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Kerala - Loss Of All Hope

By Saji P. George

01 August, 2004

In the South Indian state of Kerala, news channels are now keeping a count, like the one maintained by the global media for the US causalities in Iraq. A count of the dead. Whenever a farmer, hopeless at the mounting financial debts, commits suicide the report that flashes will most usually end up with the following words. "Now the total count reached." The count is moving up almost every day for the last two months. The extreme rightist provincial regime, which has left the task of financial engineering to the Asian Development Bank, first tried to deny the truth of the corpses, then it invented the truth of the whole matter that the reason for these mounting suicides is a phenomenon called loss-of-all-hope. In Kerala, which until very recently maintained a human development index comparable to many developed nations, this is unprecedented. Corporate Globalization process aggressively followed by the Union Government in New Delhi is now bringing its results for our masses. Suicides! It was the Plantation workers whose intense protests did yield virtually no result, turned first to this kind of a final solution. The farmers are following suit. But now alarmingly a new category is joining the line. The students and youths!

Following the dictums of the non-interventionist era, the Govt in Kerala privatized its education sector. Soon private entrepreneurs came in flock and there was a boom of institutions mostly Engineering colleges and Medical colleges. The entire funds for running the institutions including the mark-up for the owners are to be generated from Course fee. Hence the poor, who are unfortunately the majority has no stake. To facilitate the unfolding scenario the Reserve Bank of India issued a generous circular to all the Banks in the country. It directed the Banks to grant educational loans for poor students at an interest rate between 11-15%! It did not forget to give the usual smartness tip also, not to be lazy in recovering the amount from defaulters!! The bank officer's organizations are pointing out that this will lead many of the poor youngsters only to huge Debts and Suicides!

The issue sparked up again when the leftist Student unions violently agitated and virtually rocked the State on the issue following the suicide of a dalit girl student Rajani.

Rajani was a bright Computer Engineering student who is supposed to belong to the category of the most aspiring people. But destiny joined her only to the most desperate ones. She has not taken a loan. Being expelled from her hostel for not paying the fee she approached many quarters including the local bank for a loan but in vain. Finally she went up to the office of the Entrance Examination Controller at the State capital in Trivandrum, the office of the authority who conducted the competitive examination for selecting engineering students and thus made her an eligible engineering student. She reached up to the 8th floor and jumped her last journey down. Devoid of choices for a desired destiny she chose her death magnificently. Her choice had made her a martyr, a martyr in the rank of the Korean farmer who stabbed himself to death in protest of the WTO. In the mythology of the Indian left the martyr is an untainted. Knowing this all too well the rightist regime had done every thing at their
disposal to malign her, they had even instructed to conduct a virginity test on
the dead body!

Higher Education system in Kerala is a remnant of the colonial period created by the British to prepare Clerks. Functionally worthy knowledge, vocational skills, expertise or language skills of the students graduating from these colleges are dismal. These institutions are an utter failure in catering to the
societies needs in knowledge and skills. But there have been little efforts to revamp the system than to write off the whole to ultra right commercial interests.

The traditional leftist parties in Kerala have also failed to imagine an alternative for the decadent vestiges of colonial education and hence have to cooperate with the rightists while offering a show of resistance to slow down their pace. When the present kind of Self Financing of education was
systematized, they compromised at every juncture and finally during the last spark of violent agitations their ire was mostly turned to the Banks reluctant to issue loans. The crashed ATM counters across the towns stood as the most eloquent _expression of leftist endorsement of a bank financed education system in place of the public funded education system.

Now, recently students at a government run medical college stalled an effort by an agent of a private medical college to take a dead body from their mortuary.The dead body was sold to the private college illegally for using in specimen studies. When students questioned the concerned head of department, it was revealed that the corpse was sold at the rate of Rs.15000/-. The Govt. had instructed each departments of the college to generate funds themselves and sale of corpse was the one means invented by that department. INR15000/- is enough to bye a thousand meals! In a region where people dispossessed of the means of living by neo-liberal policies turn often to rackets trading on human organs, offering a Kidney for money, this may not invite much attention. But it silently reminds that here life diminishes a human beings worth. Ratings will go up as breathing go down. The current market rate for a corpse is INR 15000/-!