Asraya is a destitute rehabilitation program designed by Kudumbashree. The program is targeted at the poorest of the poor population. While implementing the poverty alleviation programmes, it was observed that the programmes implemented by the Government and other agencies never reach this population. These people, who live in utter distress and despair, constitute a very small number in the society, approximately the bottom two per cent of the total population. Kudumbashree designed a project called Asraya - Destitute Identification Rehabilitation and Monitoring Project for the rehabilitation of destitute families. Destitute families are identified using a transparent risk index framed by the Mission. Individual needs of the family are identified through a participatory need assessment. The project envisaged to address lack of food, health problems including chronic illness, pension, educational facilities to children, land for home, shelter, drinking water, safe sanitation facilities, skill development, employment opportunities, etc.
Asraya started off with a demand based approach. Initially elected heads of the local governments were sensitized on issues affecting the ultra-poor. It was primarily initiated in the gram panchayat areas in the state. Panchayats which were willing to take up the difficult and sensitive task of improving the livelihoods of such people, accept the continuous responsibility and meet at least 75 per cent of the cost of the project were identified for piloting the project.
The Asraya project, supported by State Government was tried in 179 Gram Panchayats in the year 2003. From the XIth Five Year Plan, Asraya programme was universalized and plan preparation began in the remaining gram panchayats, and the urban local bodies. Today,it is implemented in 1042 local bodies, including the gram panchayats, municipalities and corporations across the state.
Resources required for funding different components of the plan are mobilized, as much as possible, from existing schemes and programmes.Since most of the anti-poverty and social welfare programmes have been brought under Local Governments in Kerala the convergence exercise has been made easier. After identifying available resources in this manner the gap is filled up by the untied resources transferred to Local Governments for development purposes.
As an incentive to Local Governments to take up Asraya, Government have committed to provide 40 per cent of the project cost subject to a maximum of Rs.25 lakh as special grant to each of the local bodies. This is known as Challenge fund, and is provided via the Kudumbashree Mission. According to the guidelines for Asraya, the fund allocation has to be on a ratio of 60:40, wherein a minimum of 60 per cent of the funds need to come in from the local government by means of plan fund, convergence with schemes etc. There is no restriction on the amount the local government can contribute towards the project. But all other sources including the challenge fund cannot exceed 40 per cent of the total project cost. Also, the challenge fund cannot be used to meet the infrastructural needs of the Asraya beneficiaries, which needs to be done in convergence with the schemes under the local government or the Plan fund.Special Asraya projects for the tribal population have also been initiated in Local Self Government Institutions where Government provides up to 40 per cent of the project cost subject to a maximum of Rs.40 lakhs.
Since Asraya has tremendous social appeal some of the enterprising local governments have managed to mobilize additional resources by way of donations from philanthropic individuals, sponsorships from institutions, and service commitments from hospitals and so on.
Objectives of Asraya
•Rehabilitation of the destitute in every LSGI with the full support of the local self-governance structures
•Bringing the destitute families into the mainstream of society
•Providing the destitute families with basic necessities such as food, housing, drinking water, sanitation, health care and clothing based on the specific needs and requirements of each of these families
If one has to list down the major achievements of the programme, the following would be the most important of the lot:
1.The complete involvement of the community and their participation in the destitute rehabilitation programme of the LSGI. The role of the community in the identification of the destitute, providing continuous care, support and services and especially in the monitoring of the programme in their LSGIs.
2.All-round acceptance of the identification process and willingness to provide greater assistance to the identified families.
3.The gradual but progressive empowerment of the identified section of poorest of poor families who begin to access entitlements starting with food security through the public distribution system, moving on to health security, social security in the form of pension and then reaching out to human development aspects like education and skill up-gradation, and finally leading to developing the foundation for economic development. During this process the LSGI ensures that the household gets basic minimum needs like land for houses, shelter, sanitation and drinking water.
4.There has been visible transformation in the attitudes and approaches of officials and elected representatives directly involved in the project – with inculcation of a spirit of empathy.
5.The State Poverty Eradication Mission has been able to play the role of a conscientious facilitator by motivating the elected local governments even while consciously keeping away from actions that would affect the autonomy of local governments.
6.The project is implemented under the leadership of the Local Governments. The individual family plans prepared for each destitute family are part of the Anti Poverty Sub Plan of Local Governments and get integrated with their Five Year Plan for which enough funds are devolved in Kerala.
7.From the State Government there is tremendous policy support and from the Central Government there is great encouragement.
8.Its adoption of a simple rational methodology and its being rooted in the partnership of NHGs and Local Governments provide the surest foundation of sustainability.
9.The involvement of the Community Based Organisations (CBO) of the poor at all levels of the project implementation is a key factor for its sustenance. What has to be recognized is that the poorest of the poor who are the beneficiaries of the Asraya programme come from amongst the families of the LSGI who are all part of the Kudumbashree NHGs, and hence the identification of the destitute happens properly since the entire process is accountable to the community itself.
The success of this particular programme has been attributed to quite a few reasons, the most important of which would be the conscious decision to reach the sections of population that were untouched by the usual local self-government programmes, having transparent criteria for inclusion of the poor, understanding the concept of ‘need’ holistically, having had plans tailored to each family, convergence of existence schemes and services, primacy being given to care and compassion more than solely material assistance, and continued support till the family is able to come out of destitution.