Growth of Development

No of families covered under THP
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No of branches covered under THP
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Targeting the Hard Core Poor(THP)


The poorest of the poor section is said to be bypassed by microfinance. Even if credit facility is extended to them, they are reluctant to accept it. They lack the basic confidence of utilizing the credit facility towards any income generating activity. They are not sure whether they will be able to successfully repay the loan. As a result, they stay out of the preview of microfinance services.

In order to reach out to such hard core poor, Bandhan exclusively designed a grant based program for them with an objective of uplifting them to mainstream finance. This unique initiative started in 2006.

Target group

This program aims to reach out to the hard core poor who are bypassed by microfinance. It targets the extremely destitute women having no asset base or alternative sources of income, are highly vulnerable to shocks, deserted by husbands, and mainly dependent on begging, wage labor, etc.


  • To bring in economic, social and inspirational changes in the lives of the hard core poor families
  • To help the hard core poor families graduate to mainstream finance at the end of 24 months intervention (via grant support)
  • To form effective village committees that will act as guardians of the hard core poor families after the completion of the program

Program Description

This program of 24 months duration has been so designed that the initial tasks involved are tracking these hard core poor through Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), wherein the village community collectively select the needy women. Thereafter Bandhan helps to identify a feasible enterprise, which is easily manageable by the beneficiary and trains her on enterprise management and simultaneously engages in her confidence-building. Once the beneficiary is identified as capable of managing such an enterprise, the relevant asset is donated to her (in kind, not in cash) via an asset transfer ceremony.

Regular training and hand-holding support is provided to her, both technical and with respect to consumption, till the enterprise starts generating surplus. She is also trained to reach a stage of basic literacy and is educated on certain issues of social importance. Bandhan also provides the beneficiaries with sanitary latrines and encourages them to use it.

It is expected that the beneficiaries would graduate to mainstream finance within 24 months and henceforth embark on a sustainable human development path.

Components of the Program

  • Selection of beneficiaries
  • Enterprise selection
  • Training
  • Asset transfer
  • Additional support
  • Follow up and monitoring
  • Graduation
Process for upliftment of poorest of the poor

Selection of beneficiariesEnterprise selectionTrainingAsset transferAdditional supportFollow up and monitoring             Graduation           
Selection of beneficiaries- The poorest of the poor are identified through the following methods.

An extensive Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) exercise is conducted including the following steps.

  • Rapport Building
  • Social Mapping
  • Wealth Ranking
Thereafter Questionnaire is conducted following which verification and final selection takes place.


In terms of funding, the Program has received grant support from the following institutions.

  • CGAP
  • The Ford Foundation
  • The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation
  • ITC Limited
  • Indigo Airlines


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA has been associated with the research of the CUF-THP Program in Murshidabad district of West Bengal ever since its inception.

Findings of ultra-poor program shared at a press conference and published in the prestigious ‘Science’ journal
A press conference titled ‘A Livelihood Programme That Works for India’s Ultra-Poor: New study in Science’ was organized on May 15, 2015 at the Press Club, Kolkata. This was done to create awareness about the findings from a landmark study being published in the ‘Science’ journal focusing on a livelihoods programme that has found to be consistently effective in bringing the ultra-poor out of poverty across continents.

The study is based on six rigorous randomized evaluations conducted across India (by Bandhan in West Bengal), Pakistan, Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, and Peru by eminent researchers including from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Yale. The data shows that this approach led to large and lasting impacts on the standard of living of these ultra-poor.

According to study co-author Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee, Professor of Economics and Director of Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at MIT, "The ultra-poor face several challenges, beyond just not having sufficient income. They don’t have adequate food or means to save, and suffer from low morale to escape from their current situation. The approach we evaluated addressed several of these factors at once, and the positive gains in income, livelihoods and health persisted even one year after the programme ended”.

The press conference was attended by Mr. John Floretta, Deputy Director, J-PAL South Asia and Mr. Chandra Shekhar Ghosh, Founder, Bandhan. Prof. Banerjee joined the conference on Skype, shared the study results, policy relevance and also answered the questions raised by the media friends.

Mr. Ghosh shared the importance of the study and also spoke of scale-up efforts of its Targeting the Hard core Poor (THP) Program. The study report says that the program is cost effective, with positive returns in five out of six countries, ranging from 133 percent in Ghana to 433 percent in India that were sustained one year after the end of the program. Bandhan’s program has been adjudged as the most cost effective.

Other initiatives

Technical Assistance to World Vision
World Vision in partnership with Bandhan is implementing a program called Graduation model to meet the needs of the ultra poor households and help them come out of extreme poverty. Bandhan Konnagar as a Technical Assistance partner is providing necessary guidance, training, monitoring and advisory support in implementing the program.

Bandhan joins hands with 4 NGO - MFIs for implementation of hard core poor program
In an endeavor to reach out to the destitute poor, Bandhan takes up a special initiative by agreeing to extend complete technical assistance and financial support to the tune of 75% to four reputed NGO – MFIs. In other words, this effort is like an extension of its existing Targeting the Hard core Poor (THP) Program. These 4 MFIs Gram Bikash Kendra, Belghoria Janakalyan Samity, Kalighat Society for Development Facilitation and Village Welfare Society have agreed to take up credit plus approach with the implementation of THP Program through this unique endeavor and are willing to make up for the remaining cost of 25% by utilizing portion of the surplus generated from their microfinance operations. Each of these MFIs shall extend grant support (not in cash, but in kind) to 100 hard core poor beneficiaries to help them develop their own sustainable livelihood and uplift themselves to mainstream society over a period of 18 – 24 months. These MFIs would commence the program in the district of Hooghly, North 24 Parganas and Nadia.

The inauguration of this unique initiative took place on November 17, 2014 at Bandhan Head Office wherein Mr. Chandra Shekhar Ghosh, Founder & Mentor, Bandhan presented the cheque (grant money) to the Chief Executives of each MFI for the commencement of the program. Upon receiving the cheque all four Chief Executives expressed their heartfelt thanks to Bandhan for supporting them. They shared their rationale behind adopting this credit plus approach and also their expansion plans of the same over the years.

Program Highlights

Performance of the hard core poor program has been mentioned below. These data are all as of October , 2021.

No Particulars Total
1 States 12
2 Districts 63
3 Branches 847
4 Villages 10,009
5 Beneficiaries 1,34,961
6 Graduate beneficiaries 1,07,645
7 Staff 1,452

Case Study

Arfa Bibi and her family were living in extreme poverty for decades. She lived with her husband who was a daily laborer and used to work in agriculture lands. However, he used to remain unemployed for the greater times of the year. Times were extremely for Arfa as she did not know how to provide for her three children. Finally, she decided to resort to begging to support her family.
However, her plights were soon answered as she was selected as a THP beneficiary by the Bandhan Team in Beldanga, Murshidabad. Her village community identified Arfa as hard core poor through the Participatory Rural Appraisal conducted by Bandhan team. After verification by the Bandhan team, she was finally selected as a beneficiary of the THP Program.
She received four goats from Bandhan as her primary enterprise. Thereafter there was no looking back; her asset basket (number of goats) has increased to 11. She sold three goats and used the sale proceeds to start a small poultry enterprise. She bought 10 chickens and reared them .After the chicken laid eggs, she started selling them in the neighbourhood and local markets every day. Presently, she earns on an average Rs.90 through sale of eggs each week. She also ensures that her daughters are fed on eggs each day. At present, she has around 15 chickens.

Gradually, Arfa was gaining confidence to sustain her family on own- this was soon manifested in her desire to further diversify her income options. She further sold 3 goats and leased in 5 kathas of land. She commenced vegetable cultivation on the land. She cultivated cauliflower on her land and reaped a profit of Rs.2400. Later, she again sold 4 goats and leased in another 10 kathas. Today, she ensures vegetable and paddy cultivation on her 15 kathas of land.
Recently, Arfa took the first step towards her economic emancipation by taking her first microfinance loan of Rs.3000 to expand her agricultural enterprise.
"My life changed entirely within 24 months and I owe it all to Bandhan" -says Arfa on a concluding note.