According to a report released by the National Statistical Office the other day, Kerala retained her illustrious sheen as the most literate among Indian states. Her literacy rate, according to the report was 96.2%, followed by Delhi with 89%. The gender split-up in Kerala showed male literacy of 97.4% and female literacy rate of 95.2%. Kerala has been consistent over the years in maintaining her reputation as ‘the most literate Indian state’ with literacy rate of over 90%. Her superior literacy rate formed one among many other superlative indices which crowned her brow with the tag ‘God’s own Country’.

Paradoxically, all’s not well with the literate ‘God’s own Country’. Kerala has her share of ills that question her merit for the superlative crown that seems to sit uneasy on her brow resultantly. The ills include crime of grotesque nature, communal disharmony, political violence including murder, corruption at high offices. The list goes on. It would consume an entire essay to include them, which isn’t the scope of this article.

But two recent incidents prove unequivocally that Kerala’s so-called superlative literacy rate has failed to instill civility, respect for law, social order and humane disposition in the so-called near ‘cent percent literate people’. A paradox that defies reason, logic and common sense.

These are COVIDIAN times. People in the state as in the rest of India continue to be infected and succumbing to the virus. Kerala has already had 99,266 infected and 396 succumbing. These are times when citizens depend increasingly on an entire gamut of healthcare workers to safeguard their health from the ravishes of a virus on the loose. Kerala’s much- heralded healthcare dispensation had been living up to that demand quite effectively when rest of the country had been finding the viral onslaught beyond their control. When Mumbai, Delhi, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu had the going tough, Kerala seemed very much in control. But with repatriation of NRKs Kerala’s viral statistics too took a beating. But the state is putting up a good fight despite the pandemic’s increasing stranglehold.

That’s when two shameful incidents unfolded in Kerala that cast a long shadow over her superlative ‘literacy’.

In the wee hours of September 7, a 19-year old CVID-positive patient was raped by an ambulance driver in Pathanamthitta district. The unfortunate victim was to have been shifted to a First Line Treatment Centre in the ambulance. The driver detoured to a deserted place where he committed the gruesome crime on a patient he was supposed to have transported safely.

Before the state could recover from the shame, September 8 saw another macabre crime unfold within her. A junior Health Inspector was arrested in Thiruvanthapuram on charges of raping a woman who went to his residence to collect a ‘no-COVID’ certificate on completion of home quarantine. According to the police, the assailant kept her tied up in his residence threatening to report violation of quarantine norms to the police!  

These two assaults involving healthcare workers on COVID patients are not expected in a state boasting of near-cent percent literacy, which ideally ought to have ensured civility, respect for law, and adherence to professional etiquette. None of these were displayed by the two assailants, who unleashed unbridled sexual avariciousness on patients entrusted to their care and protection. What ‘literacy’ then is Kerala speaking of? These two incidents are but the tip of a nasty and voluminous iceberg that lies hidden in the dark underbelly of the so-called ‘literate’ God’s own country. If literacy fails to tame the beast within the literate, that literacy is in vain. It is only some meaningless statistics meant to look appealing on paper and on tourism promotion material.