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Development as a right to freedom: An interpretation of the 'Kerala Model'


  • K.P. Kannan

    () (Centre for Development Studies)

  • N. Vijayamohanan Pillai

    () (Centre for Development Studies)


Our objectives in this paper are two-fold: an interpretation of the conception of poverty in its multidimensional existence and an explanation in this light of the development experiences of the State of Kerala in India. We discuss the various implications of the links and linkages among human rights, freedom and development to develop a theoretical framework. Within this, we start from the original conception of poverty in terms of minimum rights to resources, by which people are seen as entitled, as citizens, to a minimum income. We extend it to the comprehensive conception of development as freedom, a la AK Sen, approaching poverty in terms of right to freedom. We argue that political freedom has substantial linkages towards social and economic freedom, all together constituting development, seen as `removal of major sources of unfreedom' of both income and non-income dimensions. In the hard core constitution of development/poverty, seen in terms of the most basic human right to life, the former (income dimension) specifies the right to resources, and thus to employment guarantee, while the latter signifies the right to building up human capital by means especially of health and education. This highlights the significance of the role of the state in opening up opportunities, that is, creating capabilities. Here individual freedom is taken up as a social commitment. We argue that community participation in development process through decentralisation of state power and functionings constitutes an autonomous and hence ideal means of targeting and tackling development issues through co-operatives. This in turn implies that the degree of decentralisation of power of a state is an indicator of its concern for and commitment to human development. This all the more becomes pertinent in the context of liberalisation drives by a state in its teleological transformation of role reduction. And the liberalisation drives by the concerned state thus imply a human rights violation. It is in this theoretical light that we attempt to interpret the `Kerala Model'.

Suggested Citation

  • K.P. Kannan & N. Vijayamohanan Pillai, 2004. "Development as a right to freedom: An interpretation of the 'Kerala Model'," Centre for Development Studies, Trivendrum Working Papers 361, Centre for Development Studies, Trivendrum, India.
  • Handle: RePEc:ind:cdswpp:361

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. K.P. Kannan & N. Vijayamohanan Pillai, 2001. "The political economy of public utilities: A study of the power sector," Centre for Development Studies, Trivendrum Working Papers 316, Centre for Development Studies, Trivendrum, India.
    2. Streeten, Paul, 1994. "Human Development: Means and Ends," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 232-237, May.
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    More about this item


    Human rights; Poverty; Development; Capability; Freedom; `Kerala Model';

    JEL classification:

    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • H00 - Public Economics - - General - - - General


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