Vision, Promises and its Realization

During the 28 months in power the first E.M.S. Government initiated steps that had lasting beneficiary effects in Kerala’s Society. In fact the action of that short period of 28 months moulded the progressive segment of the socio-political fabric of Kerala.

The steps that this government ushered in were really programmes evolved over a period of two decades from the deliberations of the national movements. They had more to do with the professions and proclamations of the Central Congress government than a planned Communist political action. In fact some Congress governments in a few states made feeble efforts to implement such programmes and failed. The feudalist’s monopolist forces, which took control of the Congress party on the eve of independence and immediately after that could not allow such things.

The lack of conceptualization and faulty implementation of the Five Year Plan programmes of the Congress and Congress-supported Governments in Travancore and Cochin including that of Panampilly Govinda Menon had left a developmental vacuum in the newly formed Kerala State. The new government came up with a master plan in which generation of hydroelectric power from the swift- flowing rivers of Kerala was given the prime slot. Successive governments in Kerala relied on this approach for power generation, and still relying on although time is ripe to review that approach and to think of harnessing energy from other sources. Soon after the formation of the government on ordinance was issued to stop eviction of tenants from their huts and later it was made into an act. The Congress had tried to control this high handedness through an executive order of 1948, which was followed more in its violation than in its observance by a corrupt bureaucracy in collusion with the Janmies. Although there was national consensus for giving a reorientation of agrarian relations especially in giving ownership of land to actual cultivators who were cultivating them for long periods. The opposition Congress members reveled in filibustering the Agrarian Relations Bill that was presented in the Assembly for its consideration.

Reform in agrarian relations was to be the springboard from which a feudalistic society could rapidly transform itself into a modern developed society ripe for industrialization and the growth of service sector. All the Congress leaders accepted this. Still the governments in most of the Indian states resisted from curbing large-scale landlordism lest its feudalist, middle and low level should revolt. The result is that the spring of naxalism in these states is an ever-lasting spring whereas in Kerala it was short lived. Even though the reactionary forces could oust the government with the connivance of the centre at the middle of its tenure the spirit of the Bill defining agrarian relations and related legislature measures continued to ride high and the successive Governments had to carry forward that spirit. Thankfully today the agrarian sector of Kerala Society in free from strife.

The Education Bill introduced by the Government was mainly intended to control the appointment of teachers in private schools and to take over those private schools whose managements were too self indulgent beyond the level of correction. The Bill also envisaged payment of salaries to teachers direct from the government. Till then these amounts were received by the managements as grant from government and payments of salaries to teachers were like doles handed out to them. Even before the introduction of the Bill in the Assembly payments of salaries to teachers were made direct from the government through an executive order. Thus although the Bill could not be passed due to dismissal of the government teachers of private schools continued to get salaries direct from government. Later this provision was extended to teachers of private colleges. No governments afterwards had the courage to curtail the unbridled privileges of managements. Today they make appointments to schools and colleges collecting 8 to 15 lakhs from every successful aspirant. Of course success depends on the strength of their purse. Today with the self-financing institutions on the scene supported by minority provisions and a minority commission education has become the biggest industry in Kerala- a better option of investment for money spinners including liquor barons.

One of the important contributions of the 1957 Communist government was in decentralization administration. The government of independent India realized very soon that the relation between government officers and people was not conducive enough for rapid development of the country. Balwant Roy Mehta Committee constituted by the Central government submitted a report stressing the need for urgent decentralisation of administration. Congress governments in different states ignored this report. However the Communist government of 1957 constituted an administrative reforms Committee. On the basis of its report a Panchayat Bill and a District council Bill were presented in the Assembly. Panchayat Bill envisaged an elected Panchayat as the primary component of administration and it had to be entrusted with all administrative responsibilities at the grass roots level except law and order. However, Balwant Roy Mehta Committee recommended the devolution of developmental activities only to Panchayats. Similarly the government constituted District Development Councils, which were intended to initiate and oversee development activities, in the district. The lack of interest of subsequent governments caused the effort for decentralisation loses its steam and the subject became alive after two decades.