Thiruvananthapuram: The development agenda unveiled by the CPM at the 4th International Congress on Kerala Studies is a well-meaning roadmap for the state to follow if the Left comes to power in the next Assembly elections.
But critics are not sure whether the party will be able to implement the agenda given the past records of Left governments which had squandered the opportunities.
Those on the other side of the political divide believe that the congress was more of a pre-election exercise. "It was a political workshop rather than a development-oriented meeting.
The whole programme was meant for "de-Achuthanandanising" the CPM," said Planning Board member C.P. John. He added that most issues and concerns highlighted in the study congress have already figured in the UDF government's Perspective Plan 2030.
"Dr Thomas Isaac is fond of pamphleteering. This is yet another one ahead of the Assembly elections," Mr John said. "Oommen Chandy has taken huge strides in social security and infrastructure. The CPM has nothing new to suggest," he said.
However, Mr John agreed that though poverty was declining, disparity had grown. "This is a common phenomenon. If zero is equality and 100 inequality, we stand somewhere at 43 and 44. All transformational societies are at 44. But we are looking at the development models of Norway and Finland which focus on more development and democracy and less disparity," he said.
Noted environmentalist R.V.G. Menon does not believe that the study congress was purely an election- oriented political meet.
Wide-ranging deliberations were held on the present state of affairs, opportunities and challenges in each sector. Apart from politically affiliated people, a large number of independent experts too participated in the brainstorming sessions.
The biggest problem with the LDF is that when it comes to power, most of these ideas, vision and recommendations are not implemented.
Environmental issues, protection of paddy fields and wetlands cannot be limited to just discussions. Despite political compulsions and the so-called practical problems, the governments have to make changes to the existing laws, he said.
The experts who participated in the congress were serious-minded, well-meaning and had firm conviction. The political leadership should take their suggestions seriously.
"For instance, education seminars are opposed to commercialisation of education. But when the Left government comes to power, it fails to strike a similar chord," Mr Menon said.
Founder CEO of Technopark, Mr G. Vijayaraghavan said though a lot of positive discussions took place at the congress, there is a gap between what they preach and practice.
Had one of the top CPM leaders not taken a negative stand in the early 90s, the US-based leading data storage company, Seagate, would have set up its unit here, he recollected. Seven years ago when the LDF was in power, the state lost a top semi-conductor fab unit.
“Now driverless cars are coming. What will be our stand if the technology deprives drivers of jobs? Will we support or oppose it?” he asked.
Uber Taxis were being opposed despite Malayalis getting job opportunities. Why is the CPM allowing organised groups to hold the rest of the state to ransom? We talk big things about research but there is no attempt to discipline the college teachers.
Vijayaraghavan rejects the charge that Kerala was lagging behind in IT sector compared to Karnataka. "We are growing faster in the IT sector. I had a debate with Thomas Isaac over the phone. I told him we cannot compare Kochi with Bengaluru which had an engineering ecosystem from the time of M. Visvesvarayya. With electrical, mechanical, telephones and information technology systems, Bengaluru had a beautiful pyramid,” he said.
When Smart City came up, the Left leaders branded the promoters as real estate mafia. "This is the kind of unscrupulous stand they take at times," he said.
Mr Vijayaraghavan said the Left cannot move forward without shedding some of its baggage..
The experts believe that had the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) not been opposed earlier, the state would have got a number of IT companies without government investment.
Mr Vijayaraghavan recollected a couple of questions that came up from delegates at the congress. "A delegate wanted to know why Kerala, which was the first to set up Technopark, lagged behind. I told him it was difficult to bring in IT parks and industries because of hartals and agitations. Other states offer better opportunities," he said.
Another wanted to know why trade unions were not being allowed in IT companies. "Trade unions will not succeed in companies that treat their employees decently," he added.
Most experts agreed that a huge effort had been undertaken prior to the study congress to examine each sector minutely. However, one could expect results only if the Left showed the political will to transform these ideas into reality....