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Kerala's health model vs UP's 'thok do' model: Why Yogi won't recall Niti Aayog ranking

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat* 

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath has been claiming that the UP model has become ‘ideal’ for the rest of the country. The darbari media has called it one of the best governed States. As the first phase of elections in Uttar Pradesh has completed, things do not seem to be rosy for the ruling BJP, despite the fact that its leaders, including Prime Minister, have made all out effort to polarise people for electoral gains.
Yogi's comment that he wouldn't like Uttar Pradesh to become Kashmir, Bengal or Kerala may appear to be ‘fascinating’ to some, but for the rest of the world, which knows facts, he exhibits utter ignorance. He would just need to refer to what the Government of India's own NITI Ayog has said many a time.
Interestingly, during his election campaign in Kerala, Yogi spoke in the same vein -- that UP’s health system is the best in India, and Kerala must learn from it. People of Kerala outrightly rejected his politics and ‘sermons’, and so did those in West Bengal. He has been a ‘star campaigner’ for his party, but right now is stuck in UP and is unable to campaign in other States also going to polls -- which says a lot about his ‘confidence’ level.
No doubt, the BJP leadership has been making deliberate use of polarising tactics. It is seeking to create a ‘sub-nationalist’ strain wherever it suits its interests. What worries them is Hindus and Muslims appear to be joining hands in UP this time.
Hence, there are efforts to whip up the hijab controversy, or invoking of the Kashmir issue -- all of it to create a sense of ‘insecurity’ among people. It is quite in line with Modi during the December 2002 Gujarat elections whipping up 'Pakistan’ and 'Mian Musharraf’ to attack Muslims, and calling chief election commissioner JM Lingdoh as James Michael Lingdoh, deliberately raising fingers at his faith.
I was born in UP and can say for sure that it is not all negative there. It’s a State which played a major role during the freedom movement. Later, it gave strength to Baba Saheb Ambedkar becoming the best hope for political success of the Ambedkarite polity. It is a State where Dalits and backward classes have gained in political leadership. Hindutva forces are unhappy exactly with this.
However, you will not become anti-UP if you accept that UP cannot stand anywhere near Kerala, Tamilnadu, Maharashtra or Punjab in developmental indices. All these and many other State have performed fairly well in health, education and agricultural sectors. The social justice record of Tamil Nadu exceeds any other State. Kerala remains perhaps the best State in terms of health and education.
The Kerala-Uttar Pradesh comparison is not being explored for the first time. The most fascinating analysis is by Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze in their book "Indian Development" way back in 1997. The contrast is remarkable and will not really ‘gladden’ the heart of those who vouch for the ‘thok do' model of the current UP government. They write:
“Kerala's achievements in the social fields have been quite remarkable, including an achieved life expectancy of well over 72 years (69 for males and 74 for females by 1991) that compares well with China's (69 years) and South Korea's (71 years) achievements, despite the much greater economic advancement of these other countries.
"At the other end, Uttar Pradesh remains one of the most backward states in India, and had this state of 140 million people been an independent country, it would have been not only one of the largest, but also one of the most socially deprived countries in this world—giving its citizens less than some of the worst-performing economies in sub-Saharan Africa. We have to ask why—and to what extent—Kerala has succeeded, and why Uttar Pradesh has failed so badly in precisely those fields.”

I want to explain further as to what Prof Sen says about Kerala if it were a separate country; its life expectancy would be comparable to China and South Korea, one of the best. If UP were to be a separate nation, its economic performance would be worse than Sub-Saharan countries.
One can argue that the Amartya Sen-Jean Dreze work is of late 1990s. Over the years, health and education have deteriorated further in UP. There has been mushrooming of private schools, and the condition of government schools has worsened.
The health sector crisis is far bigger. The primary health centres are neglected. The State administration stood fully exposed during the Corona crisis. Despite the fact that UP claims to have increased the number of medical colleges in every district, all this is in the private sector, and health remains the core concern for people, as private health services remain out of bound for even the middle classes.
Southern India, on the other hand, has been out of bound for BJP and the only State where it has been able to enter in is Karnataka. It failed miserably in Tamil Nadu and Kerala though the party’s leadership tried to create the same type of narrative as they have been able to in various northern Indian States.
South India has progressed more because of politics of social justice and inclusiveness. Kerala and Tamil Nadu today are the best governed States 
In Karanatka too the party is facing serious crisis as there is nothing that the party can show as ‘achievement’. In the southern part of Karnataka, the party is following the UP model of vilifying the minorities, but indications have emerged, it will only ultimately boomerang.
South India has progressed more because of politics of social justice and inclusiveness. Kerala and Tamil Nadu today are the best governed States of India and are attracting foreign investment. Both the states have shown how Christians and Muslims can live in harmony with their Hindu counterparts, and none feel threatened or challenged. There is no fight on what you eat or what is being cooked by your neighbour. Nobody feels threatened by an azaan or ringing bells of church.
In fact, most of these States are ideal examples of the idea of an inclusive India. Kerala is the best example of religious diversity in India. According to some accounts, Christianity and Islam came to Kerala much before they reached several European countries. And Bengal has been the vanguard of our inclusive culture, where large number of people from UP and Bihar have found employment for generations.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinyari Vijayan has rightly responded to Yogi in a tweet, stating, "If UP turns into Kerala as @myogiadityanath fears, it will enjoy the best education, health services, social welfare, living standards and have a harmonious society in which people won't be murdered in the name of religion and caste. That's what the people of UP would want.”
Yogi on many other occasions has spoken about UP model, but no one knows what he meant by it -- a ‘health’ model or a ‘thok do’ model. A lot has been spoken about UP’s law and order situation. In Unnao, Hathras, Agra and many places victims of violence are running from pillar to post.
Whether mistakenly or deliberately, Yogi’s statement has only created embarrassment for him and his ‘advisers’. Kerala remains the best-performing State in health indicators for the fourth consecutive time, according to Niti Aayog. It ranked UP at the very bottom. Kerala got a score of 82.2 and UP, 30.57 — a difference of 51.63 points.
UP can learn from the Kerala model of politics, too. The coalition politics in Kerala is a great example of how they are cemented and can remain intact over a period of time. On the other hand, UP's maverick and self-serving politicians have actually undone the social justice agenda as they can make and unmake any coalition on the eve of the elections.
Kerala’s welfare model includes social coalition offering possibility of representation to various marginalised and minority communities. It grew because of full participation of minorities in its growth. In UP, minorities continue to be vilified, resulting in nearly 20% of the State's citizens feeling threatened and outside the developmental paradigm.
---
*Human rights defender. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vbrawat. Twitter: @freetohumanity

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