Poverty is a multifaceted concept, which may include social, economic and political elements. Prof. Amartya Sen terms poverty as “not just a lack of money; it is not having the capability to realise one’s full potential as a human being”. The global poverty line set at $1.90 using 2011 prices estimates that over 900 million people globally lived under this line in 2012. The World Bank estimate shows that one in five Indians are poor and 80 per cent of them are in rural areas. The incidence of poverty is high among the Scheduled Tribes followed by Scheduled Castes. By virtue of the unique development path followed in the State, the poverty index of Kerala shows that only 11.3 per cent of population falls under the poverty line as compared to 29.5 per cent in the country in 2011-12. The success of Kerala in poverty reduction is reflected in the sharp reduction in the proportion of poor both in rural and urban areas.

In Kerala, factors such as land reforms, spread of education, and health care, decentralisation, pension schemes, public distribution system, Kudumbashree, and the consolidated efforts through Plan schemes have 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 1.9 and Appendix 1.30.

Figure 1.9
Proportion of Poor in India and in Kerala, 1973-74 to 2011-12, in per cent*
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

Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC), 2011 was the new exercise conducted by Government of India to identify households living below the poverty line in India. SECC gives a broader and dynamic definition of poverty. SECC estimates the 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 and 59.
  3. Female headed households with no adult male member between age 16 and 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 (82.08 per cent) live in rural areas. Of this, 10.32 per cent are Scheduled Castes households and 1.63 per cent was Scheduled Tribes households. Out of the total rural households, 19.16 lakh (30.33 per cent) rural households are deprived. The highest deprivation rate is seen in Palakkad (42.33 per cent) followed by Thiruvananthapuram (38.36 per cent) and Wayanad (36.33 per cent) districts. And the lowest deprivation rate is seen in Ernakulam (20.30 per cent), Kottayam (23.02 per cent) and Kannur (24.25 per cent) districts. 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 household across different categories are given in Appendix 1.31 and the percentage of deprived rural households in India and Kerala against their total number of rural household across different categories are given in Figure 1.10.

Figure 1.10
Percentage of Deprived Rural Households in India and Kerala Against Total Number of Rural Household Across Different Categories
Source: Socio Economic and Caste Census (2011).

District-wise details about the percentage of deprived rural households based on different deprivation index are given in Appendix 1.32 and the percentage of deprived rural household in Kerala and India based on different deprivation index are given in Figure 1.11.

Figure 1.11
Deprived Rural Households in Kerala and India as per Different Deprivation Indices, in per cent
Source: Socio-Economic and Caste Census (2011).

Approach of 13th Five-Year Plan

Although the head count ratio (HCR) of poverty was 11.3 in Kerala in 2011-12 as per Rangarajan Committee Estimate, the incidence of absolute poverty is high in some pockets of the State, among the tribes and fisherfolks. Kerala Government is initiating measures for eliminating poverty from the State to make Kerala the first State in India to eliminate absolute poverty. The government will extend full support of its machinery to the local governments to formulate new programmes to expand rural production and eliminate multiple forms of deprivations, especially where the tribes reside. The State will support local governments’ efforts in their core areas of activity, including housing, sanitation, electrification, access to food, healthcare, and insurance, access to school education, employment guarantee, welfare pensions and special care for the disabled, aged and infirm. A combined effort involving local governments, the Kudumbashree mission, departments of the State Government, people’s organisations and individuals will take on the task of eliminating absolute poverty in the State.

Nava Keralam Karma Padhathi (NKKP)

Nava Keralam Karma Padhathi (NKKP) is a new initiative implemented through four innovative Missions in the State for the benefit of the vulnerable sections. Haritha Keralam, Aardram, LIFE and Education Rejuvenation are the four missions. Haritha Keralam is an environment friendly approach, focusing on organic farming, water conservation and waste management. The Mission Aardram aims to create ‘People Friendly’ Health Delivery System in the State through improving universal healthcare and addressing second generation health care issues. LIFE (Livelihood, Inclusion and Financial Empowerment) Mission aims to provide safe and secure house for all landless and homeless family. Education Rejuvenation Mission aims to take forward the State from universalisation of education to modernisation of education, with smart classrooms, digital libraries, IT enabled learning and contemporary syllabus.

While Kerala is better off than most other States in terms of average poverty estimates, there are still 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, fishermen communities, potters and artisans. This points to the need of additional central assistance to support the State programmes and redesigning livelihood programmes in these areas to eliminate absolute poverty from the State. 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. Various schemes on poverty reduction have been dealt with in other chapters of this Review.