Kerala: The Real Story, where Facts and numbers add up

​​"Examining Economic Metrics through the Veil of Ignorance: A Comparison of Six Indian States" explores how Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar, and Karnataka perform on various economic metrics using philosopher John Rawls' concept of the veil of ignorance.

The article highlights Kerala’s impressive human development and social welfare achievements, positioning it as an ideal state to be born in, according to Rawls’ model.

John Rawls, a renowned philosopher, has greatly influenced the theory of justice. He believes justice should be established based on impartiality and fairness, ensuring equal opportunities for all members of a just society. The term “veil of ignorance” was coined by Rawls to suggest that people would choose equitable and fair principles of justice if they were unaware of their future circumstances. In shaping debates on social justice, equality, and democracy, his work has profoundly impacted contemporary political philosophy.

Using the “veil of ignorance” framework, let’s compare the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar, and Karnataka based on some basic economic metrics.

As a means of exploring the possibility of designing a just society without considering social status, wealth, abilities, and other factors that could potentially influence an individual’s position in society, John Rawls, a prominent philosopher, developed the concept of a “veil of ignorance”. According to Rawls, if individuals were positioned behind this veil and unaware of their future circumstances, they would choose principles of justice that are impartial and equitable for everyone. To illustrate this concept, Rawls cited the example of a newborn child who was asked to select a birthplace. In Rawls’ opinion, a fair society would be one where every community member has an equal opportunity to succeed and where resources and benefits are distributed according to need rather than privilege or chance. It is also important to note that such a society would be free from discrimination or prejudice based on race, gender, or socioeconomic status. Food, shelter, healthcare, and education would be available to everyone.

The table delves into the various metrics (definition and sources are below for reference) determining a region or state’s overall well-being and development. It is important to note that the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR), Life Expectancy, Sex Ratio, Literacy Rate, Per Capita Income, and Human Development Index (HDI) all provide insights into the quality of life in a region or state.

Among all the states, Kerala is the top performer in most metrics, with the highest HDI, lowest IMR and MMR, the highest Life Expectancy, and the highest literacy rates for both sexes. Kerala’s unwavering commitment to human development and social welfare is evident in these impressive figures.

While Kerala has a lower per capita income than Gujarat, it has a higher level of human development, suggesting a more equitable distribution of resources and better living standards for its citizens. It is a shining example of how a state can prioritise the well-being of its citizens while still achieving economic growth by achieving such impressive metrics.

The “veil of ignorance” concept of philosopher John Rawls states that the best state for a person to be born in is one that provides the most significant degree of social and economic equality and opportunities for a fulfilling life, regardless of the individual’s characteristics.

In this context, Kerala is the ideal state to be born, as described in Rawls’ model. The state of Kerala stands out as a beacon of hope and progress for the rest of the country due to its emphasis on human development, social welfare, and economic growth.

Definition of metric 


DefinitionIndicator of
Infant Mortality RateThe number of deaths of infants under one year of age per 1,000 live births per year.Overall health and well-being of a population, as it reflects factors such as access to healthcare, nutrition, and sanitation.
Maternal Mortality RatioThe number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in a given year.Quality of maternal healthcare and the status of women’s health in a population.
Life ExpectancyThe average number of years a person is expected to live from birth, based on current mortality rates.Overall health and well-being of a population are influenced by factors such as healthcare, nutrition, and lifestyle choices.
Sex RatioThe ratio of the number of males to the number of females in a population.Gender balance in a population.
Literacy Rate – MaleThe percentage of males aged 15 and above who are able to read and write.Education levels of males in a population.
Literacy Rate – FemaleThe percentage of females aged 15 and above who are able to read and write.Education levels of females in a population.
Literacy Rate – DifferenceThe difference between the literacy rates of males and females in a population.Gender disparities in education levels.
Per Capita Income (INR)The average income earned by each person in a population in a given year is calculated by dividing the population’s total income by the total number of people.Standard of living and economic development in a population.
HDIThe Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators, ranking countries into four tiers of human development. The higher the HDI value, the higher the level of human development in a population.Overall well-being and development of a population, taking into account factors such as health, education, and income.


Life expectancy
Sex ratio
Literacy Rate – Male
Literacy Rate – Female
Literacy Rate – Difference

(The writer is a financial professional, also passionate about the arts, academia, and social issues related to development and human rights)


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