18).

f. Indian Govemment sources give infant mortality as 81 or 86 for 1991, while the World Bank lists it as 90. We use 85 as a compromise.

Kerala's literacy rate improved by 13 points while India overall went up nine points. As we shall see below, Kerala has now achieved effective 100% literacy, up 21 points or 27%. Comparing table 1 with table 16, we see that Kerala's infant mortality rate dropped from 27 to 17 per 1,000 live births, a remarkable 37% decline. For India as a whole, infant mortality seems to have remained at the same level. Kerala's striking achievement in continning to bring about a rapid decline in infant mortality can be partly explained by the medical, nutrition, and health data that we shall consider in the next sections. Overall, the data from Table 16 leave little doubt that the Kerala model continues to provide important benefits to its people even with continuing low per capita incomes.

Data are not available to update tables 2 and 3, but we can say that the data from table 16 above suggest that inequality in Kerala is lower than for the rest of India. Since the initial publication of this book, Richard W. Franke has published a study which verifies statistically for Nadur village in central Kerala that inequality declined in the period 1971 to 1986. This was a period in which many of Kerala's most significant reforms took place including the land reform, discussed in chapter 8 of this book, and the Kerala Agricultural Workers' Act and related measures discussed in chapter 9. The study also shows how the lives of the poorest villagers were improved by the reforms and the declining inequality. Readers wanting a close-up view of Kerala's development model may wish to consult Life Is a Little Better: Redistribution as a Development Strategy in Nadur Village, Kerala (1993). Readers wanting more detailed information on Kerala generally should read Robin Jeffrey's well-researched and well-written Politics, Women and Well Being: How Kerala Became 'A Model' (Oxford 1993).


The Nadur village study shows that school and nursery lunches added 3% to the incomes of the poorest households with children in school.2 Beneficiary households also gained 5% more calories than without the lunches which become strategically most important to poor households in July near the end of the long lean season prior to the major August harvest3. Nonetheless budgetary pressures forced cutbacks of the program from 3 million students in 1987 (page 29 of this book) to 2.2 million in 19934.

Ration shops have also been under attack. Recent studies continue to find that Kerala's ration shops are the most effective in India in coverage of the population, convenience in location, hours open, and lack of corruption. The lack of corruption in particular is ascribed to Kerala's high level of citizen awareness and participation, corroborating our claims in chapter 55.

Under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, however, India's national government began restrictions on subsidies for public food distribution. India's external debt in 1991 was $70 billion, 24% of the gross national product6 In 1993, food subsidies were 39% of the national budget deficit7. The Congress Party government of prime minister Narasimha Rao accepted World Bank-IMF demands to "target" food aid more "efficiently." One element in this targeting has been the idea that more well-developed areas in terms of quality of life-such as Kerala-need less food rationing so that more can be available to needier areas. Another element has been the gradual increase in the price of ration shop rice almost to the level of the open market. In 1993, subsidized rice purchases in Kerala declined by 9% from their 1992 level8.

Nearly all discussions of ration shops in India are based on national or statewide statistics. To our knowledge, our research in Nadur village is among the few studies indicating what happens at the village level. We found that the ration shop redistributes from the rich to the poor. When only the main ration shop good-rice-is considered, we find that the ration shop raises the effective incomes of the lowest 20% of the population by 10% and is crucial in terms of calories to their survival in the lean portions of the farming year.9


Kerala's nutritional paradox-which we discuss on pages 32-36- receives confirmation from the latest reports: Kerala's children continue to show the lowest food intake but the best height and weight figures among Indian states10. Based on research from other parts of the world, we suggested (page 36) that Kerala's mothers and infants may use their better health services to increase the efficiency with which they use the limited food they get. New studies seem to corroborate this idea. Prenatal and immediate post-natal care in Kerala are widely available and widely utilized. Pregnant women are bcrtcr cared for and sick infants receive prompt medical attention. Furthermore, because of the high levels of education and awareness, Kerala mothers nearly always breast feed their children for at least the first six months11.


Table 16 shows that Kerala's life expectancy continues to remain very much above the all-lndia figure, so we must assume that general health facilities continue to be widely available. Kerala'srural hospital beds per 100,000 rose from 107 in 1980 (table 8in this boolc) to 192 in 1990, a 79% increase. The all-lndia rate in the same period went from 12 to only 16, a 33% rise.12 In they area of mental health, Kcrala also stands out: with only 4% of India's people, Kerala in 1991 had 20 of the country's 61 mental hospitals13.

Data recently published demonstrate how important health services have been in the decline of infant mortality in Kerala. A study in three Kerala districts revealed that pregnant women having a blood test and taking iron and folic acid supplements during pregnancy had a 36% lower rate of first year infant deaths than those, not receiving such care.14 Those receiving tetanus injections displayed a lower rate.15 Those having their baby in the hospital-about 58% of all births in Kerala16-had rates 38% lower than those giving birth at home.17 Kerala's child tuberculosis, polio, and DPT (diphtheria-pertussis [whooping cough]-tetanus) vaccination rates in 1992 were 100%. The all-India rate for DPT was 83%. For measles, Kerala's rate was 92%, compared to an all-India rate Of 77%.18

The Kerala Morbidity Paradox

Kerala recently became the focus of an intense discussion of what at first seemed to be unexpected health findings: on illness surveys, Kerala's people seemed to be sick (have higher "morbidity") many times more often than people in the rest of India.19 As Amartya Sen, one of India's most renowned economists argued, these data are hard to reconcile with the fact that Kerala's people live longer and the children are so much less likely to die.20 In our view, the debate was resolved when it was noticed that by similar criteria, people in the U.S. are sick more often than those in Kerala.21 Simply put, people with better access to health care report illnesses far more often than those who have no hope of seeing a doctor. Fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, severe headaches, pains in the muscles and joints, and the like can be considered part of normal living if you're poor. If you have money or if you have access to public medical services, you consider them diseases.

While setting aside the Kerala morbidity paradox as solved, we should not underestimate the seriousness of disease in Kerala. Stomach parasites and other diseases of underdevelopment still take a heavy toll on the health and happiness of the state's people.22 Farm laborers walk across Kerala's fields spraying pesticides that may be extremely harmful to those breathing the fumes as well as the intended insects.23 Restaurant workers and housewives stand in front of fires that give off cancer-causing particulates. Blenders stir tobacco amidst fumes that surely contain unacceptable levels of nicotine. Occupational health and safety are virtually undeveloped in Kerala.

Kerala's Low Birth Rate

Kerala's low birth rate (pages 43-44) continues to attract attendtion. The most recent literature appears to confirm what has been shown in earlier studies, female education brings about the biggest decline in birth rates.24 But several variables interact in ways that make it difficult to isolate a single cause. Our research in Nadur Village confirmed other studies showing that women going to school longer marry later.25 Literate females are also thought to be more likely to learn about birth control techniques. In Kerala in 1992, the birth rate had dropped to about the replacement level.26 Women of child-bearing age using some form of contraception rose from 36% in 1980 to 60% in 1990.27 During this same period, female literacy rose from 76% to 87%.28 Female literacy rose in a society with fairly dependable, accessible health services. Ability of children to survive, access of women to health care while pregnant, access to knowledge about contraception, access to contraception and follow-up care, etc., all interacted to produce lower birth rates. As we argue in chapter 12 of this book, Kerala's reforms are mutually reinforcing.

Helping Workers

Since 1989, Kerala has expanded its programs to help the lowest paid workers. Coverage of the agricultural laborers' pensions (pages 65-66) increased to 335,000, about 15% of the population above age 60. Kerala demographers and economists consider this to be full coverage of the aged agricultural laborer population.29

Slightly over half of those covered are women.30 Our research in Nadur Village indicated that the poorest households were receiving all of the benefits from the pensions which added an average of 17% to their incomes. Among the lowest, former untouchable Pulaya caste, 91% received a pension. Even so, 38% of all pension recipient households reported a food shortage at some time during the year compared with 8% of households not receiving pensions.31 In August 1991, the pensions were raised from 60 to 70 rupees per month.32

During the 1980s, Kerala also initiated programs to bring higher wages, better benefits, and stability to segments of the work force often neglected. One case is that of "headload workers." These casual day laborers load and unload trains, buses, and trucks, and carry loads in urban and rural areas over large distances. Headload employers have great advantages over their workers. Individual disputes between workers and employers often lead to violence. The 1980 Kerala Headload Workers' Act authorized the government to set up Headload Workers' Committees across the state to resolve these problems. The committees are made up of workers, employers, and government representatives. Employers hire workers from the Committee, which collects the wages and pays the workers.33 The committee deducts 10% of wages and takes a 25% additional payment from employers34 to fund various welfare programs. These include seven paid holidays per year, medical and accident insurance, education and marriage loan funds, death bereft, and pension schemes.35 Despite its many benefits to workers and the stability and absence of violence valued by employers, the program by 1992 extended only to 6,300 headload workers36 about 4% of the estimated headload worker population.37

Kerala is not the only state experimenting with welfare boards. The neighboring state of Tamil Nadu is said by some to have a more advanced program benefiting all poor families.38 Organizing benefits around employment makes the schemes self financing. Kerala's headload committees do not require any funding from the state government.39

Female Infanticide, Son Preference, and Violence

We note in this book that women have benefited from Kerala's reforms as part of the overall pattern of improvement. This process continues in Kerala. The 1991 Indian census showed that the sex ratio for the country as a whole declined from 934 females per 1,000 males in 1981 to 929 in 1991. Yet in Kerala the ratio went up from 1,032 to 1,040.40Recent research seems to confirm the summary we present on pages 87-88 concerning the likely reasons for Kerala's different profile. Selective female infanticide by neglect is the main reason for the excess of males over females in north India. This is dramatically verified by age-based ratios that show more male deaths than female deaths only in the first year of life, followed by a consistent pattern of excess female deaths in all age groups up to age 50. Kerala does not fit this pattern: female children have the same life chances as their male counterparts.41

One researcher (Oldenburg 1992) has offered a chilling hypothesis linking son preference to the level of general social violence. According to this hypothesis, parents in north India need sons to protect the family in an environment of frequent violent conflicts over land and other issues. As an indicator of the level of violence, the researcher chose the murder rate. Kerala fits into this pattern because it has one of the lowest murder rates in India as well as the highest ratio of females to males. By contrast, the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has the lowest major state ratio with only 882 females per 1,000 males and one of the highest murder rates in the country.42 The connection between son preference and family protection in a violent environment parallels that implied in anthropologist Jagna Sharff's study of long-term U.S. welfare women although here the strategy involves having more children rather than selective infanticide.43

Son Preference in Kerala

Recent studies suggest that son preference does exist in Kerala as an attitude, but that female children, once born, do not suffer the neglect leading to childhood death that occurs in north India. On a questionnaire survey in three districts of Kerala, 35% of women preferred having a boy, only 15% preferred a girl, and 50% responded that either sex was fine.44 At the level of behavior, it was found that both male and female parents are far more likely to undergo sterilization after having one or two male children than after one or two female children.45 But female children are vaccinated in Kerala at the same rate as males.46

Dowry and Dowry Deaths

Indian government statistics list 4,785 dowry deaths for 1992.47 This is more than twice the 1,786 reported in 1987 (page 95). For 1989, the latest year for which we could obtain statistics by state, India had 1,053 dowry murders of which one was reported from Kerala. The northern state of Uttar Pradesh topped the list with 389 reported dowry murders, 4% of all murders reported for that year in Uttar Pradesh.48

Despite Kerala's apparent low rate of dowry killings, problems remain. Studies show that the money transferred from bride's parents to husband's family has been increasing rapidly even among persons who object to dowry as a concept. The form of the dowry may also be changing from a "true" dowry which belongs to the wife and can be taken back in case of divorce to what should more properly be called "groom price" in which the payment is for the privilege of marrying a desirable male. Ironically, the high ratio of females to males in Kerala contributes to the rising price of grooms.49

One female response to this situation is for more women to choose not to marry at all. Evidence for this may be available in the 1991 census reports yet to be is now, we can cite three districts demographic study which found that between 1980 and 1990, women desiring no children rose from 0% to 9%.50 Kerala's educated female population does have the option to compete in the work force and live with parents in place of burdening the family with a groom price of tens of thousands of rupees.51

The Gulf War and the Kerala Remittances Debate

Since the first printing of this book in 1989, India and Kerala have experienced three major events of relevance to the issues we discussed: the Gulf War, the Ayodhya Mosque destruction, and the imposition of World Bank and IMF structural adjustment policies.

Some critics of the first edition of this book have pointed to out limited consideration of the effects of Kerala labor migration.52 We accept the criticism. On pages 68-69 we note that over 682,000 Keralans were overseas in 1987. Up to 300,000 went to Persian Gulf states, possibly one in every 12 households.53 Most of the rest of the migrants were in other parts of India with several thousand in Europe and North America.

The inflow of remittances sent by the overseas workers has been credited with saving the Kerala model from collapse and for preventing rising tensions and violence.54 In addition, overseas work reduces Kerala's high unemployment.

By 1989, remittances were adding an estimated 13% to Kerala's- locally generated per capita income.55 The money coming in wasmostly being spent on home construction and consumer items rather than investment in industry. Many experts have decried Keralans' spending preferences. We are not surprised by the use-of the money, however. Even though many Kerala overseas workers are educated or skilled, most are from very poor households.

Our Nadur study found that remittances made up 9% of the total village income in 1987.56 We also found that villagers used bigger incomes from any source-remittances, land reform, higher local wages, and the like-to improve their roofs, latrines, wells, or to purchase furniture or add rooms to their houses.57 Given the uncomfortable living conditions of most poor villagers, we wonder why anyone would expect them to invest their improved incomes in a business rather than improve their homes.

The migrant labor debate became more urgent after August 1990. The Iraqi invasion caught over 142,000 Indian workers in Kuwait by surprise. Thousands trucked across the desert to Jordan. The Indian government spent $200 million on 419 flights to bring the workers home. About 40% of the returnees were from Kerala.58 Many resumed destitute, especially the several thousand maids, cooks, and other unskilled workers who had invested their households' savings in the gamble on an improved future through migrant work. In the Kerala fashion however, returnees formed associations to press for government assistance.59

Following the main fighting in January to March 1991, many workers returned to the Gulf area. Skilled workers went to Saudi Arabia, but the poorest and least skilled of the migrants stayed in India because their travel resources were depleted.

Early reports suggested that the loss of migrant income would have harsh consequences for Kerala's economy, but attempts to measure the losses found a "surprising non-impact of the brief disruption in the remittances that the Gulf crisis caused."60

Rather than Kerala, India as a nation was the big loser because of its strong trading ties with Iraq that had to be broken to support the U.N. embargo and the fact that 45% of India's oil came from Iraq.61

The substantial losses from the Gulf crisis along with other major economic problems helped foster the climate for the Ayodhya mosque catastrophe that engulfed India in 1992 and 1993.

Ayodhya: Caste and Religious Violence

Kerala's long record of relative caste harmony was severely challenged on December 6, 1992, when right-wing Hindu mobs tore down a mosque at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh State. The mosque destruction set off riots across India in which more than 1,100 people were killed and thousands injured. On January 6, 1993 a second wave of violence ensued in Bombay when armed Hindu groups-with apparent complicity of some police- launched a terror campaign murdering over 600 Muslims and destroying thousands of homes and shops.62

In Kerala, 11 people died in the days following Ayodhya. Kerala's death rate was one-third the national average, but was higher than some states, such as the much larger neighboring Tamil Nadu where only three people died. In August of 1992 Kerala had also experienced Muslim-Hindu violence in which six people were murdered by mobs.63

Across India people responded to Ayodhya with manifestations of religious tolerance and calls for unity. In West Bengal, a human chain was formed from one end of the state to the other to symbolize harmony and understanding; in many cities across the country mass meetings and marches were called.

In Kerala, too, progressive forces and ordinary people mobilized quickly to regain the upper hand against what were seen as dangerous, fascist elements. One of the most creative events in Kerala was the painting of a 110-foot long tolerance mural by 130 artists in one afternoon in the Kerala city of Calicut, in one of the most Muslim areas of the state.64 Another was the action of local Muslim leaders in Malappuram District to raise 10,000 rupees to repair a Hindu temple that had been damaged by violent elements that broke off from a Muslim demonstration on the day after Ayodhya. The Muslim leaders also publicly apologized to the Hindu community whose leaders publicly named and thanked many individual Muslim families that had taken in Hindus in nearby villages where they might have been in danger.65 Kerala's image of caste and religious tolerance was tarnished, but significant actions were underway to regain it.

In September of 1993 Kerala held a by-election for the vacant Ottappalam national parliament seat. The district includes a high proportion of Muslims. The Left Democratic Front candidate won 55% in one of the biggest landslides in Kerala voting history, capturing all sections of the district, including a high Muslim vote from many who had previously supported the conservative alliance led by the Congress Party. The Congress Party took 35% while the BJP-supporters of the Ayodhya take-over got only 6%. The LDF victory may indicate that in Kerala Muslims now feel safer in coalition with the most reliably secular forces. It also seems to indicate that Hindu religious fanatics still cannot appeal to a significant section of Kerala voters the way they have been able to in northern India.66

The New Democratic Initiatives-A New Kerala Model ?

We noted in the 1989 printing that Kerala had elected a Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in 1987 that attempted to continue Kerala's redistributive reforms. Although the LDF was narrowly voted out of office in June of 1991, its four year tenure was marked by events that may cause it to be later seen as a turning point similar to that of the 1957 Communist ministry.67 On assuming office in April 1987 the LDF government set out to implement programs that would involve mass participation and encourage local initiative and self reliance. They named the programs The New Democratic Initiatives. Three of these programs became successful or suggested great future potential:

The Total Literacy Campaign, installation of high-efficiency stoves, and The People's Resource Mapping Programe.

The Total Literacy Campaign

In December 1989 the LDF government organized a campaign to establish full literacy throughout Kerala. The campaign was run first as a pilot program in Ernakulam District. The 70,000 member activist voluntary organization, the Kerala People's Science Movement (KSSP) was called on to manage the campaign.68

The Ernakulam District Total Literacy Programme (EDTLP) was opened with marches, street theater, and festive art performances on 15 December 1988 and kept open 24 hours daily until 4 February 1990 when the district was declared 100% literate. Artist groups traveled throughout the district giving street plays, leading group songs, and encouraging people to come forth and sign up for literacy classes, and 174,000 illiterates were identified.

Organizers hoped to teach illiterates to read in Malayalam at 30 words per minute, to copy a text at seven words per minute, to count and write from one to 100, to add and subtract three digit numbers, and to multiply and divide two digit numbers. They also included in the lessons material on nutrition, health, injection timings for children, how to read a clock, how to approach public officials, equality of the sexes, the need for clean drinking water, as well as many other topics.

In February 1990, the District Collector (the highest officer) of Ernakulam declared the district 100% literate: 135,000 neo-literates had scored over 80% on a test given as part of the program; the other 39,000 had failed the test but gained enough literacy skills to continue learning in follow-up programs.69 UNESCO awarded KSSP its 1990 literacy award for its achieve ments in the EDTLP.70

In the following 12 months, the EDTLP gave the inspiration to the all-Kerala total literacy which mobilized thousands of high school and college students across the state to go into villages, locate illiterates, set up classes, and teach reading. In April of 1991 Kerala became the first state in India to achieve formal 100% literacy.

The campaign became more than techniques and information, however. One achievement was the pride of accomplishment of the mostly low-caste learners. Many of the older learners had fought in the land reform or other struggles. Learning to read and do arithmetic gave them the confidence to challenge government officials above them. One journalist reported that "collectors in Kerala say neo-literates are writing letters to demand better roads and health facilities."71

High-Efficiency Stoves: An Environmental Campaign

The LDF ministry also initiated one of India's most extensive environment projects: a mass campaign to install energy-efficient, low-smoke cooking stoves-chulas in rural Kerala kitchens. Although high-efficiency stoves have been developed in India since the 1940s, few have been adopted. The People's Science Movement (KSSP) again came forward to organize high-visibility campaigns to gain new users.

India's fuel and environmental crises are intertwined. Wood burning provides about 69% of rural energy.72 The traditional stove burns at only 8-10% efficiency. It also causes considerable air pollution. One study in Gujarat estimated that cooking for three hours led to inhalation of 20 packs of cigarettes worth of benzoapyrene, a likely carcinogen.73

KSSP engineers designed a smokeless stove with 25% burning efficiency and have developed a joint program of scientist-villager interaction to encourage adoption of the stoves.74

By 1992, Kerala had more than 200,000 high-efficiency stoves installed, about 9% of the potential user population. This 9% is higher than the rate for other parts of India.75

From Word Literacy to Land Literacy: The People's Resource Mapping Programme

Like Kerala's earlier reforms, The New Democratic Initiatives are mutually reinforcing. The literacy campaign included discussions of the need for high-efficiency stoves. Installing the stoves also led to discussions about Kerala's severe environmental crisis. One approach to the problems has been to mobilize villagers to make maps of their resources. Scientists work with villagers in highly-publicized campaigns to identify land, water, and other resources that could be better utilized and to consider carefully how to make development sustainable in the long run. Like the literacy program before it, the mapping program started first as a pilot project-this time in 25 villages across the state. The conservative coalition governing Kerala since June 1991 has curtailed the program, but local peasant and labor organizations, along with the KSSP, continue to work on a voluntary basis. Seven maps are produced in all. The final map is called the "action plan map." It is used in the village for public debate about which areas should be closed off for environmental protection, which areas could be better utilized, and how people could finance and organize the improvements.76

In one village where the program is most advanced, involvement of local people led to the idea of an economic survey to supplement the maps. They discovered they were purchasing large amounts of imported dry season vegetables that could be grown locally. Farmers were persuaded to grant free use of fallow dry season fields to groups of unemployed youth who were organized into small producer cooperatives to work the fields. How did they decide where to plant? The locally-generated resource maps indicated where the soil and water table conditions were best for the program. In 1993, 2,500 unemployed workers broke even financially on an experimental project working six acres of land. The project will be expanded in 1994 and organizers hope it will make a profit.77

While too new to be evaluated properly, the People's Resource Mapping Programme-along with the other New Democratic Initiatives-suggests a new generation of Kerala activism and a new set of lessons that may emerge from Kerala.

The need for local initiative, self-reliance, and empowerment may be as great as the need for redistribution. Kerala's alternative approach to development competes in an increasingly hostile policy environment: the Structural Adjustment world of the World Bank and IMF.

Recession or Restructuring?

In the 1989 edition of this book, we expressed hope that Kerala's reforms would show a way to shield the poor against the effects of the 1980s recessions. We now realize that those recessions were part of a larger process of deterioration for the third world poor. Kerala's approach to development thus takes on even greater significance than we had realized.

On page 103 we noted that underdeveloped countries had sent more than $30 billion in wealth to the wealthy countries. It now appears that between 1984 and 1990, Third World countries transferred $178 billion to rich country commercial banks.78 This phenomenal taking from the poor to give to the rich was accomplished in large part by Reagan era changes in World Bank and IMF policies that emphasized "structural adjustment" rather than targeting aid to the poor. Structural adjustment is a package of so-called reforms aimed mainly at opening government-run economic sectors to private-usually rich country-investors. Structural adjustment advisors from the World Bank or IMF usually demand cuts in government services to control inflation. This leads to a better business climate for outsiders but lower wages and increases in poverty levels for ordinary people. Countries such as Chile, Costa Rica, Ghana, and The Philippines that have been structurally adjusted several times in recent years show rising levels of poverty, increasing environmental damage, and little growth to compensate.79 Structural adjustment seems to mean turning the recessions of the 1980s into a permanent condition.

The severe "global rollback"80 of the 1980s has exacerbated longer-term trends increasing inequality as well. Using only country averages, economists estimate that in 1960, the richest 20% of the world's people had 30 times the wealth of the poorest 20%. By 1989 the rich had 59 times what the poor had. When in-country inequality is factored in, the richest 20% may have 150 times the wealth of the poorest 20% of the world's people.81

Does international development aid counteract these trends or the harmful consequences of structural adjustment? In 1988, about 4196 of bilateral aid from rich countries went to middle and high-income countries. Only about 8% of US aid in 1986 was "development assistance devoted to low-income countries".82 Israel, with a GNP per capita of $11,950 in 1991, received $354 per capita in aid. India, with a GNP per capita in 1991 of $330 (see table 16), received $3.20 per capita.83

And what about foreign investment? Sociologist Dale Wimberley found that the degree of transnational corporate penetration of - 60 third world countries "has a substantial detrimental effect - on food consumption which grows with the length of the lag between penetration" and the data collection.84 Wimberley's - statistical analysis allowed him to predict a decline of 730 calories and 21 grams of protein between countries with the shortest and longest period of outside corporate penetration.85 Those 730 calories are one-third of daily food needs.

Anarchy or Sustainable Development?

Whether corporate penetration is the direct cause of these astounding figures or whether they result from the structural adjustment programs that precede such investment may be difficult to determine. What they suggest for the near future is easier to understand-but chilling. As anthropologist June Nash has noted, capitalist business cycles are now compounded by "an environmental crisis caused by intensive agricultural practices and widespread exploitation of forests, fossil fuels, and mineral resources, depleting wild fauna and fish that once fed millions."86 Atlantic Monthly writer Robert D. Kaplan warns readers that many third world nations are about to "break up under the tidal flow of refugees from environmental and social disaster." He further predicts a "wall of disease" between rich and poor countries.87 French economist Jacques Attali, head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, sees an equally gloomy future:

In the coming world order, there will be winners and there will be losers. The losers will outnumber the winners by an unimaginable factor. They will yearn for the chance to live decently and they are likely to be denied that chance.88

Attali offers a more specific vision for some regions: Africa will be "entirely excluded from abundance;" Latin America will probably "slide into terminal poverty;" Europe and Japan will try to bring India "into their orbit as a beachhead for multinational companies..."; "inequality will cleave the new world order as surely as the Berlin Wall once divided East from West".89

Ironically, the growing inequality data and predictions of even more inequality in the future appear just as some economists are discovering that greater equality may be good for development. We noted on page 18 of the 1989 edition the study by Cereseto and Waitzkin that found that redistribution has more positive effects at lower per capita incomes. More recently, economists Bowles, Gordon, and Weisskopf found that even among advanced industrial countries both productivity growth and investment performance are strongly and positively correlated with equality.90 The New York Times reported that "many economists...[have] begun to see greater income equality as compatible with faster growth-and perhaps even contributing to it."91 But the policies fostering greater disparities continue to dominate. The 1993 World Bank spending priorities were: $4 billion for structural adjustment, $2 billion for education and $1.8 billion for population, health, and nutrition combined.92 In 1990, India received $0.30 per capita in all overseas aid for its health programs.93

Against the pessimistic and fatalistic visions of writers like Kaplan and Attali, Kerala offers an alternative redistribution followed by the New Democratic Initiatives. In place of cuts in services to assuage foreign investors, instead of growing inequality, and the deterioration or collapse of secular government, Kerala's planners and villagers are attempting to create genuine participation, empowerment, equality, reasonable self reliance, and concern for the environment that could lead to sustainable development. Kerala is not the only place where alternatives to a dismal future are being worked for; but the lessons we can learn from studying Kerala's experience now take on an urgency for all the world's poor and for all of us in the wealthy countries who want to work with them to make their lives-and ours-better.