Created: 8/14/1959

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The Indian Government's recent action of ousting the Communist-dominated Kerala state government and replacing it with Presidential Rule has focused attention on this Indian state. An understanding of the dynamics of theand cultural elements that cotcprise the Kerala environment offers an insight into the current situation.

Kerala is one of the new linguistic states based or. the State Reorganization Act, which became effectiveovember According to data of1 census, the'raajor language is Maluyalam, which is spoken0 people. Tamil ranks second,, followed by Konkani, Kanarese, Telegu, and Marathi,otal of somewhat less. The new state includes the former integrated state of Travancore-Cochin (except for five Tamil-speaking taluks, district subdivisions, which were transferred to Madras) and the old Malabar District, formerly part of Madras State (excluding the islands of Laccadlve and Minicoy, and the Kasarugodtaluk of South Kanara), Administratively, Kerala is divided into nine districtsrivandrum, Quilon, Aileppey, Kottayam, Ernakulon, Trichur, Palghat, Ko7.hikode, and Conannore. Aileppey, which was established by theommunist-dominated Kerala Government onas the largest concentration of Communists and is the site of the famous Punnambra-Valayar CPR uprisinghichajor fillip to the Communist movement in Travancore-Cochin. Alleppey town, the district headquarters, is commonly known as the "Moscow of Kerala."

Kerala, with an area ofCOO square miles, or about twice that of the state of Massachusetts, is the smallest of the Indian States, located in the extreme southwestern part of peninsular India, it extends from aboutiles north of Cape Comorin, the southern xip of India, northward foriles. Its long littoral on the Arabiun Sea has historically left it open to maritime invasions; conversely, its mountainous eastern borders have tended to isolate it to some degree from the remainder of India.

Physically, Kerala may be divided Into three longitudinal zones: elt of low lateritic plateaus and foothills, and highlands (the Western Ghats). On the alluvial lowland is an extensive series of lagoons and backwaters, both saline end fresh. With some artificial cuts, they provide excellent protected waterways from Trivandrum northward to the mouth of the Ponnanlistanceiles- The plateau and hills zone to the east has elevationseet and is generally grass and scrub covered- In this zone the best agricultural soil for rice growing is in the valleys formed by the rivers that flow from the Ghats to the sea. The rugged forest-covered Ghats rise precipitously to the east and reach elevations ofeet. With their heavily dissected, steep slopes, the Ghate arc formidable barriers between the Kerala lowlands and the great plateau area of central peninsular India and throughout history have impeded commercial and cultural contacts between the two areas.

The characteristically monsoonal climate of Keralareat influenceeople who depend chiefly upon agriculture for their livelihood. The annual cycle is largely dominated by two periods of rainfallouthwest monsoon from June to August and the northeast monsoon from October to December. Two-thirds of the annual precipitation occurs during the southwest monsoon. During June, July, and August, rain falls on aboutonth but rains become less frequent in September. As the southwest monsoon retreats and the northeast monsoon becomes established in October and November the intensity of the rainfall increases. During this season, rainfall is heuvior in the hills than on the coastal plain.

Two essential features of the distribution of the rainfall are its Increase from the south to the north and from the coast inland. Average rainfall is aboutnches atnches at Cochin, andnches on the western slopes of the Ghats. Since the area receives rain during both monsoons, failure of rains and consequent famines are unknown- Occasionally, however, flooding causes considerable damage to crops.

In this environment live someillion people. The population density averageser square mile, making Kerala the most densely populated of the It Indian states (see Locally, as in the lowland of Trivandrum District, the density iseople per square mile- By contrast the average density is k9 per square mile in the United States,n Japan. The rate of population increase for the1 the old Travancore-Cochin wasercent; and, for the former Malabar District,ercent. For the same decade the all-India averageU percent. This high and rapidly increasing population density is directly related to the economic depression and political instability of Kerala.

The distribution of population la closely related to the terrain zones. Ir. the area of the former state of Travancore-Cochin, for example, tbe lowland, with aboutercent of the area,ercent of the population and has an average densityi8 people per square mile; the hilly transition zone, withercent of tha area, has half the populationopulation densityer square mllej and the Western Ghats,ercent of the area, haveercent of the populationopulation density of only 1U7 per square mile.* Throughout Kerala, the wide discrepancies between population and size among the various districts are directly related to the type of terrain (see

Table 1

Area, Population, and Population Density of Kerala by District a/



Population (per Square Mile)


8 official estimates *

Kerala's total area is generally given officially0 acres. Of these,re suitable for cultivation, andare under0 acres are doubleeavingcres or9 percent as fallow and cultivable waste land. Since much of this is marginal agricultural land, possibilities for extension of farming are limited.

The agricultural situation in Kerala is complicated by the size of the landholdings, which are generally very small, and by the system of land tenure, which is still inequitable, particularly in the old Malabar District. Even under favorable conditions, the land reform laws that were passed in9 cannot remedy the situation izcedietely, and tbe laws will probably be modified by successive governments. The land available per capita of total population is less than three-quartor* of an acre. Actually, probablyercent of the agricultural' holdings In the state are leascre in size, and the average Iscres. In the old Travancore-Cochin area,ercent of the holdings are smallercre;ercent arecres; andercent are largercres. As of8 the size of holdings in Kerala wa3 estimated as follows:

of Holders Total Acreage

5 acres or

5 to 15

More than 15

Aboutercent of the land iB heldercent of the landowners in holdings of more thancres. Since land redistribution has been extensive In the Travancore-Cochin area during the last few years, the larger holdings are chiefly In the Malabar area.

Aboutercent of the total population of Kerala depend upon agriculture for theirigure lower than that for any other Indian state except Bengal. Because of the density of the population the pressure on land, however, is heavy; and the per capita income from agriculture is low. Tho proportion of farmers to the total population is lowest in the coastal zone and highest in the

hilly transition zone. Population distribution and employment are reflected In

Map ii.

5 Comparable data are not available for the area of the former district of Malabar, but percentage and density figures should be similar In view of Malabar's close physical and cultural similarity to the rest of Kerala.


Most farmers are engaged in the cultivation of rice, coconut, and other money crops. Since almost all of these crops require only seasonal care, the farmers are actively engaged In land cultivationonths of the year.ifth of the farien have subsidiary sources of income; the remaining four-fifths are either underemployed cr unemployed forear.

amily garden may produce many different crops, certain ones are characteristic of each terrain tone. In the lowland, rice and coconut predominate. In the hilly transition zone tapioca, coconut,lemon grass, cashew nuta, ginger, and rubber are typical in the hills and rice in the river valleys. On the slopes of the forested Ghats, the cultivated area (aboutercent of the total) is largely in plantation cropstea, rubber, and cardamom.

Rice and coconut together account forercent of the total croppedand contributeercent of the total value of agricultural production. Although plantation crops occupyercent of the cropped land andercent of the total value of agricultural production, Kerala produces aboutercent of the rubber of India,ercent of the pepper,ercent of the cashew nuta,ercent of the ginger, andercent of the cardamom; it also includesercent of India's tapioca acreage.

Although almostercent of the total cropped area of the state is In food cropB, Kerala la facedhronic food shortage, producing only aboutercent of its food-grain requirements. Rice lo the chief item In the diet, supplemented by manioc, but the rice yield averagesounds per acre as compared toounds. Since half of the familieseople) have annual incomes ofupeesuch of the population has almost no purchasing power and must liveubstandard diet. Kerala's per capita consumption of milk is two ounces dally compared to the all-India averageunces. Vegetable products from the home garden and the easily caught fish compensateery limited extent for the lew cash incomes.

The fact that *fj percent of the population Is nonegrlcultural ls not evidencearge urban populationigh level of Industrialization. Onlyercent of the total state population is classified as urban. During the, an urban population increase ofercent was unprecedented. Neverthelessopulation centers in the staterivandrum)) andmot1 census criteriaity, populationithin municipal limits.

mall section of the population is engaged, in organized industry. Pishing, the coir Industry, and various other small industries such as the textile, paper, glass, and fertilizer, give part or full time employment to many among the population. As in rural areas, urban unemployment andare critical. Accordingurvey In the former state of Travancore-Cochin, the unemployedillion and theillion, half of whom were women. Of the unemployedhousand were educated people.

Communal (religious community) consciousness rather than-politicalor class consciousness nan long been the dominant social force in Kerala. Loyalty to one's own community io primary and cuts across all others. The major communities are the Hindu, Christian, and Muslim (see According to1 census, Hindusillion, orercent of the population;illion, orercent;illion, orercent and other religions accounted for theercent of the population. The distribution of these religions, by district ass shown in Table 2.

Table 2

Distribution of Major Religions In Kerala, a/ Number of Adherents by District as1

QuiIon Kottayam Trichur Malabar

Aava, but otMa

All three of these religions are of ancient origin in India. In Kcrula, Christianity dates from the first. and Islamev years after the death of the Prophet Mohammed.

Although Hindus predominate, they do notomogeneous community. Castes divide them sharply. According to the Travancore censushere vere nearlyain castesccessory castes. The castes were rigidly exclusive and permitted no common social life. UntouebaMlity andvere worked out systematically to keep the segregation of catteo as complete as possible. New, however, all external practices of caste segregation are prohibited by law throughout India. Even so, the residual elements of complexes, superiority or Inferiority, remain particularly strong In Kerala. Within this divisive social structure. Communism found fertile ground for the spread of its ideology, with its theoretically castelesa and classless society.egree of unity among religious communities, probably temporary in nature, was achieved through their common campaign against the recent Communist-dominated government.

Education In Kerala ls above the Indian standard. ercent of the population is literate, as compared to the all-India average ofoercent. In the old Travancore-Cochin area the percentage is well overercent. Kerala has more0 educational Institutions,rimary schoolsone primary school for5 square miles of inhabited area and forhildren In theyear age group. Elementary instruction is almost universal in Kerala. Four-fifths of the educational institutions are privately run but aided by the State; the remainder are entirely State operated. Most of the private schools are conducted by the Hindu, Christian, and Muslim communities.arge extent the recent onti-Ccecum 1st demonstrations were sparked by the opposition of these religious groups to the Kerala Education Bill, which was passed in final form innd would have given the Communist-dominated government greater control over the private schools.

The recent CcsnmuniBt-dominated government came into office on the basis of the general elections The Communist receivedillion ofillion votes cast out of total electorateillion, or aboutercent of the votes polled. The opposition parties togetherillion voteshe Congressillion;illion. Inembor assembly the party position vas as follows: raja Socialist Party,uslim League,nd Independents, 6. The assembly also included one nominated member. Tbe Cceaauriiste did notajority of the popular vote, and they could not haveinistry without the support of some of the Independents, five of whom were elected with the support of the Communiat Party. At the time of the election, the Party0 active members.

The distribution of the votes coat for the Communist Party, the percentage of Communist vote to the total vote, and the number of Communist asaembly members for each Kerala district (aare shown innd on Map 3.

Table 3

Distribution of Communist Votes In7 Oeneral Elections

In Kerala



Vote Polled

Whether elections are heldonths or whether Presidential Rule continues for an extended period (legally it nay remain in effectonth periods for threeerala's basic problems of tooopulation for the present stage of economic development, unemployment and underemployment. Insufficient food, and communalism will persist. The food deficit could be relieved to some extent by further land redistribution, the extension cf irrigation, improvement in the methods of rice culture* aod intensification of the fishing industry on the rich banks off the coast of Kerala. If it can be effected, industrialization willajor aid. The stateigh hydroelectricercent of India's total) and other factors favor sccae degree of Industrialization. Among these factors are raw materials (rubber, timoer, coconut byproducts, pottery, clays, and large reserves of ilmenltes, monazite, and sillimanite in its beach sands) and fair transportation facilities. Capital must be found, however, if large-scale industrial development is to be achieved.

That Bamboodiripad, former Chief Minister of Kerala, favored direct aid from the Bloc countries is evident from his statements ofust before his trip to Moscow. As an officialtate government he was not authorized to fonrolatc aid agreementsoreign power. His only resort was through indirect pressure on the Indian Government. The effect of such pressure la evidenced by the unprecedented orders from the Soviet Union for coir after the establishmenttate-subsidized coir factory in Kerala. Whatever the future government of the state may be, Kerala will need outside financing if new development is to be undertaken and the state to achieve economic solvency and political stability.

* ublication of the recent Communist-dominoted government indicates that the Japanese method, which is distinguished by heavy use of fertilizers, is now practiced0 acres of rice cultivation in Kerala.

M( M

Original document.

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