CSES in Media

State should merge its 2 schemes on extreme poverty, says study

This report was published in The Times of India on 14.03.2024

Nearly one-third of the very poor households in Kerala were pushed into extreme poverty after a major shock, like death of the lone earning member in an accident or a health emergency that left him/her disabled or bedridden. The impact is so severe that in most cases, such families are surviving on the goodwill of relatives or good samaritans. State will need to take a re-look as many more are on the brink of extreme poverty, said a study by Centre for Socio-economic and Environmental Sciences, a Kochi-based think tank.

For the study, they visited households identified by two state govt schemes to address the issue of extreme poverty Agathi rahitha keralam or Destitute Free Kerala (DFK) launched by Kudumbashree covering 1.5 lakh families and the extreme poverty eradication programme (EPEP) covering more than 60,000 households.

The researchers visited sampled families in Panamaram in Wayanad, which has a significant presence of tribal population, Alappad, a coastal village in Kollam with a sizable fisher population, and Asamannoor, a peri-urban area in Ernakulam district, to understand why these families are in extreme poverty.

“We found that families were living in isolation, for want of a person to run the household. Either there are bed-ridden members and no earning members, mentally-ill patients at home and hence stigmatized or where the members are so unwell that they cannot even cook their food. In such families, they don’t collect their ration, they don’t have anyone to regularly help them out and live on the goodwill and support of auto drivers who take them to hospitals, neighbours or relatives who share food with them, etc,” said Athul SG, one of the authors of the study.

He said that the extensive field work in three grama panchayats showed the shocking reality of these marginalized groups. The major assets owned by the extremely poor include land and houses. But 12% of the extremely poor households did not have any land. More than a quarter of them do not have a house. Only 8% of members of extremely poor households have post-higher secondary education. One-fourth have no formal schooling. Only about half of the households have at least one employed member. Half of them work on dally wages and one-third participate in MGNREGS work. Only one- tenth is in regular employment. It is significant to note that 2 in 5 members of the sample households are unable to work due to old age, illness, disability, or care giving responsibilities.