Advances in Anthropology
2013. Vol.3, No.1, 38-45
Published Online February 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Conceptual and Methodological Issues of Poverty and
Vulnerability: An Ethnographic Study from the South
Eswarappa Ka s i
National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad, India
Received December 20th, 2012; revised Januar y 22nd, 2013; accepted January 30th, 2013
There is a great need to understand, analyse and critically apprise conceptual and methodological issues
of poverty and vulnerability and its underlying relevance in the today’s fast changing rural/urban spaces
of south India. To pursue this academic and epistemological endeavour, we tried to use the existing lit-
erature largely and later tried to relate it to our own regional case for argument and discussion. This has
given us a scope to look at the issues and parameters involved to see how poverty and its contiguous fac-
tors reflect upon the real people’s lives and livelihoods of marginal groups in south India. Poverty should
be seen in the form of loss of livelihoods, lack of access to resources, basic needs and non-availability of
resources and services to the vulnerable sections of the society. Taking the case of Sugalis, one of the
semi-nomadic tribe, of Rayalaseema region of south India it is argued in this paper that poverty and vul-
nerability coexist and strengthen each other and poverty can be understood by analyzing the real life
situations and strategies adopted by the people to manage their lives. Present Paper based on an empirical
research by using anthropological tools of research.
Keywords: Poverty; Vulnerability; Resources; Ethnography; Sugali; South India
Poverty should not be viewed merely in terms of poverty line,
calorie intake, etc. There is a need to understand poverty from
the point of view of vulnerability. Vulnerability can be seen
both as a cause and effect of poverty experienced by certain
deprive section of the society. The causes and consequences of
vulnerability can be observed from the ways and means of liv-
ing of the vulnerable sections in the society.
Present Paper based on an empirical research conducted
while carrying out my fieldwork among the Sugalis of Anan-
tapur District of Andhra Pradesh during 2003-2004 and 2007-
2008 as part of my PhD field work. The present paper tries to
proceed answering four questions; what is poverty, who is the
poor, why are they poor and how to resolve it? Based on these
questions the present paper has been organized into three sec-
tions, where the first part deals with an extensive conceptual
and methodological conversation on the existing literature on
poverty and vulnerability. The second part vividly provides an
ethnographic account of Sugalis and the prevailing situation in
the location. The third part tried to discuss and contest the con-
ceptual and methodological issues of poverty and vulnerability
in relation to the Sugali lives and livelihoods. The fourth part of
the paper provides a detailed sketch of interventions of an
agency in the locality and their strategies to address the issue of
poverty and vulnerability. Final part of the paper delineates the
conclusions and observations.
Conceptual and Methodological Conversation
Research and writing on poverty, development and vulner-
ability is largely done by the academicians, researchers and
agencies, both governments and voluntary agencies, across the
countries of south Asia or other countries of the world. These
writings further paved the way to analyze the themes and dis-
courses on poverty and vulnerability which tries to bring mun-
dane aspects of the terms poverty and vulnerability. Keeping
these things into consideration, the present paper tries to ad-
dress the issues concerned while going through the relevant
literature on the themes of poverty and vulnerability; it is fur-
ther linked to the empirical notions of the Sugalis and their
everyday practices to overcome the notions of poverty and
vulnerability (Kasi, 2009: p. 117). In South India, all the state
governments have initiated measures to control poverty and
address the issues of vulnerability among the dalits, dait-bahi-
jans1 (Ilaiah, 2009: p. 5), oppressed women, scheduled castes
and scheduled tribes and other backward classes in a significant
way. These efforts of the governments have brought significant
changes to reduce poverty and cope with vulnerability.
Governments, both at the centre and State, have made con-
certed efforts to alleviate poverty through increased economic
growth by using targeted programmes, land and tenancy re-
forms, participatory and empowerment-based approaches and
the provision of basic services (Mehta & Shah, 2003: p. 504).
But development remains unattainable for 350 million of its
poorest citizens. Gandhi’s vision of development has been un-
dermined through large-scale industrialization, urbanization and
modernization (Saxena, 2000a: p. 6). Since 1951, Five Year
plans have been adopted to propel India’s development in in-
dustry and agriculture, and to remedy the political dissension,
debt, and infrastructural disarray that plagued the newly inde-
1The nomenclature of Dalit-Bahujan concept has come into vogue in
academia after Kanshi Ram started Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)and he
want to include all the oppressed and under-privileged castes from the
backward classes into his party. For wider discussion and debate on the
concept Dalit-Bahujan see Kancha Ilaiah (2009), Gopal Guru & Geetha
pendent country (Indian Social Institute, 1988). Development
actions have succeeded in exponentially increasing India’s
industrial, military and agricultural production, its national
income and middle class. Yet, in 2001, almost fifty-four years
after independence, development has failed to alleviate poverty
and related socioeconomic oppressions within the most disen-
franchised caste, class and tribal (adivasi) communities (Chat-
terji, 2001: p. 2).
Several social anthropologists working in the field of post
colonial research, globalization, development and movements
tried to argue that globalization minimised the government role
in developmental interventions of the poor and marginal com-
munities (Chatterji, 2004; Kasi, 2008). For instance, Escobar
(1995) viewed that development institutions continue to assert
processes that systematically delegitimize traditional liveli-
hoods by impoverishing the natural resource base upon which
the lives of subsistence communities depend. In response to
such neglected communities across India are operationalizing
frameworks of developmental strategies that link social, cul-
tural and economic well being of the communities. While an-
thropologists have made an art of integrating themselves into a
local community, increasingly community has been defined less
by physical contiguity or geography and more by epistemo-
logical affinity, shared meanings and common interpretative
tendencies (Schwegler & Powell, 2008: pp. 2-3). Further, it
should be in accordance with the needs and aspirations of the
tribal communities which would enhance their livelihood sys-
tems and strengthen their coping mechanisms in relation to
vulnerability context.
Vulnerability refers to a person’s state of being liable to
succumb, as to persuation or temptation. Vulnerability is a con-
cept that links the relationship that people have with their
environment to social forces and institutions and the cultural
values that sustain and contest them (Kasi, 2007). Moser de-
fines vulnerability as “insecurity and sensitivity in the well-
being of individuals, households, and communities in the face
of a changing environment, and implicit in this, their respon-
siveness and resilience to risks that they face during such nega-
tive changes” (Moser, 1998: pp. 2-3). Bankoff et al. (2004) ob-
served that “the concept of vulnerability expresses the mul-
tidimensionality of disasters by focusing attention on the tota-
lity of relationship in a given social situation which constitutes
a condition that, in combination with environmental forces,
produces a disaster”.
Few writings suggest that poverty and vulnerability must be
addressed with much more vigor and needs greater analysis and
elaboration. For instance Pritchett et al. (2000) find that most
poverty measures consider shortfalls in current income or con-
sumption expenditures to determine the poverty line. They
argue that these measures do not indicate the vulnerable among
the population and therefore propose a “vulnerability to poverty
line (VPL)” that is the level below which a household is vul-
nerable to poverty. A household with a risk of experiencing at
least one episode of poverty in the near future or has a greater
than 50 percent chance of falling into poverty is considered
Some examples of vulnerable populations are small-scale
farmers, fishermen, pastoral nomads, forest populations, slum
dwellers, women-headed households, traditionally marginalized
groups, landless, and refugees (Mani, 2001: p. 7). Vulnerability
analysis tried to address the risk and risk coping mechanisms of
the poor and under privileged.
Vulnerability and Risk
Key to the discussions of vulnerability and ri sk in the CPRC
literature is the suggestion by Hulme et al. (2001: p. 9) that:
What poor people are concerned about is not so much that
their levels of income, consumption or capabilities are low, but
that they are likely to experience highly stressful declines in
these levels, to the point of premature death. This approach
suggests that poverty can be seen as the probability (actual or
perceived) that a household will suddenly (but perhaps also
gradually) reach a position with which it is unable to cope,
leading to catastrophe.
This definition of poverty can also be seen as a particularly
accurate proxy for a definition of vulnerability, especially due
to its emphasis on the risk (whether real or imagined) of being
unable to cope. However, in the CPRC literature risk and vul-
nerability are viewed in different ways. For example, in a dis-
cussion of the “Risk of Market Failure” Bird et al. (2002: p. 18)
highlight that vulnerability to risk may be greater in remote
rural areas. This “vulnerability to risk” is similar to the con-
ception of “vulnerability to shocks” and views vulnerability as
a cause of poverty. In the same way risk appears to be placed as
a precursor to vulnerability. This almost comes across in a lin-
ear fashion with risk being the initial step in an assumed chain
of events: “there are numerous sources of risk… which make
households more likely to suffer shocks and experience an ero-
sion of assets, deepening their vulnerability to future shocks
and damaging their ab i l it y to e sc a p e poverty”.
Discussions of risk and vulnerability can also be found in the
overview papers on Sri Lanka and India. Tudawe (2002: p. 28)
in his observation in Sri Lanka argues that a lack of financial
capital limits the ability of poor people to “manage risk and
vulnerability”. This idea of managing vulnerability is important,
and indicates the agency of people in limiting uncertainty
through having enough capacity to deal with any exposure to
risk and vulnerability. Mehta and Shah (2001) highlight the
relationship between risk and vulnerability through the work of
Kozel and Parker (2001). They categorize the “poor” into three
groups; the destitute poor, the structural poor, and the “mobile”
poor. Interestingly, Kozel and Parker (ibid) assert that, while
risk and vulnerability were important for all three categories, it
is particularly important for the destitute and structural poor.
Further, Baulch and Hoddinot (2000: p. 19) highlight the
states role in modifying the “economic, legal and political set-
tings within which the household is embedded” and provide the
examples of how macro-economic instability and the rule and
law can be important sources of risk. Wisner (1993: p. 130)
illustrates how the state can also be seen as a risk itself through
denying the existence of hazard, directing violence towards
sub-groups within the population, or orientating intervention
efforts towards or away from particular locations or popula-
An attempt is made in the next section to describe about an
ethnographic and empirical account of Sugalis and their loca-
tion vis-à-vis in relation to their livelihoods and resources in the
Ethnographic Account of Sugalis
The present paper tries to describe Sugali tribe (also called
Lambadi in the area), of Andhra Pradesh, which is principal
tribe numerically, educationally, economically, politically and
otherwise. They are concentrated in Chittoor, Cuddapah and
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 39
Anantapur districts of the State. According to Reddy (1991: p.
613) Sugalis are not the autochthones of South India. Their
original home is believed to be Marwar in Rajasthan. They
came into Deccan as transporters of supplies or merchandise for
the armies of Delhi emperors in their raids in the south early in
the 17th century. Some of the Sugalis returned to the north but
some stayed behind and carried on petty trade with their pack-
bullocks. They became a useful medium of transaction between
the South and the North during periods of peace until 1850’s. In
the 18th Century they had also taken up service under the
Maratha rulers of Satara, Peshwas of Poona, the Nizam of Hy-
derabad and the British in their Mysore and Maratha wars
(Bhukya, 2010).
With the advent of the British rule, the Sugalis gave up much
of their traditional occupation of transporting goods due to
introduction of mechanized transport, laying of roads and rail
lines by the then government. Being poor, illiterate and lacking
technical skills, they degenerated and took to crimes like rob-
bery, dacoity, cattle-lifting and kidnapping of children until the
middle of the last century. To reform them through persuasion
and education was considered impossible by the British ad-
ministration. There fore, in order to control their criminal ac-
tivities, they were brought under the purview of the Criminal
Tribes Act XXVII of 1871 (cited in Rao, 2004). According to
Rao (2004) after India became independent, the Criminal
Tribes Act was repealed in 1952 and the Sugalis were denoti-
fied. Till 1977, they were treated as nomadic tribe in all parts of
Andhra Pradesh except Telangana region. However, the list of
Scheduled Tribes has been revised by the Scheduled Castes and
Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment Act) 1976 in order to
remove area restriction in respect of the Sugalis.
Location of Sugali Tribe
The village/settlement under study is Adadakulapalle Thanda.
Adadakulapalle Thanda is situated in the Adadakulapalle vil-
lage Panchayat of Penukonda Mandal in Anantapur district,
about 10 kilometers from Penukonda, the Mandal headquarters,
of Andhra Pradesh, South India. Sugali is the numerically pre-
dominant tribe in Adadakulapalle. Among 218 households, 110
households belong to Sugali tribe with a population of 929
comprising 497 males and 432 females (Table 1). Sugali is a
semi-nomadic tribe. They are still largely employed in trading
service. Over a period of time their occupations, in the settle-
ment, have changed due to changes that have come about in
local conditions and technology. Traditionally Sugali are petty
traders, supari (betel nut) traders, and were army personnel
during Mughal period, and during the British rule they were
notified as criminal tribes and after independence they were
denotified. Now they are practicing settled agriculture in both
the settlements (Bhukya, 2010; Kasi, 2007; Reddy, 1991).
Livelihoods of the People
The major livelihoods activities (Table 2) of Sugalis are
Cultivation, followed by dairying, petty business (running
owned and rented autos and kirana shop and hotel). Sugalis do
go to agricultural labour, construction or repair works.
The primary livelihood activity of Sugali is cultivation, fol-
lowed by daily wage labour, and petty businesses such as run-
ning one’s own or rented auto-rickshaw, kirana (provisions)
shop or angadi (tea and snacks stall). The majority of Sugali
Table 1.
Population distribution by sex in the settleme nts.
Caste Male Female Total
Sugali (Tribe) 497 (53.5) 432 (46.5) 929 (64.5)
Madiga (S.C.) 96 (51.6) 90 (48.4) 186 (12.9)
Kuruba 44 (50.6) 43 (49.4) 87 (6.04)
Kummari 4 (50) 4 (50) 8 (0.55)
Chakali 39 (52) 36 (48) 75 (5.21)
Valmiki Boya 17 (50) 17 (50) 34 (2.40)
Reddy 50 (56.8 ) 38 (43.2) 88 (6.11)
Muslim 13 (52) 12 (48) 25 (1.73)
Vaisya 4 (57) 3 (43) 7 (0.48)
Total 764 (53.1) 675 (46.9) 1439
Note: Parentheses indicate percentages. Source: Field data from the villages/
Table 2.
Livelihoods of Sugali households in the two s et tl ements.
Sl. NoType of Li velihoods Total HHs in
ADP* ADP Than da
1 Wage Laboure rs/Land Less People 237 124
2 Agriculture 225 80
3 Govt. Employees 35 8
4 Petty Business/Liquor Shops 25 (9) 14 (9)
5 Migration 35 35
6 Others/Dependents 25 10
Note: *ADP means Adadakulapalle.
depends on agricultural labour and construction or repair works
in and outside the settlement. Cattle, goat, and sheep are the
major livestock in the area. Several varieties of grass along with
stocked paddy straw; maize stalk, groundnut and bhoosa
(powdered rice husk mixed with dried groundnut kernel and
molasses) are used as fodder. Individual households raise coun-
try chicken in their houses.
The type of land available in the settlement is dry land and
only one Sugali farmer has a bore well in his land as against 90
borewells owned by persons of other communities in the set-
tlement. The rest of the Sugali depend upon the monsoon. Fre-
quent failure of the monsoons has caused out-migration of peo-
ple to Bangalore and Mumbai to work as construction labour or
petty traders. People from the Settlement explained that sea-
sonal migration is high among them as the majority of them are
marginal farmers and landless agricultural labourers. It is worth
mention here that seasonal migration does supplement investa-
ble surplus when cash needs are high and sources of institu-
tional borrowings are few (Sah & Sisodia, 2004, pp. 32-33).
Almost half of the households in the Settlement migrate to
towns in the off-season, according to the Gram Panchayat Sar-
panch. One informant stated that they are helpless and there is
no solution except to migrate to other areas. Younger people
migrate to towns in the off seasons and come back to the Set-
tlement during the rains, to cultivate the land or work as farm
labourers. In the cities and towns the Sugali face social dis-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
crimination as migrants and also face political disenfranchise-
ment as non-locals.
Available Resources in the Locality
Following are the common property resources available in
the Adadakulapalle.
1) Village Tank
2) Forest (Unreserved/Revenue)
3) Temple land
1) Village Tank: Village tank covering the villages of Ada-
dakulapalle and Adadakulapalle Thanda, both come under the
same Panchayat. Majority of the lands situated under village
tank belong to Adadakulapalle Village farmers. People felt that
the tank was important as it helped in cultivation of crops like
Pkm Chinta (Tamarind), sunflower and often groundnut crops.
They also said that due to the tank, they are not facing the
problem of shortage of power; the tank also helped increasing
ground water level in the bore-wells and water levels of open
People who did not have lands (irrigated) under the tank, also
said that it also helped in washing clothes (women), watering to
cattle etc. Grass (Jammu-local name), which is present in the
water is used for making mats, covering of roof (houses or huts),
and construction of sheds to small ruminants. It is also used for
fencing of houses. Another important benefit from the tank is of
fishing. Fishing activity is for domestic purposes where people
of the village fishing activity individually and also as a group.
People, who take part in the fishing as a group, share the out-
come equally, and give an extra share who brings the nets.
People also revealed that, they use the tank for cultivation of
cucumber crop in the tank and cattle grazing whenever the tank
dried up. Majority of the beneficiaries were land less laborers,
marginal and small farmers. Because of the tank landless peo-
ple are getting more number of wage days as said by the infor-
mants. So villagers felt that the tank has given them both direct
and i ndirect benefits.
2) Unreserved/Revenue forest: People of the village/ Tha-
nda benefited by the forest as it promotes them fuel wood col-
lection, cattle grazing, collection of Bandaru Aku (which are
used for roof/leaves purposes and house fencing) and bodha
grass (roof and sale purposes). But some people felt that, since
they do not have cattle, it is not that important for them. Finally
people believed that forest benefited them but, landless people
are not much benefited due to lack of resources.
3) Temple land: According to people there are 20 acres of
temple land available in the village. Earlier land was given to
any farmer for a one-year duration based on auction. According
to informants auction was based on a meeting, which was at-
tended by village elders and where modalities, terms and condi-
tions, money/amount, etc decided. The amount they got from
the farmers was used for development activities of the temple
and celebration of temple festivals, rituals in that particular
After the watershed programme was initiated into the village,
the situation changed completely. Villagers conducted Gram-
sabha and decided to go for raising commercial crop (Pkm
Chinta) in temple land. Now it is called as “chinta Topu
(Tamarind Topu2). Even though they are still using the temple
land and development activities, it is used differently, so that
percentage of income is more than before. They also felt that
there are other benefits from tamarind Topu/Trees like chiguru3
(used for curry and also they mixed it with Dal) etc. Generally
women collect the chiguru and dry it for few days and use it
during non-availability of vegetables or scarcity of vegetable
seasons. It is also beneficial as it provides people with fuel
wood. Social anthropologists works on poverty and vulnerabi-
lity indicated mostly issues related to the poor and the margin-
alized. In the following section an attempt is made to discuss
the reflection of social anthropologists from the etic perspec-
Poverty and Vulnerability from the
Etic Perspective
People who live in extreme poverty, in which the very basics
of life—food, security, sanitation, healthcare, education, hous-
ing and employment—are denied, are automatically denied also
the right to live without fear and want. In extreme situations,
these conditions might even threaten their right to life itself.
Poverty is not mere income alone. It is the social, cultural,
political, and even seasonal factors that affect well-being from
time to time. Women and girls are often particularly vulnerable
groups in poor and marginal communities. It is evident in our
case that women and children become more vulnerable due to
the absence of men due to their out-migration. Men migrate to
towns and cities in search of livelihoods and stay away from
their family for longer duration which brings social and struc-
tural changes in the family life of Sugali tribe. Here, it is ob-
served that women has to cope-up with partner absence and has
to manage the family independently since there is lack of social
safety nets such as kinship relations and social bonds.
The poor are found in every village, block and district of ru-
ral India and in every town and city. They are most numerous
in areas where the land is less productive, where water is scarce,
where communications are poor or where certain castes or
tribes predominate. The poor are increasingly found in towns
and cities as people migrate from less productive rural areas, to
urban areas, where they aspire for better life. It is in this context
that the relevance of anthropology and its emic engagement
matters in the developmental discourse and policy formulations.
Further, in its Human Development Report (HDR, 2000), it
categoricall y st ated that
To be poor is still to be powerless and vulnerable. Life re-
mains a torment for children in the teeming barrio of a devel-
oping countrys city, for refugees caught up in conflict, for
women in a society that still denies them eq uality and freedom—
every day bringing physical and psychological threats. And still
too many of the 1.2 billion people living on less than a dollar a
day lack even the most basic human security.
The primary objective of the Indian Constitution is social
justice. It tries to uphold the dignity of the individual, guaran-
teeing citizens a fundamental right to equality before the law. It
promises that they will not be discriminated against, on the
grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. It guar-
antees equality of opportunity in public employment, and as-
sures personal freedoms such as the right to speech, life, liberty
and religion.
The Directive Principles take this commitment a step further
by instructing the state to secure a wide range of measures,
including free legal aid and the citizen’s right to work, educa-
2It is local name used by the informants to refer full of trees in a same loca-
tion. 3Tender leaves of t amarind.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 41
tion and public assistance. They also enjoin the state to ensure a
living wage for all workers. Though non-enforceable, the Di-
rective Principles declare: The state shall… strive to minimize
the inequalities in income, and endeavour to eliminate inequali-
ties in status, facilities and opportunities (Unnikrishnan, 2001).
In spite of this, the World Development Report says that over
40 per cent of the population in India lives below the poverty
line, and nearly half are still illiterate. The overall figures for
every aspect of development, when broken down, indicate that
the poor and those who face discrimination are the worst suf-
ferers and lack access to the basics. As the World Development
Report puts it, “Poor women face a double disadvantage in
access to resources and voice—they are poor, and they are
women” (World Bank, 2000).
The Human Development Report 2000 found “extreme dep-
rivation” especially among rural women from scheduled tribes.
In its study of human poverty, the report says that 19 percent of
India’s population still lacks access to safe drinking water, a
quarter does not have access to health services and as much as
71 per cent lives without access to sanitation. More than half—
53 percent—of all Indian children below the age of five are
underweight. There are only 0.4 telephones to every thousand
Indians. The top 10 percent of India’s people account for 33.5
per cent of income or consumption. The 10 per cent at the other
end of the scale account for a mere 3.5 per cent. Although pro-
gress has been made in areas such as literacy and life expec-
tancy, a very large number of people remain excluded from the
development that others in the country enjoy.
The World Development Report 2000-2001 noted that “Evi-
dence from India shows that scheduled castes and scheduled
tribes are among the structural poor who not only lack eco-
nomic resources but whose poverty is strongly linked to social
identity, as determined by caste. They also have worse social
The World Development Report (2000) estimated that 44 per
cent of the Indian population still lives on less than $1 a day.
Eighty six per cent live on less than $2 a day. Poverty figures
are said to be declining but, there are more poor people in India
today than the population of the country in 1947. Yet, the go-
vernment celebrates the swift decline of poverty. Figures can-
not communicate what “living in poverty” means or how it af-
fects human dignity (Sainath, 1996).
The Voices of the Poor study carried by the World Deve-
lopment Report 2000-2001, says: “In India, the characteristics
of credit institutions can deter poor people from seeking loans.
Poor people in many regions also report widespread corruption
in healthcare systems. But when facing serious health condi-
tions, they feel, they have no choice but to comply with de-
mands for bribes” (World Bank, 2000-2001).
Mehta and Shah (2003: p. 495) has rightly viewed that po-
verty seems to be disproportionately high among historically
marginalized groups such as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled
Tribes. Particularly women from these groups are more vul-
nerable than their male counterpart. The multiple deprivations
suffered by these groups make it harder for them to escape from
poverty. Caste and tribe are structural factors that predispose
certain groups to long-term poverty and deprivation. The sche-
duled castes are a collection of castes and some of them are
small and marginal farmers, most of them in rural areas work
largely as agricultural labourers. The scheduled tribes were
identified on the basis of certain well defined criteria including
distinctive culture and pre-agricultural modes of production.
Sankaran (2000: p. 509) has rightly stated that the two thirds of
India’s bonded laborers are from scheduled castes and sched-
uled tribes.
Further, Mehta and Shah (2003: p. 496) mentioned that
quailtative research validate the greater vulnerability of sched-
uled castes and scheduled tribes to poverty. Kozel and Parker
(2001) identified a typical poor household as one which is at
the low end of the caste hierarchy—most often a member of the
scheduled tribe… Lanjouw and Stern (1991) also postulate a
strong correlation between caste and poverty in India. Based on
a study, they report that among this group, poverty remains
endemic. This is a reflection not only of poor endowments of
productive assets, but also of low educational standards, vul-
nerability and little access to any kind of regular employment.
According to Hulme et al. (2001: p. 7) Poverty has many di-
mensions and the poor suffer deprivation in multiple ways and
not just in terms of income. Several forms of human depriva-
tion, including poor survival chances, unjust employment of
children, bonded labor; environmental pollution and social
exclusion are not related to income in a predictable manner
(UNDP, 1997; cited in Mehta & Shah, 2003). The poor also
lack access to assets such as credit, literacy, water, and forests.
Broch-Due (1995) emphasises that the concepts of poverty
employed in most development analysis are very “thin”, focus-
ing on material and measurable elements, such as income and
nutrition. In contrast “thick” ethnographic work reveals far
more complex, multi-layered pictures. The various concepts
and definitions of poverty and wealth, or more broadly, ill be-
ing and well being, which policy agencies have emerged in
specific cultural and historical contexts. Material deprivation—
lack of food and income, poor health—may be important eve-
rywhere. But ideas employed by African peoples in particular
contexts and selected aspects of material life and also group
them with other attributes in distinctive ways, form the natural
focus of anthropological work in or around the topic of poverty
(cited in Booth et al., 1999).
In discussions about the multi-dimensionality of poverty, it is
commonplace that the ways people experience material condi-
tions are mediated through social relations and institutions. Yet
anthropological studies emphasise that well being is frequently
also conceived or defined in terms of social relations and kin
networks, and a person’s place in them.
Anthropological work focuses attention on how experiences
of poverty and well being vary over the course of people’s life-
times. The developmental cycle of domestic groups (Goody,
1971) was a key concept which drew attention to how opportu-
nities and vulnerabilities might shift through the processes of
establishing marriage, having children, children growing up,
and ageing. There are links here with economists’ ideas about
the importance of household size, dependency ratios and so on.
However, anthropologists pay attention not only to changes in
economic status within developmental cycles, but also to how
members at different ages and life stages may be differentially
linked into wider kin networks and social relations, and hence
be more or less secured and “supported”.
In the following section, n attempt is made to look at the ef-
forts made by the local agency to address the issue of poverty
and also helping the needy in order to improve their livelihoods
and which would make them to cope up with any unforeseen
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 43
NGO Intervention in the Locality
Social Education Development Society (SEDS), an NGO,
has been working in the area for the last twenty five years. It
was started in the year 1980; head office is located in Mekala-
palle village, which is 15 kilometers from the Mandal head-
quarters. SEDS facilitates government sponsored programmes
and they have their own programmes in the villages. Initially,
they were working in the two Mandals and now their coverage
has risen to five Mandals (Penukonda, Somandepalle, Gorantla,
Roddam, and Chilamathur) covering 209 villages. According to
the Manager of SEDS, their main concentration is Scheduled
Tribes, Scheduled Castes and other weaker sections in all their
villages. In each village they have a community level organizer
who is based in the village and looking after their works. Like-
wise, Adadakulapalle is one of their main concentrated villages
in the area. Currently, the major activities of the NGO are Land
Development Programmes, School Development programmes
where, they construct toilets and plant trees in the school sur-
roundings, Horticulture programmes, Women Empowerment
through the formation of Self Help groups (SHGs), Water har-
vesting schemes and to provide minimum wage works to assist
the marginal people and landless agricultural labourers (Table
3). They have initiated the unit where, all SHGs in the village to
start organisation called “Village Organisation”. Village Or-
ganisation has started with two people from each SHG in the
village. At preset, the total strength of Village Organisation is
32 in the village. Village Organisation acts as a nodal agency in
the village and undertakes all the developmental works (SEDS,
2004; Kasi, 2009).
SEDS is working for the upliftment of Scheduled Tribe and
Scheduled Caste in the village. It is observed from the table that
their concentration is more on wasteland plantation, Horticul-
ture, water conservation and land development programmes of
Sugalis and SCs in the village.
Land Development Programme
Under this programme, waste lands have been converted into
agricultural fields through soil conservation. Soil conservation
works include Stone Bunding, Gully checks, Spill ways, Wood-
lots, fire tracing, ploughing, and trenching activities (Table 3).
All these works are being undertaken in the summer season
which provides some wage works to the people of the village.
Some of the works like stone bunding, ploughing, fire tracing,
and trenching, are carried by collecting some contribution from
the beneficiaries. Likewise, ploughing, fire tracing and trench-
ing activities where both have to share the work as well as
money. The land development programme has benefited the
Sugali in the Thanda to a certain extent only. The implementa-
tion of the programme was initiated in the year 2001 and some
benefits were derived in the following year. Subsequently, due
to failure of monsoons, the programme did not take off. More-
over, as mentioned before, since majority of the Sugali are
landless, this programme has not been of much relevance to
them. Here is a case, where the beneficiary is under the Land
Development programme.
Case Study of the Bene fi ci ary from Adadakul apalle
Ranga Naik, 55 years old, studied 5th class, has two sons,
Table 3.
Works undertaken by SEDS dur ing 1996-2007*.
S. No Activities Undertaken in Adadakulapalle Settlement Parima namu Expenditure Total Working Days
1 Matti Gatlu (Mud Tanks) 71,929 meters 719,290 17,983
2 Rathi Gatlu (Rock Dams) 17,216 meters 172,160 4307
3 Rathi Maravalu 811 (No) 145,980 3649
4 Gulli Checks 371 296,800 7420
5 Water Storage Ponds 45 45,000 1125
6 Kuntalu 5 200,000 2500
7 Check dams 11 1,122,550 18,064
8 Tree Plantation 390,701 24,808,000 62,020
9 Seeds Implantation 2500 Kgs 52,800 1320
10 Horticulture 80 Acres 387,600 9690
11 Roads 20 Kms 100,000 2500
12 Social Protection of Forests 4000 Acres 650,000 16,250
13 Wells Repairing 3 (No) 24,000 6000
14 Pudika Thisinadi (Check Dams and Kuntalu) 16 165,000 4125
15 Round Sheds and Com mittee Ha ll 4 61,000 1500
16 Bores 7 140,000 -
17 Supply Channels 8 Kms 23 2 ,000 5800
18 Fish Rearing - 50,000
Total Expendi ture 7,044,980
Note: *Source: SEDS Office, Mekalapalle.
who are separated after their marriage, has 16 acres of land in
the village. The type of land is dry land and do not have water
facility before. SEDS have chosen him as beneficiary and
started the land development programme in the year 2000. Fur-
ther, Soil conservation works were initiated with the help and
support from the NGO. NGO also assisted him to go for dig-
ging bore well in his land. Later, SEDS suggested him to adopt
horticulture cropping by providing saplings of Mango, Chinta
(Tamarind), Eucalyptus, etc. He also reported that there are 340
mango plants in 8 acres of land, 240 tamarind plants in 6 acres
of land and eucalyptus in 2 acres of land. Watering to these
plants is provided through water tanker of NGO. Ranga Naik
has complained that there is severe problem of forest wild pigs
and cows in the area. To protect the seedlings from the forest
pigs and cows, the NGO has appointed watcher, beneficiary
only, by paying Rs 600/per month as a salary. Due to this prob-
lem he has to stay and sleep there in the polam (Agricultural
Field) leaving his wife at home, who stayed alone in the house.
His polam (land) is far off from the village, which is nearly 3
kms and electricity is not there for the land. They have com-
plained number of times to the officials but so far they have not
done anything. Officials have conveyed to them that providing
electric facility to the fields is difficult since the lands are far
away from the village and power lines are not available in the
nearby area.
Ranga Naik said that children live in independent, separate
houses post-marriage leaving parents alone. This is because of
the demands and dreams of the young couples as felt by the
informant. Further, he mentioned that, the traditional way of
marriage is no longer practiced. Majority of the families of
Sugalis are following modern type of marriages, which just last
for two days and that too in marriage halls. This change is due
to the improvement of communication facilities like News Pa-
pers, Television, Radio and also due to the education of the
In order to ensure the services of the local agency and its
impact on the needy, it is also necessary to see the existing
resource base and utilities, usages by the people. This will give
us a scope to address the issues of resource scarcity in the study
area. Hence, the next section tries to look at the available re-
sources in the villages of study area.
As we said earlier, there is a need to understand poverty from
the point of view of people’s experiences with vulnerability and
its risk factors. Vulnerability can be seen both as a cause and
effect of poverty experienced by certain deprived section of the
society. The causes and consequences of vulnerability can be
observed from the ways and means of living of the vulnerable
sections in the society. Poverty in the area is closely associ-
ated with land, available resources base and asset base and
rainfall, but as agriculture is only a part of livelihood, the dy-
namics of poverty consists of a complex mix of processes, in-
cluding migration (Kasi, 2010).
The development programmes and schemes, of NGO and
available natural resource base, encompassing various issues,
integrative and is idealistic efforts to address the issue of po-
verty by creating opportunities and offering support to indi-
viduals and individual households. At the bottom level, the
programmes are burdened with problems relating to coordina-
tion of various elements that necessarily intervene and intersect
the areas of operation. These include human elements—dis-
charging the duties of the functionaries, location of the ins-
titutions, power politics and natural local conditions. There is a
complex relationship between these elements. For success of
any programme, proper configuration, manipulation and ex-
ploitation of these elements for advantage become necessary.
Whoever, whether an individual or agency, is able to handle
these judiciously will be a successful player. To some extent in
this case the NGO has played more successfully than the go-
vernment: an economic focus while ensuring support of cultural
elements seems to yield better results.
Poverty in the area is closely associated with land and rain-
fall, but as agriculture is only a part of livelihood, the dynamics
of poverty consists of a complex mix of processes, including
migration. In order to understand the impact of the develop-
mental interventions of the government and the NGO in ame-
liorating poverty, this study has taken an anthropological per-
spective of contextualizing development processes at the
ground level. To conclude Kasi (2009b, 2011a) argued that
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