Flying Kerala

Binoo K John Jul 16, 2012, 12.00AM IST

With two more airports,[total 5 airports] Keralites go sky-high

Kerala will soon have five airports. That is just half the number of good bus terminals the state has. It will also be the first state where more people use planes than buses to go to their place of work. In Kerala, people use buses only to go to the place of their next protest.
The fifth airport will be a private sector airport which will be equidistant from Kochi and Trivandrum airports. This airport will cater mostly to the high-flying crowd which visits Sabarimala temple every year. The fourth airport is coming up almost equidistant from Kozhikode and Mangalore. A pilot levelling his plane for landing will be spoilt for choice and utterly confused.
Kerala does not create jobs, it only creates job-seekers. Keralites have over the years got used to the idea that unless you work in any of the Gulf states, you haven't really worked. A majority of those who go to the Gulf are semi-skilled or unskilled labour. However, they sent back Rs 50,000 crore last year which formed 22% of Kerala's GDP. So it makes good sense to build airports so that more of its brave sons can toil in the deserts of Middle East and build great cities there, sending back their hard-earned money to a state starved of industry and jobs.
The entire growth story of Kerala is a bit skewed. It goes against all accepted notions of growth and social well-being. The state itself is in bad shape with infrastructure in ruinous condition while the government is busy paving roads leading to the airports with marble. This is the only case of a government encouraging its sons and daughters (nurses) to go abroad rather than creating the infrastructure back home to help them work in their homeland.
There is also a grim irony here. While Keralites try to get a visa in between shouting slogans at district collectorates every day, there are no takers for unskilled and semi-skilled jobs in Kerala. Agricultural labour does not exist, and cynics can argue neither does agriculture (cash crops being an exception). There is no one even to climb coconut trees and pluck the famous fruits of this fabled land. So unskilled and semi-skilled labour has to be imported from Orissa and West Bengal.
However, the beautiful state has sold its beauty well and tourism is flourishing as nowhere in India. Tourism infrastructure is with five-star hotels and resorts dotting its silvery sands and green backwaters.
Five-star resorts are cheek-a-jowl with medieval temples, glitzy new mosques built with Middle East money and churches, all of which offer miracles of any kind forcing even the private jets of corporate India to land there quite often. Millions from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and Karnataka come to pray at the Sabarimala temple and go back to work in their state. Keralites too pray for miracles but the place where they want those miracles to happen is Qatar or Dubai.
A few months from now, the Kerala government is hosting a jamboree for its millionaire sons. While the millionaires from the Gulf and the US will be happy to be garlanded in the land of Marx, they more than anyone else will know better than to put their money in Kerala. No industry has flourished in Kerala where the rump of the working age population that could not make its way to the many airports and fly away has become nihilistic and contrarian bringing down every potential industry with a vengeance. From an investor's point of view, it is the Devil's own country.
But no Keralite millionaire is bothered. They all know they can walk to the nearest airport and fly away to their El Dorados in the desert.