Agathirahithakeralam – Reaching the Unreachable

Since independence, both the Central and State governments have been focusing on poverty eradication through the trickling down effect of the general growth process and direct income generation programs. All income generation programs were either asset generation programs or employment generation programs. Though these helped in uplifting many from the clutches of poverty, they failed at reaching out to the poorest of the poor. Thus the economic growth of the country, many a times, did not help the destitute to escape the penury to which they have been thrown into. In 2003, the Government of Kerala introduced a new project through the State Poverty Eradication Mission (Kudumbashree), catering to these unreachable poorest of poor, called Asraya. In 2017 Asraya the Asraya project which had seen many phases was restructured into a more comprehensive one time program called Agathirahithakeralam (Destitute Free Kerala).

Agathirahithakeralam – the Destitute Identification and Rehabilitation Program

One of the main challenges in the program is destitute identification. So far poverty has been measured in the country based on consumption expenditure. However, the criteria of destitute identification in Agathirahithakeralam are tailored according to the socio economic structure of Kerala. This is done by means of a 9 – point criteria and additional criteria (8 in rural and 10 in urban areas). Those families who satisfy 7 out of 9 – point criteria and 1 additional criterion are deemed to be destitute. The beneficiary families are identified by the Community Development Societies (CDS), the apex body of the three – tier community organization of Kudumbashree, and later ratified by the local self government Institutes (LSGIs).

The CDS and the LSGI together prepared a project for the beneficiary families by identifying the services needed by each family and allocating funds for the same. Once the project is approved by the State Government it is implemented by the CDS and the LSGI together.

Agathirahithakeralam – A Multidimensional Approach

Agathirahithakeralam is different from other poverty eradication projects in the sense that instead of focusing on a particular aspect of poverty, it endeavors to look into various dimensions of poverty. While many of the basic, developmental and psychological needs of an Agathirahithakeralam beneficiary family are taken care under the aegis of Kudumbashree, the other needs are satisfied by Government Departments like LSGIs, Health Department, and Public Distribution System etc. Resources required for funding different components of the project are mobilized from existing schemes and programs. The funding of the project is by Kudumbashree, LSGIs and philanthropic individuals and institutions. Kudumbashree allocates fund for basic needs called the Challenge Fund (40% of the total project cost subject to a maximum of ₹40 lakhs for general projects and ₹50 lakhs for ST projects). The entire project is monitored at various levels starting at the bottom by the foot soldiers of Neighborhood Groups of Kudumbashree.

Agathirahithakeralam– A Convergence Program

The success of erstwhile Asraya, despite being a behemoth program, lies in the fact that it was a convergent program. Agathirahithakeralam project follows the same foot prints of Asraya. The stakeholders of Agathirahithakeralam program, apart from beneficiaries, are various Government departments steered by the LSGIs under the guidance of Kudumbashree. There is no better example of how community involvement (via Kudumbashree Community Organizations) helps in uplifting the poor, than Agathirahithakeralam. Its success also lies in the fact that it has a decentralized approach to poverty eradication.

Agathirahithakeralam– An Innovative Program

Unlike Asraya, Agathirahithakeralam (Destitute Free Kerala) is equipped with better technology in beneficiary identification (via mobile app) and project preparation rendering the project more cost effective and timely. There is a provision for appeal submission and appeals are verified by LSGIs. For monitoring of the projects after implementation, Monitoring Committees will be formed at State and District level. The families who do not have enough criteria to become beneficiaries under the project but have no job for even 10 days a month will be treated as Special Cases and given a helping hand. It also has an anytime inclusion provision. Thus Asraya which has donned new attire in the form of Agathirahithakeralam is expected to tackle the many facets of poverty in a better way.



Agathirahithakeralam– Selection Criteria

If a family satisfies 7 out of the 9-point criteria (Figure 1) and 1 additional criterion (Table 1), the family will be deemed as a destitute and will be a beneficiary of the program.


  Additional criteria for Rural areas   Additional criteria for Urban areas
1 Landless (family living on forest lands, waste lands, bunds of canals / fields etc.) 1 Family sleeping on public places / streets at night
2 Family sleeping on public places/ streets at night 2 Unmarried old women
3 Family with unwed mothers / mother & children only / deserted women  3 Family engaged in begging
4 Financially unsound widows / unmarried old women 4 Family with no members below 60 years of age capable of providing food for the family
5 Family with members having chronic illness / physical or mental disabilities 5 Family with woman who has suffered abuse
6 Family with no members below 60 years of age capable of providing food for the family 6 Family with children in Juvenile Homes/ Poor Homes/ street dwellers
7 Family engaged in begging 7 Family looked after by children below 14 years of age
8 Family with woman who has suffered abuse 8 Family with commercial sex workers
  9 Family with women living in destitute homes
10 Family living in slums
Table 1



Agathirahithakeralam– Services Provided

The table below portrays the needs catered to in Agathirahithakeralam