“With containment strategies in place even before the first case of novel coronavirus was detected on January 30, Kerala appears to have finally hammered the curve flat.“
— The Hindu (May, 2020)
Yesterday, Kerala recorded over 30,000 new cases of the coronavirus, along with over 200 deaths and a test positive rate above 19 percent. With only 3 percent of India’s population, Kerala now accounts for almost 70 percent of all new covid cases. It is number 1 in daily number of deaths. The nationwide test positive rate is 2.4 percent, while in Kerala it is over 19 percent. So what is left to say about the famed Kerala model?
It is difficult to know where exactly to start. Do we start with this article in Mint from March 2020, which lists Pinarayi Vijayan among “7 chief ministers who made war with Covid-19 look easy?” To borrow somewhat from the CNN reporter covering the recent flight of Americans from Afghanistan, if this is success, what would failure look like? Do we list out all the awards and honors that Kerala’s ‘rockstar’ health minister has received? Perhaps the fawning coverage from Al Jazeera, BBC, New York Times and the like. Or the liberal news anchors who seemed to suggest that the Kerala CM be made captain of India’s Covid response.
On a lighter note, we could read Youtube star Dhruv Rathee’s classic work on “How Kerala defeated Coronavirus.” Or how about the folks at The Hindu, who perhaps intended to be taken seriously? How about their special May 2020 editorial titled “The mark of zero : On containment of Covid-19 cases in Kerala“? That editorial is over 500 words long and may or may not be a candidate for the world’s longest joke.
Now, the temptation to read out this editorial word by word, adding “lol” at the end of each sentence is very strong. But I will try to pick out some of the best lines here.
“If in April there were early signs of Kerala gaining an upper hand over the virus, its control became clear from the fourth week of April. … The containment success can be traced back to how Kerala did not wait for directions from the Centre but instead led from the front. … But what sets it apart from the other States is the manner in which it followed textbook epidemiology protocols to the tee, ”
Speaking of jokes, Rahul Gandhi comes to mind rather easily. But did you notice something about him? Rahul is a member of parliament from Wayanad in Kerala. His party is technically in opposition there. But did you come across a tweet, a note of caution or any criticism from him about the way the state government is handling Covid?
Now think about why that is. When have you ever heard of an opposition party that refuses to question the ruling party over such an obvious failure of governance?
This is the Kerala model. It is much more than just media management. It is also about the ruling party keeping the opposition in its pocket. There is nobody in Kerala to question the government. The so called ruling party and the so called opposition are there only for the sake of appearances. Did you know that there are as many as eight legally recognized political parties in China in addition to the Chinese Communist Party? However, in order that they may be allowed to exist, these other parties are required to recognize the “leading role” of the CCP.
That’s what Kerala is today. A one party Communist state, with the so called opposition Congress recognizing the “leading role” of the CPI(M). There is no internal opposition. Outside the state, their image is managed expertly by their contacts across the media. Take your favorite anchor, editor or journalist and dig deep into their past. You will find a Communist connection, usually from college. While other political parties wasted so much effort getting their message out, the Communists invested in those who control the flow of information.
Oh, I almost forgot. The Kerala model also includes controlling the “experts”. These folks will say incredible things, such as Kerala’s covid disaster is a “controlled explosion”. When the test positive rate goes through the roof, it is their job to concoct wild theories such as ‘targeted testing’. Kindly note that this targeted testing technology has not been shared with the rest of the world, nor anywhere outside Kerala. Like the Kerala model, it is supposed to be taken on faith.
Some of these experts are making up their credentials, but the more disturbing are the ones who are not. These are people who should have known better. Our society invested in nurturing these experts, in training their minds to think freely and honestly. They did not. They sold out worse than any lobbyist ever has.
The reality is that the first wave never quite ended in Kerala. But our experts and intellectuals had an election to win. So they went to work designing cow urine jokes and xenophobic jibes against people of India’s poorest states, such as Bihar or Uttar Pradesh. Even when the voting was over in Kerala, they could not resist. The chance to pile on Kumbh Mela or Kanwar yatra was too enticing to pass up. Even when that got over, they kept lying and making up excuses. Now they are in too deep.
But the virus cannot be appeased and made to go away. It can neither be bribed nor intimidated. And so we have the current explosion. Of course, the blame for which will be fixed on Modi, beyond a doubt.
Ultimately, the onus was on all of us. We should have called out the Kerala model a long time ago. Not just last year, but I mean decades ago.
We should have noted the oppressive party state in Kerala, the Communist terror and political violence, the union thugs and government policies that squeezed out all possibility of wealth creation. We should have flagged the remittance economy of the state. The most sh*tty thing a government can do is squeeze its citizens so hard that they flee outside and then gorge on the money they send back. But that was the Kerala model all these years. We should have flagged the organized superstition around HDI and other lies. But we did not. We let it be. And now all we have left is the threat of a third wave starting from Communist ruled Kerala. And a couple of slogans, pamphlets and editorials on ‘How Kerala defeated the coronavirus.’