The remarks of Joseph Perunthottam, the Archbishop of Changanassery from the Syro-Malabar Church, on the migration of a large number of youth from the state, have been drawing a lot of attention as it was seen as a criticism of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
Responding to Perumthottam, Vijayan, who was also present at the event to felicitate Mar Raphael Thattil, the newly appointed Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, said that it was a worldwide trend for youth to migrate in search of better opportunities.
He also stated that the government was working on issues like improving higher education in the state in order to reduce outward migration of youth.
The issue of migration of a large number of young people from the state is real. While migration from the state was earlier mainly to the Gulf countries, these days there is increased migration to Western countries as well.
According to a report by India Today, the 2018 Kerala Migration Survey found that there were approximately 21 lakh people, who had migrated abroad, from the state.
Coming to the migration of students, a report mentioned data from the Ministry of External Affairs, which stated that the number of Malayali students who went abroad in 2019, was 30,948.
It also mentions that according to the 2011 Census, there were 12 lakh vacant houses in the state, which was 11 per cent of the country's total and about 60 per cent of these belonged to non-resident Keralites.
While the state does benefit from migration due to the large amount of remittance money that comes in (Rs 85,092 crore according to the estimates by the 2018 Kerala Migration Survey), it has also created issues like increase in land prices, lack of local labour, leading to an over-reliance on migrant labour from other parts of the country and an increase in the share of aged population.
According to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities' India Ageing Report 2023, about 22.8 per cent of Kerala's population would be senior citizens by 2036. The current share is 16.5 per cent, which is the highest in the country.
The remarks by Perumthottam, seen by some as a criticism of the Chief Minister, also assume significance as they come at a time when both the Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been trying to woo the community ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.
Also, this is not the first time that the Church has been critical of the LDF government.
Some of the prior instances include the opposition to the Vizhinjam port project, and the objection by the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) to the remarks of minister Saji Cherian, who stated that the Bishops had forgotten about Manipur after having cake and grape juice during a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of Christmas.
Earlier, the KCBC had backed protests against the government's satellite survey to demarcate eco-sensitive zones in the state.
While the LDF has benefitted from a significant chunk of the Christian vote coming in due to the Kerala Congress (Mani) switching allegiance to it and is eager to draw further support from the community, the Christian vote is also important for the BJP, as it could help it emerge victorious in constituencies, where it had come a close second.
S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.
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