Friday, November 13, 2015


Kerala and Poverty

Prof. Joseph K Alexander
Recently I read an article about poverty in Kerala. It argues that it is a majour concern
and warrant social and economic changes to eliminate it. Eliminating poverty is a mirage
It exist even in the richest society. It is a relative concept. Moreover there is another view
about poverty in Kerala. A couple of decades ago I was introduced to Air vice Marshall
K. A. Joseph in his coupe in the train journey from Ernakulam to Trivandrum. A fortyone
day old strike in Aluva FACT was on. We in our discussions came to this topic. The
Marshall who had seen India in his wide travels said that such a long strike will not
happen in any other part of India. Kerala is God’s own country. Every inch of it is fertile
and produce edible fruits, roots, leaves and meat. Hence even if none of these exist in
your homestead, they are there in the neighbor’s plot of land. Except destitutes, no one
knows the real pinch of hunger in Kerala. Staying power enables the Kerala strikers to
continue it endlessly.
Poverty is a state of the mind. It is an experience of not having; not getting what you
want; what you have a right to get. .Basic needs of life like food, shelter and clothing are
examples. The assumptions are potable water and pollution free air is freely available.
The reality is that they too are now costly. Water cost Rs. 10 a bottle and to get fresh air
you have to incur the cost to go to Sea shores or Silent valley like forests.
Those who do not get enough income to purchase even the basic needs to keep soul and
body together should be said to suffer abject poverty. All others, except monks and
abstinence practitioners, encounter only relative poverty. Economic wants are
necessaries, comforts and luxuries. With increase in income of the consumer, comforts
escalate into necessaries and luxuries into comforts. In Kerala electric fans have become
necessary and motor cars and mobile phones have slided into comforts.
Physical needs like minimum food, clothing, shelter and sex are easily satisfied. The rest
are psychological needs. Full satisfaction of them is impossible. A feeling of not getting
wants is relative poverty. This can be due to the relatively very low income of the
individual or awareness that he has a right to get them and not getting them or again an
understanding that others relatively have and enjoy them.
The pinch of such poverty depends on the percentile income band of a social group vis-avis
of the individual’s income. A person getting a higher income than that of those in a
group can maintain a higher level of consumption pattern and feel himself to be very rich.
If the same person moves his residence to a higher income group locality, his
consumption basket is relatively less than that of others in the group. He realizes that he
is poorer. He suffers relative poverty. Such poverty exist at all times and in all societies
and countries; rich and poor.
One who practices abstinence in his wants for short or long periods, as monks do, they do
not experience poverty. During lent periods or Ramadan month those who practice them
do not consider them to be suffering from poverty.
In the light of these facts “below poverty line” (BPL) concept looses its significance.
BPL and APL (“above poverty line”) are conceptual attempts to measure the number of
poor who require anti-poverty help. It is calculated by the minimum income necessary to
consume 2500 calorie of food per day. This income varies with the price level. Those
who have that income are APL and others come in the BPL category. When India became
independent more than 50 % of the population was in the BPL group. The Planning
Commission of India claims that because of economic planning and the resultant
economic growth income has increased. Now only 28 % or around alone are in the BPL
group. But many argue that BPL calculation criteria must be changed. With growing
income, literacy and awareness, the criteria must be enlarged to include good food,
decent shelter, clothing, health care and education facilities, freedom of expression etc;
If this is adopted, more than 60 % of the population will come under the BPL category.
This calculation of BPL in the light of the provision of food security for all in India is a
current topic. Central Government is for Targeted Public Distribution of food materials
only to the BPL families, because of the heavy subsidies involved. States like Kerala
insist on ration card supply of subsidized food to all in the State. Kerala has this system
for decades. The problem is that the State has to bear the extra cost of the subsidy or limit
rationing to BPL families. .If universal rationing is not possible, at least make the BPL
criteria broader to include more families in. This will enable the State to get more
subsided ration food from the Central Government and thus reduce the subsidy burden of
the State Government.
Poverty is caused by low or no income. It can be further clasisified into Destitutional,
Conjectural and Mass poverty. Poverty of the destitutes is due to lack of love and care or
no income. Their rehabilitation is more effective in thbe hands of the voluntary NGOs
than the bureaucratic machinery of the State. Conjectural poverty arise due to inadvertent
maladies like earth quakes, flood war destruction and the like misshapenness. In this case
massive transfer of resources from those who have income to the victims can be arranged
by the State and NGOs. . Here again servicing the aid will be better done and without
corruption by voluntary and philanthropic NGOs. Mass poverty is often due low
economic development of the country / society. In this case heavy investment by the
Government on infrastructure, agriculture, industrial production and rural and urban
employment schemes alone can provide more income and economic development to the
unemployed mass.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


NIRANAM GRANDHA VARI is the First History book of the Mlankara Orthodox Church written in Malayalam. It is a diary or chronicle of the events in the life of Malankara Metropolitan Marthoma VI (1745-1808) and short sketches about early Christian history from Adam & Eve to the Antiochan attempts to supremacy in Malankara church and short references up to 1847.  It is presumed to be written by a Deacon/ secretary of the Metropolitan. Some researchers think that it may have been Rev.Dn. Kanianthra Thommy Chandy ordained by him. He was the main nurse in the last days of the Metropolitan and was ordained a priest in 1808 by Marthoma VII. Rev Fr. Thommy Chandy stayed on in the Niranam church for some years as the vicar and managed the entire Church during the succession periods of Marthoma Metrans VII, VIII and IXth.  His successor in the family was Rev. Nina Chandy Corepiscopa who also was a celibate and stayed in the churh till 1910 when he was called to Mepral as vicar of St. John’s parish church. All his belongings might have included this palm leaf history. Anyway we found it in the 1930s in our Grandhapura (library) of our old house. Late Kanianthra Mr. K J. Ninan took it to Theological Seminary, Chitramezhuth Varghese, Edamaraku, K M Mammen Mapila of Manorama and others. Summaries of it were made by some of them
The  Thaliola Grandham came to my hand from K. J. Ninan’s son. I got it transcripted in readable Malayalam on paper   by experts from the Kerala Uty Manuscript library. I entrusted it to Malankara Sabha editor Fr. T. G Scaria for publication by the Malankara Church. Sri Paul Manalil got it from Scaria Achen and published two books one in Malayalam & another in English. But the real annotated research book on Niranam Grandhavari is the one produced with my permission by Dr. M. Kurien Thomas
The Niranam Grandhavari contains references about Kanianthra  Chandy Nina Tharakan (died .1774), Nina Chandy Tharakan ( 1735-1800), his son Kunju Thommi Tharakan (1765-1822) who played important role in the Coonan Kurisu Sathyam, preserving independence of the Church against Antiocahan incursions etc.

This is the realation between Kanianthras and Niranam Grandha Vari. We still continue on the footsteps of our predecessors in being with The Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan. END


(27 July 2014, Kottayam)
Joseph K Alexander

I came into the MGOCSM as a school student, through the advice of my father and teachers of the Thiruvalla MGM High School, Mr. C O Oommen and Mr. C M John. Both were General Secretaries of MGOCSM. After attending the 1942 Annual Conference at Thiruvalla Balikamadom GHS and the 1944 Conference as a religious retreat-ant at the M D Seminary Elias Chapel my further education and employment lead me out of Travancore. The return in 1966 to the University College Trivandrum as HOD of Economics and principal of Government College, Kottayam in 1972, prompted H G Philipos Mar Theophilos, President, to reinvent and induct me back into the MGOCSM. Since then, I am in the Movement in one or another official capacity and a resource person.

Knowing the Movement and the nature of its work from the days Rev. Dn. K. Philipos (later H G Philipos Mar Theophilos) was its General Secretary in 1942. and through the period of its Presidents; H.G. Philipose Mar Theophilos, H G Philipos Mar Eusebius, and H G Geevarghese Mar Coorilos, present President who joined the Movement as a young Deacon and General Secretaries; Mr. Philipos Thomas, Rev Fathers P C Cherian, George Kurien, John Thomas, Dr M C Cherian, .Dr. V.M Abraham and now Rev Fr. Dr.Varghese Varghese. I felt it my duty right and honour as a senior member, to be an active volunteer in the Movement.

As Senior Vice President of the MGOCSM for 11 years (1978-“89), its director of the Trivandrum Complex and hostel 19 years (1983-2002), Chairman of the constructions at Trivandrum center second phase 1983-1985  and  member of the CHAIROS Committee 2004- 2012, I did what I could for the Movement. The prestigious Education Orientation Course of the MGOCSM, 1981, its journal 2004-2006, and Website 2004-2007 were started by me with support of its President Thirumenis. Currently I am the Treasurer of MGOCSM from 2002.

I, Retd. Director, Collegiate Education, Kerala Govt. Service is an economist. Was President of the Kerala Dhana Sasthra Academy 1970-1972, Head of the Department of Economics of the Victoria College, Palghat 1962-1966, HOD of the University College Trivandrum 1966-1972, Founder-principal of Govt. College, Kottayam, 1972-1980, member of the Kerala University Senate 1961-1964 and Academic Bodies1965-1983; Hon-Director of the prestigious Christian Study Center of Kerala University1994-1996 and research fellow of University Grants Commission1983-1987. I have published ten books and 20 research papers. Was emeritus professor of economics in the Marthoma St. Thomas College, Kozenchery1985-1987; was examiner and expert member in the PSC of Kerala and Karnataka States, Southern Railway Board, New India Assurance Company, and Staff selection of PSC and Private Colleges in Kerala. After retirement; was a Faculty Member of the Civil Service Academy, Trivandrum for over a decade, was a member of the MOC official bodies including the Church Planning Committee, member of the Corporate Colleges and later of the Schools Governing Bodies of the Church and  three times Chief Election Officer of the Malankara Association of MOC, I am now active as chairman of Kerala Regional Branch of Indian Institute of Public Administration from 2004 and member of its Executive council at Delhi. Being a founder member of the Mar Gregorios Rehabilitation Center Munnammoodu Trivandrum in 1981, is its Vice President for the last couple of decades. I have been a resource person for most of the projects started by the then new Bishop H G Geevarghese Mar Dioscorus of the new Trivandrum Diocese of the MOC in the last quarter of last Century from 1980. His Graces” English Medium School, Disabled children’s home  at Alathra, Marion Play Home originally at kanaka Nagar, Bishop’s house and  Chapel at Ullur, sfferts to start a Junior College at Alathra hills which later blossomed into the Pharmacy college are all examples.
A galaxy of eminent leaders nurtured the MGOCSM in its hundred years from 1908. Despite, it has an irregular history. In some of the years it blossomed like a fresh flower in youth, well watered, weeded and nourished by the mentors; and in others, it looked as if, about to wither for want of their involvement. In the days of H G Philipos Mar Theophilos the Movement developed many wings and branches and Rev Fr P C Cherian took it to outside Kerala to cities of India. He made it a National Movement. In the days of H G Philipos Mar Eusebius the Movement became international especially through the efforts of the President, General Secretary Rev. Fr. M C Cherian and the Education Orientation Fraternity who started units of MGOCSM in churches in every part of the World where they worked. The present President H G Geevarghese Mar Coorilos is spreading the Movement to more Indian areas outside Kerala to take its message to all the diaspora by organizing its Annual conferences in different parts of India
.During my heavy duty as founder principal of the Kottayam Govt. College, I contributed all my spare moments for the growth of the Movement. I thank all the Presidents, General Secretaries, Executive Committee members and the General Assemblies of the Movement, its Officers and managers of its various wings for the hearty co-operation they rendered to my role in the MGOCSM and giving me all help in writing its history of 100 years. I will be ninety on 25th November 2014. Recently I had difficulty in travelling from TVM to Kottayam to attend the meetings of the Movement or take active role in its work more because of the illness of my wife. She and my children were a great support for enabling me to work in all social services I ventured. Besides you all, I thank them also for their cooperation in making my work easy. May I now appeal to all of you to work hard and contribute your might to make MGOCSM an effective arm of MOC all over the World? I Pray to God to shower blessings on all of you.  
My mentors:
1.     K A Mathew , Principal  & Head Master , St. John’s shool. Mepral        
2.     C. M John
3.     C O Oommen
4.      Vennikulam Gopala Kurup
5.     Unnonny Tharakan
6.     K A Mathew , Teachers of M G M  High School Thiruvalla, 
7.     Rev. Dn. And later H G Philipos Mar Theophilos
8.     Rev.  Fr. M C Cherian & later H G Sachaias Mar Theophilos
9.     Rev Fr. John Thomas  Secretary MGOCSM
10.   H G Baselios Marthoma Mathews  Catholicos
11.   H G Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews  Catholicos
12.   Re. Dn George Kurien & later Secretary and then H G Geevarghese Mar Coorilos, President of MGOCSM
13.   Rev Ft. P M Eapen Vicar Se. George’s Church Trivandrum
14.   Rev. Fr. Alexander Vaidyan   Do
             And many like these gurus who implanted in me their behavior patterns which made me what I am. Some of them were far younger than me  but with emulatable characters. I thank all of them nd place them before God for heavenly rewards.
Prof. Joseph K Alexander; DOB-25-11-1924;
TC 14/2144, Kanianthra, PRA. B.20- Medes Lane. Palayam TVM-695034.
Spouse        : Annamma Joseph; House Wife; DOB-29-01-1927
Phone         0471-2321955;    Mobile--9447811811
Children      1. Alex Jose F C A; Retired from Bahrain
2 Stephen Jose Bsc Agr.; MEP-IIM-Ahmedabad; Retd
3. Alexy Jose F C A (daughter); Director General Finance, Keltron TVM.


Kanianthra family has been living for over five centuries from 1450 AD in Mepral. Many families claim descent from the four converted by St. Thomas around 50 AD. Without concrete proof, we cannot make such claims; though there is a tradition that we of the Kanikulath Illam of Kodungallur, probably scions of one of the four families, migrated to Niranam. Our tradition we rely is conversion of a Brahmin illam at Idinjillam earlier or around- latest 10th century- and we migrated to Niranam due to ostracism by fellow Brahmins; and still later to Mepral in 1450.
Their income were paddy and coconut of Mepral properties. In course of time, agricultural income became inadequate to support the growing family needs- traditional & modern. We gave up agriculture due to political based trade union activities, changes in land owner-labour relations and wage increases. Kanianthra members with English education went out in 1940-50’s into the wide world. Most of them did well in different parts of the world. There are hardly six or7 families now left at Mepral.
Kanianthra family has certain emulate able traits running through generations. Mothers who rear up kids please inculcate these ideals into them
1. We were, God-fearing and played prominent part in the affairs of our Church (MOSC) against foreign dominations. It is evident in Niranam Grandhavary- a view, Kanianthra Achen, (Thommy Chandy Kathanar) originator of the Pallath Branch was its author.
2. Another which distinguished our family in the earlier social history was generous, kind and just treatment extended to untouchables and labourers, who suffered deprivations in the caste –ridden past. An interesting anecdote about vadukas and Kanianthra Ninan Chandy Tharakan bears testimony to this
3. The respect, honour, and obedience given to parents is another trait of us. More important side of this coin is the sacrifices rendered by our parents in giving English (modern) education to children

4. Another is the respect given to women. Our parents are partial even to a fault to their daughters. Equality girls enjoy at home with boys develops their potential. No wonder they become valuable and respected assets at home and in families they go as brides. Pullucat valiappachan’s dictum “Anapurathu irikunnavale patty kadikathilla” Anecdote about Pattaseril Chellamma Kochamma is relevant.