Kerala, historically known as Keralam, is an Indian state in South India on the Malabar coast. It was formed on 1 November 1956 following the States Re -organisation Act by combining Malayalam-speaking regions. Spread over 38,863 km2 (15,005 sq mi), it is bordered by Karnataka to the north and northeast, Tamil Nadu to the east and south, and the Lakshadweep Sea to the west. With 33,387,677 inhabitants as per the 2011 Census, Kerala is the thirteenth-largest state by population and is divided into 14 districts with the capital being Thiruvananthapuram. Malayalam is the most widely spoken language and is also the official language of the state.
The region has been a prominent spice exporter since 3000 BCE. The Chera Dynasty was the first prominent kingdom based in Kerala, though it frequently struggled against attacks by the neighbouring Cholas and Pandyas. In the 15th century, the spice trade attracted Portuguese traders to Kerala, and paved the way for the European colonisation of India. After independence,Travancore and Cochin joined the Republic of India and Travancore-Cochin was given the status of a state in 1949. In 1956, Kerala state was formed by merging Malabar district, Travancore-Cochin (excluding four southern taluks), and the taluk of Kasargod, South Kanara.
Kerala has the lowest positive population growth rate in India, 3.44%; highest Human Development Index (HDI), 0.790 in 2011; the highest literacy rate, 93.91% in the 2011 census; the highest life expectancy, 77 years; and the highest sex ratio, 1,084 women per 1000 men. The state has witnessed significant emigration, especially to Arab states of the Persian Gulf during the Gulf Boom of the 1970’s and early 1980’s, and its economy depends significantly on remittances from a large Malayali expatriate community. Hinduism is practiced by more than half of the population, followed by Islam and Christianity. The culture is a synthesis of Aryan and Dravidian cultures, developed over millennia, under influences from other parts of India and abroad.
The production of pepper and natural rubber contributes significantly to the total national output. In the agricultural sector,coconut, tea, coffee, cashew and spices are important. The state’s coastline extends for 595 kilometers (370 mi), and around 1.1 million people in the state are dependent on the fishery industry which contributes 3% to the state’s income. The state has the highest media exposure in India with newspapers publishing in nine languages, mainly English and Malayalam. Kerala is one of the prominent tourist destinations of India, with backwaters, beaches, Ayurvedic tourism and tropical greenery as its major attractions.
Government and administration
Kerala hosts two major political alliances: the United Democratic Front (UDF), led by the Indian National Congress; and the Left Democratic Front (LDF), led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)). As of 2016, the LDF is the ruling coalition; Pinarayi Vijayan of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is the Chief Minister, while Ramesh Chennithala of the UDF is the Leader of Opposition. Strikes, protests and marches are ubiquitous in Kerala because of the comparatively strong presence of labour unions. According to the Constitution of India, Kerala has a parliamentary system of representative democracy; universal suffrage is granted to residents. The government is organised into the three branches:
- Legislature: The unicameral legislature, the Kerala Legislative Assembly popularly known as Niyamasabha, comprises elected members and special office bearers; the Speaker and Deputy Speaker elected by the members from among themselves. Assembly meetings are presided over by the Speaker and in the Speaker’s absence, by the Deputy Speaker. The state has 140 assembly constituencies. The state elects 20 and 9 members for representation in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha respectively.
- Executive: The Governor of Kerala is the constitutional head of state, and is appointed by the President of India. P Sathasivam is the Governor of Kerala.The executive authority is headed by the Chief Minister of Kerala, who is the head of government and is vested with extensive executive powers; the head of the majority party in the Legislative Assembly is appointed to the post by the Governor.The Council of Ministers has its members appointed by the Governor, taking the advice of the Chief Minister.The executive administration is based in Thiruvananthapuram at State Secretariat complex. Each district has a district administrator appointed by government called District collector for executive administration. Auxiliary authorities known as panchayats, for which local body elections are regularly held, govern local affairs.
- Judiciary: The judiciary consists of the Kerala High Court and a system of lower courts.The High Court, located in Kochi,has a Chief Justice along with 23 permanent and seven additional pro tempore justices as of 2012. The high court also hears cases from the Union Territory of Lakshadweep.
The local government bodies; Panchayat, Municipalities and Corporations have existed in Kerala since 1959, however, the major initiative to decentralise the governance was started in 1993, conforming to the constitutional amendments of central government in this direction. With the enactment of Kerala Panchayati Raj Act and Kerala Municipality Act in 1994, the state implemented reforms in local self-governance. The Kerala Panchayati Raj Act envisages a 3-tier system of local government with Gram panchayat, Block panchayat and District Panchayat forming a hierarchy.The acts ensure a clear demarcation of power among these institutions.However, the Kerala Municipality Act envisages a single-tier system for urban areas, with the institution of municipality designed to par with the Gram panchayat of the former system. Substantial administrative, legal and financial powers are delegated to these bodies to ensure efficient decentralisation.As per the present norms, the state government devolves about 40 per cent of the state plan outlay to the local government.