It has been fifty years since Malappuram, the most populous district in Kerala came into being.
It was the seven-party coalition government led by CPM leader EMS Namboodiripad that ruled the state then which decided in 1969 to make this region, which was until then a part of Kozhikode district, a separate district. Muslim League was a prominent party in the alliance. There were two reasons cited as a justification for the formation of Malappuram district. One was the extraordinary vastness of Kozhikode district. Second was the development of a region where minority communities were densely settled. Despite both the factors being valid, it had faced severe resistance from the secular democratic Opposition party of the Congress and the far right Bharatiya Jan Sangh. Even an anti- district partition committee was formed and a propaganda aggressively carried out that a mini Pakistan was being created in Malabar. But such smear campaigns went futile before the determination of EMS. Malappuram district was formed on June 16, 1969. Although Jan Sangh refused to recognize the fact for a long time and tried to retain the region as a part of Kozhikode district, they had to eventually bow down.
When the facts and figures of the last 50 years are analysed, the district can be seen to have achieved immense growth and progress in all significant facets of life particularly in the educational sector, where even the new generation including girls has made a huge leap. When the latest Plus Two results came out, Malappuram district had the highest number of students who received an A +. There are six Government Arts and Science Colleges and eighteen aided colleges in the district. There are higher educational institutions, both professional and others, such as a government medical college, an ayurvedic medical college, a private medical college, six engineering colleges and nine poly-technic colleges functioning in the district. The headquarters of Calicut University is in Malappuram district. In the field of health care, Perinthalmanna has even gained a reputation as a city of hospitals. Government and private hospitals are aplenty in the villages across the district. Most of the roads have been renovated. Kozhikode International Airport is located in Karipur, Kondotty. The revenue from the Malappuram NRIs has undoubtedly played a major role in this development. This in no way implies that the Left and Right governments who took turns to rule the state and the Muslim League that retained a position in most of the governments, failed to do anything. They can certainly claim a significant role in the development of Malappuram.
However, one cannot lose sight of the fact that of late, the setback faced by the Gulf countries, where a sizable number of Malappuram residents have migrated to for livelihood, has adversely affected Kerala in general and Malappuram district in particular. Hundreds of expats who lost their job and earnings have been returning on a daily basis. This phenomenon has stunted the economic growth of the district. Alongside, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) has also led to recession in the trade sector. Although the state government has announced certain schemes for the rehabilitation of the expats, it has failed to make a big difference. The problems in the health and educational sectors that require solutions are not trivial. The Government Medical College in Manjeri has not yet overcome its teething troubles. The hospital functioning with it has also not been raised from the level of a district hospital. A significant section of the children who came out with flying colours in their SSLC examination lacks the facilities for higher education. The imbalance in allocating higher secondary schools still continues unresolved. All the same it is a fact that the government policy of increasing without restriction the number of students in class XI is adversely affecting their educational standard and discipline.
When the district has completed 50 years and attempts are made to resolve such issues, the bifurcation of the district is one proposal to be given serious consideration. It is an imperative from the development perspective to split the district, with double the population and size of Alappuzha, into two. No other district in Kerala has seven talukas, 94 village panchayats and 12 municipalities. As for its extent, if one travels from Perumpadappu which borders Thrissur district to Vazhikkadav bordering Tamil Nadu, normally it takes four hours to cover that distance of 126 kilo meters. The district president of Muslim Leave recently raised a demand that the district has to be bifurcated to achieve development. It may only be because of the previous bad experience that the main political party of the district stops short of coming all out to the scene raising the demand. There are those, including those on the left front as much on the right, who read communalism and extremism into the clamour for such a step even when it is purely on the plank of development. Although the tradition of friendliness, peaceful nature and service-readiness of Malappuram has been proven through several experiences, some minds are still ruled by prejudices and baseless suspicions. What is needed is for them to correct themselves, but penalizing a vast district on that basis is neither fair not to be continued.