COVID-19: Social democracy and dividends for Kerala

  • IASbaba
  • April 18, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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Topic: General Studies 2 & 3:

  • Devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein. 
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors 
  • The role of NGOs, SHGs and various groups

COVID-19: Social democracy and dividends for Kerala

Context: Kerala was the first State with a recorded case of coronavirus 

Given Kerala’s population density, deep connections to the global economy and the high international mobility of its citizens, it was primed to be COVID-19 hotspot.

However, Kerala has been able to effectively contain the pandemic leading to flattened coronavirus curve (refer the image below).

Daily Current Affairs IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 18th April 2020

Daily Current Affairs IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 18th April 2020

Image Source: India Today

Kerala’s ability to effectively tackle crisis is attributed to its robust Social Democracy

What is Social Democracy and what are its features?

  • Social democracies are built on an encompassing social pact with a political commitment to providing basic welfare and broad-based opportunity to all citizens
  • It supports practical, progressive reforms of capitalism (free-market economy) and is more concerned to administrate and humanize it — a key difference with Socialism which detests free-market economy
  • The emphasis is on State interventions to promote Social Justice — a key difference with Capitalism
  • Presence of vibrant Civil Society and robust institutions that checks State’s actions
  • Values of Liberalism, tolerance and decentralisation is promoted
  • Treats people not as subjects or clients, but as rights-bearing citizens.
  • Social Democracy can thus be considered as mid-path between Socialism and Capitalism. 
  • Majority of countries in the world have adopted this model with the differing inclination towards free-market economy or State interference

How did Social Democratic Culture emerge in Kerala?

It emerged from recurrent episodes of popular mobilisation 

  • Temple entry movement of the 1930s
  • Peasant and workers’ movements in the 1950s and 1960s, 
  • Mass literacy movement in the 1980s, 
  • Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad (KSSP)-led movement for people’s decentralised planning in the 1990s
  • Recent gender and environmental movements

Advantages of Social Democracy- which is reflected in the state of Kerala

  • Nurtures a strong sense of social citizenship 
  • Builds Institutions: Social Democracy drives reforms that strengthens the legal and institutional capacity for public action
  • Emphasis on rights-based welfare instead of clientele/patronage based welfare
  • Reinforces a vibrant, organised civil society which demands continuous accountability from authority
  • It pressures all governments, regardless of the political party in power, to deliver public services and to constantly expand the social safety net.
  • Pressurises to empower local government – Nowhere in India are local governments as resourced and as capable as in Kerala
  • Generalised Trust on the State, which enables heightened compliance with State’s directives

How was Kerala able to manage the pandemic effectively?

  • Due to its strong Social Democratic Culture, the government was able to
    • Convince citizens to comply with State’s directives (Enhanced Trust on State)
    • Quickly mobilise financial and societal resources – Announced COVID-19 package much ahead of National relief package 
    • Smoothly coordinate across multiple authorities and jurisdictions – Creation of State response team that coordinated 18 different functional teams
  • Effective Communication: Daily press conferences with the public by CM to ensure the connect with public and to remind the public that virus does not discriminate, destigmatising the pandemic.
  • Social Issue: Government emphasised lockdown response was less an enforcement issue than about people’s participation
  • Leverage a broad and dense health-care system: Despite the recent growth of private health services, Kerala has maintained a robust public presence. 
  • Taking into the confidence the front-line workers: Kerala’s public health-care workers are highly unionised and organised which made the government lay emphasis on protecting the health of first responders.
  • Highly mobilised civil society- As the cases multiplied, the government called on two lakh volunteers to go door to door, identifying those at risk and those in need.
  • Food Needs taken care of:  Government was able to deliver three lakh meals a day through Kudumbasree (Self-Help group) community kitchens 
  • Last Mile Care: Two decades of empowering local governments in Kerala enabled in focalising containment efforts in hotspots


  • The pandemic is a physical exam of the social body, and never has public trust been put to a greater test.
  • Kerala has managed the crisis by building on legacies of egalitarianism, social rights and public trust

Connecting the dots:

  • Socialism with Chinese characteristics
  • Delhi model of development (during AAP government’s tenure)  

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