KERALA

Houses where nobody lives and the homeless

: The paradoxes in Kerala's urbanisation story are many, but there is none as striking as that in the housing scene.

According to the 2001 Census, the State had an estimated 7.1 lakh homeless and almost an equal number of houses (7.3 lakh) that were unoccupied.

Kerala's housing stock, which was only 66 lakh in 2001, is projected to increase to 83 lakh by end of this fiscal, which would mean that the number of homeless and the vacant houses too would have increased by an equal measure.

The message is simple and clear: amidst proliferation of new constructions, housing inequality is widening in the State.

On call

But there is no such divide when it comes to tele-density. Kerala may well have crossed the threshold of 100 per cent tele-density earlier this year, the first Indian State to achieve the feat.

In March, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had pegged Kerala's telephone penetration at 85 per cent, way above the national average of 56.83 per cent.

Of nearly 2.75 crore telephone connections in the State, 2.4 crore are mobile connections and 35 lakh are landline phones.

Another puzzle

How a society which has a poverty ratio of 20.6 per cent, according to the 2004-'05 61 {+s} {+t} round survey by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), could be using so many mobile phones is yet another puzzle.

The NSSO figures, quoted in the Economic Review 2010, show that at 20 per cent in 2000, the level of unemployment in Kerala was the second highest in the entire country.

Cushions

But, it appears there are cushions in the social and economic fabric of Kerala, that prevent such high level of unemployment (or under-employment) resulting in widespread social unrest.

Kerala is going in for massive infrastructure projects such as the north-south railway corridor, the Kochi Metro, the mono rail project in the State capital and the Kannur international airport besides the long-awaited Vizhinjam seaport.

The kind of investment that these projects would require and the way they would, if and when they materialise, change the very complexion of life in Kerala.

Will they bridge the divide or rip them off wider is the million rupee question.

CGN

The message is simple and clear: amidst proliferation of new constructions, housing inequality is widening in the State.

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