Interview | Bengaluru water crisis may lead techies to migrate back to Kerala: Minister P Rajeeve | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Interview | Bengaluru water crisis may lead techies to migrate back to Kerala: Minister P Rajeeve

Mar 28, 2024 05:11 PM IST

P Rajeeve said Kerala is blessed with an abundant supply of water and other natural resources. It has over 40 rivers and plenty of Monsoon.

Traditionally, the two states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have fought for their share of water from the Kaveri river. The two states have been at loggerheads for decades, with the crisis ending up often as riots on the streets. But now a new sliver of water politics is emerging, with the state of Kerala making a move to attract IT talent from Bengaluru which is reeling under severe water shortage.

Kerala industries minister P Rajeeve
Kerala industries minister P Rajeeve

Edited excerpts from an interview with Kerala industries minister P Rajeeve:

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For years Kerala has struggled to keep its IT talent within the state, with most preferring to move to Bengaluru, Hyderabad or Chennai. Now, with Bengaluru struggling with low water tables, Kerala is looking to turn the tables on it.

Kerala is blessed with an abundant supply of water and other natural resources. We have over 40 rivers in the state and plenty of monsoon. It’s not that we want to take advantage of the situation. But seeing the IT sector employees in Bengaluru struggling, we would like to help them. That’s why we wrote to many of the IT firms there, emphasising the facilities that we have, along with good quality water.

That’s looks like the new politics of water. Do you think that would be enough to entice employees from other states to relocate?

Basic facilities like water and good air are essential components. I know that many of the Malayali IT employees in cities like Bengaluru have shown a great interest in moving back.

But it’s not that we have only natural resources. We have been slowly building the startup ecosystem in the state. There are hundreds of youngsters in Kerala who are building tech startups and giving jobs to many. The state government is backing them and trying to give them enough incentives.

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Yet, every year, thousands of youngsters are going out of the state for higher education and jobs.

Kerala is a highly educated state. It’s natural that youngsters will move out of the state to find jobs. The same is the case with many other states in India. But only Kerala gets targeted.

But we are aware of this problem and would like our youngsters to find jobs here itself. That’s the reason why we are promoting startups in a big way. Kerala has limited land and heavy industries are difficult. Kerala is home to 250,000 IT employees as of 2023. We want to have 1 million IT employees working in Kerala in another five years. The government plans to achieve this by building four IT corridors along National Highway 66.

The image of the state as an investment-unfriendly state continues.

That’s propaganda. Kerala is witnessing a sustained growth in Information Technology sector as reflected in the state’s rising IT exports that crossed 19,000 crore in 2022-23. The state is also looking to contribute 10% of the country’s total IT exports.

Soon, we will see a big reverse migration of IT employees to Kerala.

But youngsters don’t seem to be convinced of the state’s potential. Is the quality of the higher education in Kerala a reason for them to leave in large numbers?

Kerala is the first state to set up a Digital University in India. We are trying for partnerships abroad. But it’s still a work in progress and we have much more to do on that front. The youngsters are leaving, as many are interested in part time jobs while studying abroad.

We are trying to also improve our night life activities and avenues for entertainment in the state. The society is also changing and they realise that youngsters need to relax and enjoy themselves while also working hard.

Yet, it’s a fact that we are struggling to attract tech talent from outside the state. What’s the missing link?

During the pandemic, a lot of people from outside the state moved in and started to work from tourist destinations like Munnar, Varkala, Kumali, Kovalam and Wayanad (Uber founder Travis Kalanick famously coded on the beaches of Varkala in 2008). They were able to experience what Kerala could offer. Good water, pollution-free environment, natural beauty etc were factors that attracted them. Many of those IT workers went back and spread the word.

That’s why we were able to write back to some of those companies during this time of extreme distress in Bengaluru. The water situation is critical there with no signs of improvement yet.

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