CSES in Media

Study calls to revamp extreme poverty eradication schemes

This report was published in Metro Vaartha on 14.03.2024

Study calls for comprehensive reforms in Kerala’s extreme poverty eradication programs

Stressing the need to address the issue of people at risk of falling into extreme poverty to early identification and support, study by the Centre for Socio-economic & Environmental Studies (CSES) here has demanded major changes in Kerala’s extreme poverty eradication programmes.

While the Niti Ayog index of multidimensional poverty says a mere 0.55 per cent of the population in Kerala is multi-dimensionally poor against the national level of 14.96 per cent, the study points to the need for policy changes to eradicate poverty even if it is a very small portion of the population.

It points to Kerala’s success in reducing overall poverty levels through tailor-made solutions. Presently, it has schemes 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 study undertook extensive coverage of three panchayats – Panamaram in north Kerala with a significant presence of tribal population; Alappad in South Kerala with a sizable fisher population and Asamannoor, a peri-urban area in Central Kerala.

It says the extreme poor face material deprivation, health concerns, and limited access to basic necessities. While a majority of them had land, 12 per cent did not have this and more than a quarter had no house. While one-fourth had no formal schooling, only about half of the households had at least one employed member.

There is the dynamic and intertwined nature of extreme poverty and vulnerability and delays in identification can lead to increased complexity in addressing the issue. The solution includes the committees at the ward level and annual visits to assess their status and needs.

While the State Government’s initiatives for eradicating extreme poverty are laudable, the study suggests integration of the ongoing DFK and EPEP into a single programme.

It was noted that nearly one-third of these households were pushed into extreme poverty because of a major shock, the most important being the death of an earning member or permanent disability. It  recommends immediate inclusion of such households in the list of extreme poor without waiting for the regular annual or biannual revision.

These households lack sufficient assets and social capital for ex-ante measures that build resilience and prevent the likelihood of falling into extreme poverty and moots social security pension as the most important protection mechanism.

Of the 52 lakh beneficiaries of social security pension in Kerala, the central government’s share is received only for 8 lakh beneficiaries. It is important that the State ensure regular payment of pension to the extreme poor.

There has to be support through skill development collaborating with various Central and State programmes. There has to be assistance to caregivers in undertaking income-earning activities within homes.

Besides, there should be universal health insurance coverage for the poor, ensuring access to various services, providing regular and timely food security for which Kudumbashree household groups can be the platform, providing  upward mobility through education and making Kudumbashree more inclusive.