The recent visit by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has given a fillip to anti-poverty programmes in Tamil Nadu. The Bank-funded poverty reduction project, Pudhu Vazhvu Thittam, aimed at poor women, unemployed youth, elderly persons and persons with disabilities, has been extended till September 2016. The project, launched in 2005, has been implemented in blocks, identified as most backward, spread across 26 districts. Though no additional funding has been provided, roughly Rs. 400 crore, part of the original allocation, and possible gains from the dollar exchange rates will be spent during the extended period. The project covers 39.7 lakh people, including four lakh youths and 1.6 lakh persons with disabilities. Loans worth Rs. 140 crore have been disbursed to 436 panchayat-level federations to bring about financial inclusion of the beneficiaries.
The best part of this project is we do not use the government data on the Below Poverty Line (BPL) [families] to identify beneficiaries as they are often inaccurate, says M. Sakrapani, Livelihood (Skills Training) Specialist under the project. Instead, the Village Poverty Reduction Committee (VPRC) set up by the project staff, identifies beneficiaries affected by poverty, using such indicators as income, caste, disability and illness. As part of the project, 347 special VPRCs have been set up for the tribal community alone. D. Saravanan, native of Nagapattinam, says the livelihood support from the project helped him find a stable job. He has been an employee of Samsung India Electronics at Kancheepuram since 2011. I was clueless about what to do after I finished Plus-Two. I could not pursue further studies. With the help of the project staff, I found this job where I was trained in skills. The project also helps widows and poor women set up small businesses through loans. A panchayat-level federation of self-help groups manages loan disbursal and repayment.
At Padappai in Kancheepuram district, The Hindu interacted with the women who had learnt to use the accounting software Tally and kept records of project fund disbursal through loans. The VPRC members also organise village-level mental health awareness programmes from time to time. Asked whether the beneficiaries currently backed by the initiative would be left unsupported once the funds ran out, Project Director Mythili Rajendran said that in the next two years, efforts would be made to consolidate the gains in poverty reduction and help the beneficiaries become self-sufficient.