The New Year is nothing but a continuation, a seemingly indistinguishable part of the ceaseless flow. But in strange ways it also marks a definite departure from what has gone by. It feels like the crossing of an invisible bridge to a virgin land where life starts fresh. It seems an annual ritual, this yearly renewal, this second chance at life. And when DC looked at how Kerala will look in 2018, the kaleidoscope that emerged had surprisingly unique sights sounds and colours.
BATTLE OF THE SEXES
Last year women in Malayalam films realised they were easy prey. If 2017 was the year of realisation, 2018 will be the year of action. The girls have let out the war cry, and there is no going back. The battle of the sexes will play out in all its intensity 2018. The first Malayalam movie with an all-women crew will perhaps be the year’s most unique release. Some of the top talents, Parvathy for instance, could be left out of big banner films for her perceived irreverence. But the likes of her are no pushovers. She has already branched out, has already made a mark in Tamil and Hindi. New avenues are also opening up. Streaming giant Netflix, which cares two hoots about industry hierarchy, is reportedly in talks with filmmakers, including women, in the state for multi-crore projects. The success of Manju Warrier, especially ‘Udaharanam Sujatha’ that withstood the might of ‘Ramaleela’, has sowed hope.
The year ahead will be a turning point in the state’s quest for improving the ease of doing business (EDB). The state launched the game changer initiative even as the country reached 100 from level 140 on WB index.
The state has issued an ordinance suggesting changes to seven laws including LSG Acts, Kerala Shops and Commercial Establishments Act, Kerala Headload Workers Act and the Kerala Single Window Clearance Boards and Industrial Township Development Act. Online system for building permits is key to better EDB index. Impact should be most visible during the year.
New Year celebrations in the coastal areas of the capital were given a solemn touch. Candles and lamps were lighted, and tourists joined local in mass prayers for the victims of Ockhi cyclone, at Kovalam on Sunday. The State Government had called off New Year Celebrations across the state in the wake of the disaster.
IMD’s failure to issue clear-cut bulletins and its failure to apprise the administration of the gravity of the impending cyclone expose the state of alertness of the Government machinery. But the huge shocker in terms of casualties might help jolt the Government to devise ways to bring in more efficiency and accountability in governance. A committee, headed by CM’s advisor Raman Srivastava, is reviewing the forecast and mitigation failures and drafting an advisory to the Government. Whether this translates into a decongestion of coast through the introduction of new skill sets in the overcrowded traditional fishing sector and better forecast to the man on the sea is the moot question.
Transgender community has trashed the bill in Parliament as it identifies transgender as partly female or male; or a combination of female and male; or neither female nor male. The bill criminalises begging and fails to protect right to self-identification. The State Government promise to introduce a Bill repealing IPC 377, which criminalises sexual relationships of gender and sexual minorities has also not materialised.
Promise to include provisions for employment, including a transgender column in PSC applications, short stay homes and shelters, treatment facilities and sex reassignment surgery facility at all medical colleges remain on paper.
Leg-up for IT
The year may witness many crucial developments in IT sector as the shift from business process outsourcing to product development with focus on emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and blockchain are gaining momentum. Concerns of job losses are also looming large over the two-decade-old Kerala IT sector. On the other hand, the state government is also gearing up for major initiative in IT manufacturing sector and had even tied up with Intel to explore options of hardware manufacturing. State's initiatives in electric vehicle manufacturing may also gain traction.
The Government announcement on a schedule for fixing MBBS fee and submission of details to the fee regulation committee will have a positive impact on medical education sector by reducing litigation and unnecessary lag in admissions. It’s depressing that under pressure from managements APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University amended the year-out system and relaxed minimum credit requirement for registration to the fifth semester and seventh semester only. IT@school has been converted into Kerala Infrastructure and Technology company (KITE) for the implementation of the General Education Rejuvenation Mission. A total of 330 Government schools will be raised to international standard.
Time of flux
A Testing times ahead for UDF as JDU and KC (M) gravitate towards CPM. Both JDU and KC (M) bosses reckon their sons’ political future is safer in LDF hands than a wobbly UDF. A distraught UDF has to rev up its campaign against LDF and brace for LS elections early 2019. Congress and CPM will shadow-box in Kerala and Tripura, reconciled to the fact that they have to jointly stop the BJP juggernaut. CPM 22nd party congress in Hyderabad April 18-22 will hopefully end its ambivalence towards Congress and firm up on a clear strategy. Muslim League will increasingly come under fringe snipers.
Dr T.M. Thomas Isaac will have no choice but to reinvent himself in 2018. The Marxist with the gambler’s instinct to spend will have to exhibit a monkish restraint. The 15th Finance Commission is expected to cause serious discomfort to Isaac by compressing fiscal deficit targets to below 2 from the existing 3 percent. There will also be an alarming dip in revenue. GST will be less of a trouble, since any losses on that score will be compensated by the Centre. It is the recession that has set in by the middle of 2017 that will rob him of funds. People will spend less, and the state’s coffers will be left poorer. Isaac’s 2018 riddle would be how to up social spending when resources vanish and spending is curtailed. The implementation of e-way bills from February 1 could boost GST revenue. But Isaac’s redemption lies in KIIFB, if infra projects worth at least Rs 2,000 crore become operational next fiscal.
Diminishing overseas job prospectus in the Gulf countries owing to localisation and falling oil prices leaves a cold stare at the state’s economy. It is high time initiatives are made to explore other foreign job avenues for the Malayali work force. As the initiatives by the successive state governments for NRKs’ welfare were so far limited only to loan schemes and meagre assistants, the upcoming Loka Kerala Sabha being serious discussions. NRKs hope their concerns may get better traction as they also get voting rights soon.
All good work being done by the police often goes into oblivion with one instance of police excess. There was no respite in allegations of police excess during 2017 also. Brutal attack on two transgender persons allegedly by cops in Kozhikode last week and the suicide of Dalit youth Vinayakan in Thrissur, allegedly following police torture, were instances that put the police on the defensive. The police complaints authority and human-rights commissions were flooded with complaints of police excess. Hence the million dollar question for the cops for 2018 is: Will it be Year of end of police violence.
Unless the garbage dumps in the state’s marquee destinations are cleared, and the roads that lead to them are freed of their craters, the state’s tourism sector cannot hope to increase tourist footfalls to the state even by a fraction. But a step could be taken in the right direction in 2018. The first carrying capacity study of all major tourism destinations in the state will be conducted this year. With traditional bread and breakfast tourists having virtually abandoned the state, 2018 will witness the tourism sector focusing more on the MICE sector. The revival of liquor trade could nudge things in the state’s favour. The state might also witness the introduction of a new tourism product in 2018, the mythological tourism as exemplified by Jatayu Rock in Kollam district. 2018 will also be the year when the Responsible Tourism movement will get a pan-Kerala appeal.
Death on the tarmac
The road accident rate, after a decline, has been reversed. The number of road accidents was 40,346 in 2013, in the subsequent years it went up to 41,096 in 2014, 43,735 in 2015 and 44,108 in 2016. While increasing vehicular population and disproportionate roads were often cited by enforcement agencies as a justification for the uptick, the accident statistics published by the state police itself reveals that fault on the part of drivers is the reason for over 90 percent accidents. Hence the effective enforcement of traffic rules could reverse the fatal trend. 2017 witnessed the death of a Tamil Nadu native after being denied emergency care at many hospitals. The government subsequently put in place some measures to ensure emergency care to accident victims with in the golden hours. The results of such initiative should hopefully reflect in 2018.