Poverty alleviation as advancing basic human capabilities : Kerala's achievements compared
This paper is complementary to my earlier paper on Public Intervention and Poverty Alleviation: Declining Incidence of Rural Poverty in Kerala (published in 1995). The objective of this paper is to go beyond the notion of income-poverty and consider the achievements in advancing basic human capabilities. Written for an Asian audience, the paper highlights Kerala’s achievements in advancing basic human capabilities to an extent that is far above than would be warranted by its per capita income. For this reason, the experience of Kerala, along with a few other countries, has received considerable attention in the development literature. This paper highlights Kerala’s achievements by comparing them with six Asian countries’ performance. These countries are: India, China, Thailand, Malasia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. After examining the significance of Kerala’s achievements, the paper discusses Kerala’s record in relation to the selected six Asian countries. In addition, the paper also briefly deals with Kerala’s achievements in relation to all-India since the Indian experience in general is one of slow progress and the task ahead is quite considerable both in absolute terms as well as in relation to most other countries. Emphasis has been given to public action by which Kerala has achieved considerable reduction in poverty. Here I have identified education as the central process through which other changes in society, especially for the poor, were brought about. In this process, the importance and impact of historical factors in poverty alleviation have been highlighted. Finally an attempt has been made to draw some lessons from the Kerala experience by focusing on the role of public action. JEL Classification: I 30, I 31, I 32 Key Words: Education, health status, human capabilities, human deprivation, Human Poverty Index, income-poverty, mobilisation, poverty alleviation, public action.