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A Dammed (In)Dependence

Posted by RB Kollannur on November 29, 2011

We lost our independence in 1947.

For centuries the southern half of what is now the Indian state of Kerala had remained free from foreign rule. Indeed the same could have been said about the northern half as well, had it not been for the military excesses of the usurpers of Mysore, Hyder and Tipu (The fact that it was the British who reaped the benefits of these excesses is a minor side matter).

This changed in 1947 when the British left our shores. Faced with international isolation and the military might of the Republic of India, the princely states of Travancore and Cochin, that ruled the south Kerala, had no other option but to join the Republic.

And thus we signed away our freedom.

Of course being part of a much larger country does have its advantages. India can provide a much larger employment pool and a large market for our products. However, both have been counterproductive since Kerala has continued to support a huge migrant population, while sending many men and women abroad for work. From a trade point of view, with limited resources available to set up a manufacturing industry at a competitive basis, Kerala has remained a heavy consumer of Indian made goods. This situation becomes worse when you factor in the Indian Excise regime. In essence, the people of Kerala have since 1947 been spending a large chunk of their income paying taxes to other states.

Perhaps the biggest advantage for Kerala being part of India is security. As a fragile small state, Kerala has very limited ability to protect itself from invaders. For centuries the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats did the job, but in a nuclear era these have huge limitations. The availability of the Indian military can provide a sufficient deterrent to anyone wishing to attack this tiny state.

Unfortunately, this military might has not been able to prevent “foreign” invasion from across the state line, from where the custodians of Mullaperiyar dam on Kerala soil came. It is laughable to note that a state is not allowed to even manage a property within its own borders.

There are two parts in the Indian periphery, that most of India has shown complete lack of concern or compassion. The first is the North East, which the Indian map reveals to be a child dragged behind by her mother. The second of course is Kerala. As the smallest of the southern four states not many give attention to any plight in God’s Own Country. It has become almost boring to hear about the recurring complaints regarding long awaited central projects, be it the Palakkad coach factory or the Vallarpadam container terminal so on and so forth.

For most of its existence, the Indian state of Kerala has outperformed the rest of India in most societal indicators and for the past two decades, when the economy of India had something worthwhile to write abroad about, Kerala has managed considerably better. As one of the biggest consumers in the country with a chiefly urban population gobbling up Indian products, Kerala has been one of the silent engines for India’s growing economic powerhouse. This happened mostly when India provided scant attention to the affairs of Kerala or did little to support it.

During the years of British dominance in South Asia, Travancore and Cochin had silently gone about their business building an efficient and progressive society. Travancore, especially, had consistently received laurels for her progressive reforms. Fortunately after 1947, the civilian governments continued the reforms of the monarchies, improved on it and extended it to the Malabar region that was part of the British regime. These reforms were important in bringing Kerala to where she is now.

Perhaps the only significant change that India has been able to bring about in Kerala is the loss of the fertile regions of Nagercoil and Kanyakumari to neighbouring Tamil Nadu in place of the then barren unpopulated wasteland in South Kanara.

So when many of Kerala are complaining about an age old problem called Mullaperiyar run by Tamil Nadu despite being in Kerala, I do not expect India to listen (or care).

We lost our independence in 1947.


8 Responses to “A Dammed (In)Dependence”

  1. TheAnand said

    Exactly my thoughts. I also agree that we have not have any benefit from joining the state of India in 1947. Of course, everytime I say this aloud, I am considered a separatist and an anti-national.

  2. Martin Jacob said


  3. This is when I think about the words “Whose freedom is it anyways” !!!

    We should seize control of the dam. There is not need to respect any contract or constitution that guarantees death.

  4. Arby K said

    I doubt the kings were given the option. I am sure Travancore would have remained independent had it not been for the “swift diplomacy” by Nehru and co.

  5. Arby K said

    It is always a dilemma to take things up militarily with TN. We depend a lot on supplies from TN for our daily needs. How will they reciprocate? Also, now with Sabarimala season on, the logical thing to do will be to refuse entry to devotees from TN. However, many traders depend on income from these travelers. Will they be willing to forego this?

  6. kailas said

    thonivasam parayaruthu..if people from any part of the world wants to come to shabarimala avar varum..oru pattiyum athu thadayilla..aarum velankanikku pokathe irikumo??

  7. Arby K said

    I see you missed the point. I was merely contemplating on measures we can use to force TN to let us build a new dam. I am myself a trader who will benefit from the sea of devotees who come to Kerala. But the larger point is how do you force TN to accept the legitimate demands of the people of Kerala? I see that you come from a place that is not threatened by a collapse of MullaPeriyar dam. Nor do you have a long history living in Kerala. Do live in Kochi for a while and then comment. May you rest in peace.

  8. Published in the OpEd of City Journal, an English daily in Thrissur, on 2nd December 2011 http://www.cityjournal.in/Newspaper/20111202/Edit%20Plus/Edit%20Plus_1.html

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