CSES in Media

Researchers call for review of poverty eradication schemes

This report was published in The Hindu on 14.03.2024

A recent study on extreme poverty eradication programmes in Kerala by researchers at The Centre for Socio-Economic and Environmental Studies in Kochi has called for substantial changes in the programmes, including the integration of two programmes running concurrently and making agencies like the Kudumbashree Poverty Eradication Mission more inclusive.

The researchers studied sample households under the Agathi Rahitha Keralam (Destitute-free Kerala), launched under the Kudumbashree mission for 1.5 lakh families, and the Extreme Poverty Eradication Programme, covering more than 60,000 households.

Extensive fieldwork in three grama panchayats – Panamaram, Alappad and Asamannoor – showed that while most of the extremely poor owned land and house, 12% of the sample households did not own land. Only 8% of the members of these poor households had educational qualification above higher secondary. Only about half of the households have at least one member who is employed.

Mental illness

One of the most significant findings of the study is that one-fourth of the extreme poor households had a member with mental illness. The high proportion can be attributed to inclusion of mental illness as a criterion for being identified as an extreme poor household. The study also found that two in five members of the sample households are unable to work due to old age, illness, disability or because they are engaged in caregiving responsibilities.

The researchers lauded the government’s initiatives, but said it is important to recognise that both extreme poverty and vulnerability are dynamic in nature. One may fall into extreme poverty and experience different dimensions of vulnerability due to a single shock or multiple shocks and continued stress. It is important to focus on early identification of people at risk, which calls for a new component in the programme to eradicate extreme poverty targeting such households.

The study, carried out by Athul S.G., N. Ajith Kumar, Parvathy Sunaina, Nagarajan R. Durai, and Bibin Thambi, said delay in identification of extreme poverty and vulnerability can lead to increased complexity in addressing the issue. A solution is ward-level panels conducting annual visits to extreme poor households, assessing their status and needs.