Vishnu Karuthodi中传 人类命运共同体研究院昨天

12 March 2020: A staff member inside an empty classroom of a school in Kochi, after the Kerala state government ordered schools across the state to close because of coronavirus fears.(Reuters/ Sivaram V) 
2020年3月12日,一名教职人员在科钦一所学校的空教室里。此前,出于对新冠病毒的恐惧,喀拉拉邦政府下令关闭全邦的学校。(路透社/Sivaram V)

    The novel coronavirus poses a serious threat to the very foundations of modern civilisations. The speed at which the infectious disease spread and the lack of a proper scientific remedy to curb it resulted in diverse responses and repercussions around the world. Even the wealthy, prosperous first world nations have had a little success in containing the pandemic. With their hospitals overwhelmed with patients and death toll increasing dramatically, the chronic incompetence of states were exposed.

    Contrary to the expectations, and to the surprise of the world, there emerged places in the less developed third world countries which tackled this menace to a much better degree with their innovative, swift and highly organized responses. To battle a pandemic of diverse dimensions, it is often not just the wealth and infrastructure that suffice; political systems, their inherent nature and priorities matter significantly.


    Kerala, a south western state of India, has received much appreciation and attention from all over the world for its proactive measures to curb the spread of COVID 19 with its leftist government at the helm.


Although it is populated with 36 million – almost as same as Canada – its death tolls are single in numbers and has about 1 case per 100,000 of its population[1]. Kerala has successfully addressed the pandemic so far and has geared up its mechanisms to handle the upcoming and unprecedented challenges.  



Glimpses From the Past


    Victor M Fic, Czech political scientist and orientalist called Kerala the ‘Yenan of India’, in his book published in 1970 [2]. The birth place of Communist Party of India in 1939, Kerala became a strong hold of left politics in the coming decades. Overcoming two centuries of colonization and exploitation, India became independent in1947 and chose to follow the democratic system of governance. Communist parties also went into the election foray and won the first election in the newly born state of Kerala in 1957, and became the world’s first democratically elected communist government[3]. Since the 1950s, the communists have held power for more than 30 years forming different governments, including the present Left Democratic Front since 2016.

    捷克政治学家和东方学家维克多·M·菲茨在他1970年出版的一本书中称喀拉拉邦为“印度的延安”。该邦是印度共产党1939年的诞生地,在其后几十年中成为左翼政治的一个强大阵地。历经两个世纪的被殖民与被剥削,印度于1947年独立,并选择遵循民主治理制度。共产党也参加了选举,并在1957年新诞生的喀拉拉邦一举赢得了首次选举,成为世界上第一个由民主选举产生的共产党政府。自上世纪50年代以来,共产党执政30余年,组建了不同的政府,其中包括自2016年以来执政至今的左翼民主阵线(Left Democratic Front)。

    Backed by the leftist movements, these governments have implemented drastic reforms which altered the social fabric of the state. The symbiotic relationship with progressive movements brought sweeping changes in the society. Literacy mission, public library movement, science popularization campaign etc. were encouraged and prioritised by the successive governments. Reform-oriented policies and significant investments in the health, education and social welfare schemes transformed the state from one of the poorest states in post-colonial India to the one with highest literacy rate (93.9 percent), highest life expectancy (77 years) and highest Human Development Index score (0.712 in 2015)[4]. Kerala tops India’s rankings on neonatal mortality, birth immunizations and the availability of specialists at primary-care facilities. It is also known for highly skilled medical staff who are part of hospitals of almost all the wealthier nations around the world.


96-year-old Karthiyani Amma (left) who topped Kerala literacy exam.
九十六岁高龄的Karthiyani Amma(左)在喀拉拉邦读写能力测验中拔得头筹。  

    The state’s exemplary social indicators led to the coinage of ‘Kerala Model’ in the 1970s, to note how a low-income state with high literacy rates and healthy citizens boasted a standard of living comparable to life in the developed nati­ons. In 2018, it earned praise from the World Health Organization for ‘achieving impressive health outcomes at modest incomes compared to the rest of the states in India’[5].

    喀拉拉邦各项堪称典范的社会指标促成了“喀拉拉邦模式” (Kerala Model)一词在上世纪70年代的产生。它描述了一个识字率高、公民健康的低收入邦如何成功拥有堪比发达国家的生活水平。2018年,该邦获得了世界卫生组织的赞扬,因其“与印度其他邦相比,在收入不高的情况下取得了令人印象深刻的健康成果”。


    It is also noteworthy to mention that, at a time when public health systems around the world were neglected as a consequence of financial crisis of 2008-2009, the left government of Kerala between 2006-2011 revamped the public health care system by allocating special financial assistance[6].



Facing a Crisis Together From the Roots


    A number of factors make Kerala more vulnerable to a global pandemic like COVID 19. In terms of its engagement with the world, Kerala is a highly globalised state. It has a considerable number of foreign expats and is a popular destination for international tourists. It is the only state in India with four International airports to its credit. More than 1 million tourists arrive in this coastal state a year, and one sixth of its 36 million citizens are expatriates, and hundreds of its students study in China.  On 30th January, a student of the Wuhan Institute of Medical Sciences who had come back home, tested positive for the novel corona virus, the first ever case reported in India. In the coming days, two more cases appeared, all came back from Wuhan.


In the following days, Kerala came up with mass mobilisation, community intervention, and an effective crisis communication to resist the spread of this foreign imported virus. Days before the Indian government decided to take stringent measures, Kerala opted to go for a state-wide lock down and started conducting tests for its foreign returnees and putting them under quarantine and observation. 



The Kerala government followed an early ‘aggressive’ testing method as recommended by the WHO to test not only people came with symptoms, but those who came in contact with already – infected people, thus surpassing the number of tests conducted by any other Indian states. Government started to prepare and widely circulate detailed route maps of infected persons which helped to identify all the potential suspects and effectively put them under observation hence preventing the community spread of the virus at an early stage itself.



    The campaign ‘Break the Chain’ devised by the health department became much popular. The aim of this campaign was to stop the infection spreading from one person to others, thus breaking the chain, by adhering to personal hygiene and social distancing. Awareness messages and campaigns with the participation of the populace were propagated through traditional and social media to receive much appreciation and cooperation from the people.



    A global pandemic with multitude of socio-cultural and economic dimensions requires much more than mere medical interventions. Thus, preventive measures require community intervention and grassroot mobilisation. With its strong and highly decentralised local administrative institutions, civil society organisations, cooperative societies, youth organisations, and trade unions, Kerala could mobilise its resources from the grassroots towards meeting the crisis. Thousands of volunteers were recruited from the local level to help different departments working to curb the pandemic. Kerala set up an ‘Arogya Sena’ (Health Army) to reach the nook and corner of the state to manage the crisis. These groups prepared hand sanitisers, facemasks and distributed it among the people, and also helped to convert hospitals exclusively for COVID 19 treatments.

    涉及众多社会文化与经济层面的全球流行病需要的不仅仅是医疗干预。因此,预防措施需要包含社区介入和基层动员。喀拉拉邦拥有强大且权力高度下放的地方行政机构、公民社会组织、合作社、青年组织和工会,可从基层调动资源,以应对危机。当地招募了数千名志愿者来协助不同部门遏制疫情。喀拉拉邦建立了一支“健康部队”(Arogya Sena),延伸至邦内的各个角落以处理危机。这些组织准备了洗手液和口罩并分发给群众,此外还帮助医院转型成为新冠肺炎专门治疗点。



To Leave No One Behind


    With the aim of no one goes hungry during the lockdown period, community kitchens were set up throughout the state to cater the needs of weaker sections, serving 2.8 lakh packets of meals a day. These meals were arranged by the local self-governing bodies in association with state’s poverty-alleviating women’s empowerment self-help groups known as ‘Kudumbashree’. The kitchen served the needs of migrant labourers, homeless people and the rehabilitated destitute[7].

    The marginalised section is always the most vulnerable when it comes to a crisis or adversity. While the nationwide lock down created much distress to the migrant labourers in many parts of India, the Kerala government came up with setting 4,600 relief centres for its more than 100,000 migrant labourers to stay in alongside 35 sites for the homeless and destitute. Educational institutions like schools and colleges have been repurposed, and people housed there are provided with essentials like food, masks, soaps, and sanitisers by the government[8].

    Kerala also declared an economic package worth $2.6 billion to fight the pandemic, days before the central government instituted a harsh lockdown that left many states scrambling. The package includes loans to families through the women’s cooperatives, higher allocations for a rural employment guarantee scheme, two months of pension payments to the elderly, free food grains, and restaurants to provide food at subsidised rates. On the other hand, utility payments for water and electricity as well as interest on debt payments will be extended[9].




Communication During a Pandemic


  The Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan addresses the public with his media briefing at everyday evening. He gives out the vital statistics and highlights the arrangements done by the government so far, and also points out the areas where the state still needs to improve, asking people for their support in the battle against the COVID 19. Tens of thousands of people started to stick to their television sets and mobile phones for this 1-hour program and it turned out to be gaining record viewers for the television channels in history. Apart from this, communication has become a priority and people were given accurate information and guidelines through social media as well as print and broadcast. Health Minister of the state, KK Shailaja teacher spearheaded the efforts showing true statesmanship and winning the trust and love of people. Her exemplary leadership qualities and organisational skills was a blow to the underlying misogynist notion that only men are capable enough to handle crises in an efficient way.  

    喀拉拉邦首席部长皮纳拉伊·维贾扬(Pinarayi Vijayan)在每晚的新闻发布会上向公众发表讲话。他给出了关键性的统计数字,并强调了截至目前政府所做的安排、指出了本邦仍需改进的地方、请求群众为抗击新冠疫情提供支持。成千上万的人们粘着电视与手机观看这1小时的节目,结果,它为该电视频道创下了其观众数量的历史新纪录。此外,交流传播已成为优先事项,人们通过社交媒体及纸媒、广播电视获取精确的信息与指导方针。喀拉拉邦卫生部长KK·莎伊拉贾(KK Shailaja)带头作出努力,显示出真正的政治家风度,赢得了人民的信任和爱戴。她的领导才能与组织能力堪称典范,这是对“只有男性才有能力以有效的方式处理危机”这一根深蒂固的厌女主义观念的一个打击。



Facets of a Health Crisis  


    When a pandemic of this magnitude and severity hits the people, it cannot remain as a simple health problem but it often becomes a fire test of the efficiency and values of our political systems and their ideologies.



    The capitalist societies, which ignored the scale of the problem and decided to run the economy instead of implementing stringent measures paid for their ignorance and choices of priorities. The global neoliberal proponents advocate for a state with minimal powers and bet on the efficiency of the private sector by criticising the government expenditure on public social welfares. For them, government expenditure on public health is considered as a wastage of resources. The COVID 19 pandemic exposes the myth of market serving the needs of a society. The economically less advantaged provinces and nations has shown how effective it is to allocate resources and mobilize masses to achieve social goals. Places like Kerala, where political parties are active with the idea of socialism did prioritise community over individualism, thus summon masses and showed the spirit of volunteerism and collectivism to fight against the virus. Social solidarity, shared interests and a sense of responsibility along with a firm public health care system allows them to confront disasters in a way much better than the wealthy capitalist governments with massive resources.


    A virus, invisible to the naked eyes, has shown us the glitches within our systems and it is high time we try to fix the issues with utmost importance to make our planet habitable for the generations to come.


作者:Vishnu Karuthodi 

(Doctoral Student, Institute of Communication Studies, Communication University of China/中国传媒大学传播研究院印度籍在读博士留学生) 


*文章原标题:脱颖而出的印度喀拉拉邦抗疫模式 | When the Kerala Model Meets the Pandemic  


[1]Hollingsworth, J. (2020, May 13). The way these Indian states handled coronavirus shows where you live matters. CNN. Retrieved fromhttps://edition.cnn.com/2020/05/12/asia/india-coronavirus-kerala-flatten-curve-intl-hnk/index.html

[2]Fic, V. M. (1970). Kerala, Yenan of India: rise of Communist power, 1937-1969. Bombay: Nachiketa Publications.

[3]Lal, A. (2017, April 5). On 60th anniversary of EMS’s govt, some lessons. The Indian EXPRESS. Retrieved fromhttps://indianexpress.com/article/explained/in-fact-on-60th-anniversary-of-emss-govt-some-lessons-4599878/

[4]Prashad, V. (2017, May 31). Kerala, An Island In A Sea of Bigotry? The Citizen. Retrieved fromhttps://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/4/10834/Kerala-An-Island-In-A-Sea-of-Bigotry

[5]Jacob, J. (2020, April 27). How Kerala flattened the curve. INDIA TODAY.

[6]Chowdhury, A. (2020, April 9). Kerala Covid-19 Response Model for Emulation. INTER PRESS SERVICE. Retrieved fromhttps://www.ipsnews.net/2020/04/kerala-covid-19-response-model-emulation/

[7]Community kitchens dish out 2.8 lakh food packets a day in Kerala. (n.d.). YOURSTORY. Retrieved fromhttps://yourstory.com/2020/04/coronavirus-community-kitchen-kerela-food-packets

[8]Raghavan, V. (2020, April 15). “Physical Distance, Social Unity”: How India’s Red State Got on Top of Coronavirus. TRIBUNE. Retrieved fromhttps://tribunemag.co.uk/2020/04/physical-distance-social-unity-how-indias-red-state-got-on-top-of-coronavirus

[9]Gill, P. (2020, March 19). While PM Modi called for a 'janata curfew', the Kerala government implemented some serious steps. BUSINESS INSIDER. Retrieved fromhttps://www.businessinsider.in/india/news/while-pm-modi-called-for-a-janata-curfew-the-kerala-government-implemented-some-serious-steps/articleshow/74717250.cms