Historically, Kerala has followed a developmental path different from that followed by other Indian States. Rate of poverty in Kerala is low compared to other Indian States and the all India figures. According to the official figures, absolute poverty rate in Kerala is lower than 12 per cent in 2011-12 and has shown a sharp reduction over the last forty years. The success of Kerala in poverty reduction is reflected in the sharp reduction in the proportion of poor. The incidence of poverty in Kerala was 59.74 per cent in 1973-74 which reduced to 11.3 per cent in 2011-12. In India, the rate of poverty was 54.88 per cent in 1973-74 (which was lower compared to Kerala) and it reduced to 29.5 per cent in 2011-12.
Kerala has also made an extensive improvement in reducing the incidence of both rural and urban poverty. In Kerala, from 1973-74 to 2011-12, rural and urban poverty ratio declined from 59.19 per cent to 7.3 per cent and from 62.74 per cent to 15.3 per cent respectively, whereas in India these figures declined from 56.44 per cent to 30.9 per cent for rural people and 49.01 per cent to 26.4 per cent for urban people. In Kerala, factors such as land reforms, spread of education and health care, decentralisation, pension schemes, public distribution system, Kudumbashree and Plan schemes have all played an effective role in reducing the poverty ratios. The absolute poverty rate (as per the Rangarajan report) in Kerala and India from 1973-74 to 2011-12 are given in Figure 1.7 and Appendix 1.23
Source: Planning Commission, GoI, 2014
(Rangarajan Committee) Report of The Expert Group to Review the Methodology for Measurement of Poverty, Government of India, Planning Commission, June, 2014
Yet, there continue to be several pockets of deprivation in the State. Poverty in Kerala is mainly concentrated in some social categories and groups, such as scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, fishing communities, potters and artisans. The Scheduled Caste Development Department, Scheduled Tribes Development Department and Fisheries Department are implementing several poverty reduction/livelihood programmes for the upliftment of the people in these communities.
India has a long history of studies for the measurement of poverty. The methodology for the estimation of poverty is based on the recommendations made by various expert groups. The previous poverty estimates provide only the details about the per centage of the poor population in each State, Union Territories (UTs) and in all India average. However, these estimates cannot be used for the identification of individual poor.
The Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC), 2011 was an exercise conducted by Government of India to identify households living below the poverty line in India. SECC estimates a deprivation index based on the following seven criteria.
1.Only one room with kucha walls and kucha roof
2. No adult member between age 16 to 59
3. Female headed households with no adult male member between age 16 to 59
4. Disabled member and no able bodied adult member
5. SC/ST households
6. No literate adult above 25 years
7. Landless households deriving major part of their income from manual casual labour
According to the SECC (2011) data, out of the 76.99 lakh households in Kerala, 63.19 lakh households (82.08 per cent) live in rural areas. Of these, 10.32 per cent are Scheduled Caste households and 1.63 per cent was Scheduled Tribe households. Out of the total rural households, 19.16 lakh (30.33 per cent) rural households are deprived. The highest deprivation rate was recorded in Palakkad (42.33 per cent) followed by Thiruvananthapuram (38.36 per cent) and Wayanad (36.33 per cent). The lowest deprivation was recorded in Ernakulam (20.30 per cent), Kottayam (23.02 per cent) and Kannur (24.25 per cent). Out of the total rural SC and ST households, 57.66 per cent of Scheduled Caste households and 61.68 per cent of Scheduled Tribe households are included under deprived categories. District-wise details about the percentage of deprived rural households in Kerala against their total number of rural households across different categories are given in Appendix 1.24
When different indicator-wise deprivation rates among the rural households are considered, the highest deprivation was recorded in the indicator, ‘landless households deriving major part of their income from manual casual labour’ (18.86 per cent) followed by the indicator ‘SC/ST household’ (7.11 per cent) and the indicator ‘female headed households’ (3.65 per cent). The lowest deprivation was recorded in the indicator ‘disabled member and no able bodied adult member’ (0.19 per cent) followed by ‘no literate adult above 25 years’ (1.81 per cent). District-wise details about the percentage of deprived rural households based on different deprivation indices are given in Appendix 1.25 and the percentage of deprived rural households in Kerala and India based on different deprivation indices are given in Figure 1.8.
Source: Socio Economic and Caste Census (2011).
As per the land ownership indicator, 72.50 per cent of the rural households in Kerala are landless whereas in India it is only 56.41 per cent. In Kerala, the percentage of landless rural households was highest in Thrissur (87.39 per cent) followed by Alappuzha (87.19 per cent) and the lowest percentage is in Kasaragod district (49.13 per cent).
There may be a definitional reason why the SECC data shows high landlessness in Kerala, despite its history of land reforms. The SECC did not consider homestead land owned by households when assessing landownership status of a household. As a result, the SECC data may have failed to capture those landless households who received homestead land as part of the land redistribution programmes in Kerala. This would also include beneficiaries who received crop land, including garden land, on which they later built homes, thus converting their plots into homestead land.
According to the SECC, the main breadwinner of the 70.75 per cent of the rural households in Kerala earned less than 5000 per month, while in India the corresponding share was 74.50 per cent. This ratio was highest in Wayanad (79.67 per cent), followed by Malappuram (75.55 per cent) and Palakkad (74.38 per cent) districts. The ratio was lowest in Ernakulam (64.37 per cent), followed by Kottayam (64.46 per cent) and Pathanamthitta (64.66 per cent) districts.
As the most important source of household income, 50.61 per cent and 10.26 per cent of the rural households in Kerala were, respectively, dependent on manual casual labour and cultivation. In India, the corresponding shares were 51.18 per cent and 30.10 per cent respectively. District-level data about the source of household income show that, in the case of manual casual labour, the highest rate was in Malappuram (65.05 per cent) and lowest rate was in Pathanamthitta (31.71 per cent). In the case of cultivation, the highest rate was in Idukki (32.49 per cent) and lowest rate was in Alappuzha (4.86 per cent).
Various schemes on poverty reduction have been dealt with in other chapters of this Review. Even though Kerala has made considerable progress in eradicating poverty, there are still several pockets of deprivation in the State, especially among tribal population and fishermen communities. Greater central assistance and appropriate livelihood programmes in these areas are required to ensure that the State can eliminate absolute poverty throughout the State.