The backdrop - Rise of middle class - The present status - Grama sabha movement - The potential - What to do - Who will bell the cat
The migration of GSBs to Kerala were mainly in two phases - in the 13th century (the exodus of 1294 AD) and subsequently in the 16th century (1560 AD). Their settlements were in pockets like Cochin, Alleppey, Kumbla etc., around the temples built on the land donated by the Kings of Cochin, Travancore and Kayankulam. The social life was inseperable from the temples and social exchanges with the locals was limited. Most of the GSB settlers in kerala were very poor. Only a few who migrated in the first phase (mainly traders in Cochin and Kasargod) were well off. They took control of the temples and the vast lands associated with it. The poor dispersed further in search of opportunities and doing petty business like pappad making. The GSBs thus belonged to 3 classes - the businessmen, the land lords and the poor.
Rise of middle class
In the early 20th century, the rich temple Devaswoms started schools near the temples at places like Cochin, Thuravoor, Alleppey etc. During and after the first world war, many GSBs doing petty business utilised the business opportunities and made quick bucks. They realised the benefits of literacy and educated their children. Basically good in Mathematics and Commerce many of these children managed to get jobs as teachers, clerks and accountants. The founding of Canara Bank (in 1910) and the Syndicate Bank (in 1925) by GSBs of Mangalore and Udupi, gave employment to most of the educated GSB youths of Kerala until the nationalisation banks. This resulted in a steady improvement in the economic conditions and social status of the poor class. Majority of them became middle class by the sixties. From the concentrated pockets, they migrated to other towns and villages and lost active involvement in the community affairs.
The introduction of Kerala Land Reforms Act in 1963 relating to the fixation of ceiling on land holdings, the vesting of lands in excess of the ceiling in Government, Assignment of surplus lands, abolition of tenancy system, assignment of proprietary right on land to the cultivating tenants, changed the fate of the temples and many GSBs. The landlords lost much of their land and the vast lands attached to the temples were taken over by the government. With deteriorating income most of the temples (except a few) now struggle for existence.
The present status
Individually and at family level, the GSBs have progressed economically and educationally. But a look at the state of temples and the schools run by the Devaswoms reveal the poor community status of the GSBs in Kerala. The prestigious TD medical college of Alleppey owned by the GSBs was taken over by Govt. due to mismanagement and infighting within the community.
The present deteriorating status can be summed up as:
In the nutshell, it is like Sachin scored the highest runs in the match but India lost. If the community continues in this state of affairs, we may loose our temples and even our identity in the days to come.
The Grama sabha movement
The movement started in 1984 with the blessings of Sree Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji. The intentions were noble but presently it has become just a meeting place for showoff.
At present we have a generation educated, economically sound, well informed and positioned. We have many professionals like Doctors, Engineers, CAs, Teachers, Bankers etc. There are also rich busnessmen and NRIs. We have temples and associated real estate in prime towns and locations. We have basic infrastructure in the TD schools.
What to do
Who will bell the cat?
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