Rebuilding Kerala with tech
Ravages of the August floods are writ large across the state's backbone, which calls for a 'Grand Kerala Transport Trail' for better connectivity in keeping with the potential for the state to emerge as an important tourist destination in South Asia.
The state government has officially launched a Rebuild Kerala Initiative after the August floods. Discussions continue on how to design the future of the state. Here is a wish list of projects which seek to integrate Kerala's strengths with the advancements in technology.
The 'Transport Trail' should link up tourist destinations, heritage centres, cultural hubs, landmarks of historic epoch, lush green forests, lakes and hills and other splendours of Kerala. This trail will be serviced by multimodal transportation network of roads, smart water highways, cable trams and helicopter services. The trail will have wayside amenities and communication network. Given the state's urban-rural continuum, village roads, district roads, state highways and national highways shall be upgraded, interlinked and modernised. This has to be treated a centrally-sponsored scheme.
e-Governance: For the speedy and effective delivery of public services through the application of information and communication technology, e-governance will be introduced in a time bound manner.
Total digital literacy: To be in tune with the times and equip the individual to find, evaluate, produce and communicate clear information through writing and other forms of communication on various digital platforms, a campaign for total digital literacy should be launched in Kerala.
Digital transformation: Considering the e-readiness of Kerala, the ICT ecosystem may be developed by ensuring convergence of different spheres of life with ICT, igniting a series of innovations, new markets and applications. Potential opportunities the world over should be identified and tapped to the optimum for the state to leapfrog in the IT sector.
Focus on tech-based agriculture: Integrated farming with focus on organic farming, hi-tech, precision, vertical, homestead and group farming will help arrest the dec line in cultivation. Agri preneurialship is the key. Also crucial is a farm-to-home network utilising ICT, especially an online marketing portal. Adeq uate cold storage and logistics facilities will salvage the farm sector.
To attract new generation to farming, school farms shall be encouraged and farming included as a project work for which marks will be awarded in the exams.
It is proposed to accelerate the pace of appropriate mechanisation. Major players have to be encouraged to produce farm machinery appropriate to the terrain and special needs of the State.
Knowledge-based industries: Realising that sustainable industrial prosperity of Kerala can best be achieved by creating a competitive environment to foster knowledge-intensive, environment friendly, resource-based and demand-based industry imbibing the spirit of the Prime Minister's Make in India campaign, Make in Kerala Parks are mooted in three districts as special investment and manufacturing zones on the lines of the National Investment Manufactur-ing Zones.
An enabling eco system shall be created to improve the environment for ease of business. Shun restrictive practices and free the industrial sector freed from low productivity trap. Laws regulating industrial relations shall be reviewed and modified to suit the needs of the time.
Healthcare hub: Three districts can be developed as global health care hubs, giving the impetus to leading medical institutions to set up hospitals and research establishments. Mobile health care units and hospitals-on-wheels are integral to the hubs.
Education as a new stream: To promote world class education services, link academia with industry and turn knowledge capital to income generation, special education zones shall be set up. This will help develop Kerala as a global education hub and attract premier universities and educational service providers to open their campuses in Kerala.
Tapping the synergy in priorities of the Centre and the state government to provide houses for all, a nodal institution has to be established as a delivery system for single window back-up services for affordable housing in each district.
As a means of rehabilitating flood survivors, well-to-do sections of society and NRKs could adopt affected families and sponsor new houses for them on a direct to beneficiary (D2B) basis.
Each district has to evolve into a core district for a specific economic activity and world class facilities have to be made available promoting activities to meet global standards. The core district will serve as the central hub and adjoining districts as spokes. For instance, Ernakulam for ICT and industries, Kozhikodebusiness and commerce, Alappuzha agriculture, Kottayam health care and Idukki food processing.
The role of the homemaker needs to be revisited and valued. Her work at home should be quantified and remunerated. To ensure women's empowerment and provide security for them in old age, a notional wage will be fixed for the domestic work done by them. They have discretion to waive it if they are taken care of well during their old age. If not, they can claim the amount from the spouse, children and arrange for their old age care.
To make use of Kerala's human capital and facilitate the change from livelihood approach to entrepreneurial appr-oach, skill development and capacity building shall be taken up with the global market in perspective. Training in nursing and paramedical sciences, teaching, construction and other vocational fields may be upgraded to meet global requirements.
In the backdrop of euphoria created by the sterling performance of Kerala's sportspersons, all-out efforts will be made to spot promising young talents in sports and games, train them and develop them into sportsmen of international standards with the ultimate objective of successfully participating in the Olympics.
Building on the environmental consciousness of the new generation, a project may be launched to turn the villages into eco-villages where environment-friendly living and cleanliness will be the focus. In the first phase, it is proposed to develop hundred such eco villages in the state.
Considering the increasing demand for workers with specialised skills in parts of the country, it is proposed to impart effective training to the youth and equip them to capture the employment market in various states and augment the economic base of the state. This needs an Interstate Placement Board.
To make use of Kerala's human capital and facilitate the change from livelihood approach to entrepreneurial approach, skill development and capacity building shall be taken up with the global market in perspective.
Training in nursing and paramedical sciences, teaching, construction and other vocational fields may be upgraded to meet global requirements and overcome the skill deficit.
Institutions of international standard shall be set up in the state in vocational areas with vast potential to capture the global employment market. A cadre of top-notch professionals and workforce who would find ready acceptance in the global HR market will be created.
To utilise the potential of the State for the development of meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) tourism concerted efforts have to be made by way of expanding the required infrastructure and organising outreach programmes and road shows to attract group tours.
A global village showcasing the best of Kerala's tradition, culture and heritage will be set up, as a living village where our art forms, textiles, cuisine, folklore, construction styles and related lifestyle aspects can be seen and experienced by visitors. Augmented reality may be used to highlight our heritage and culture.
Real-time accountability for public expenditure may be established through report cards by ministers, social audit, concurrent monitoring, weekly public assessment of government, efficient implementation of anticorruption laws and zero tolerance to corrupt ministers and officials and exemplary punishment to the offenders.
A system to grade the functioning of the various ministries through social media response every three months, will be introduced and corrective and remedial measures taken in respect of departments lagging behind
(The writer was formerly with Indian Administrative Service)