India – A Welfare State

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by Lisham Anandakumar Singh
As a welfare State, India is committed to the welfare and development of its people, particularly the vulnerable sections like the scheduled castes (SCs), scheduled tribes (STs), backward classes, minorities and the handicapped. This section of the society constitutes nearly 85% of the population. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “it is a system whereby the state undertakes to protect the health and well-being of its citizens, especially those in need, by means of grants, pensions, and other benefits”. The term ‘welfare State’ originated during the time of the Second World War to differentiate wartime Britain from the Welfare State of Germany.

It is a concept where government provides the requirements for the welfare or the well being of its citizens completely. India is a country which has accepted the notion of Welfare State by accepting the liability towards securing the public welfare and to sub-serve the interest of all citizens.

The purpose of the welfare state is to create economic equality or to assure equitable standards of living for all. The welfare states provides education, housing, sustenance, healthcare, pensions, unemployment insurance and care for old age people and are available to them as a matter of ‘Right’. It also provides for public transportation, childcare, social amenities such as public parks and libraries, as well as many other goods and services.

The study of public policy began in 1922, when Charles Merriam, a political scientist, sought to build a link between political theory and its application to reality. Numerous issues are addressed by public policy, including crime, education, foreign policy, health, and social welfare. In 1993, due to ineffective healthcare policies, the Clinton administration sought to implement a policy that would bring about a national healthcare system.

A fundamental feature of the welfare state is social insurance, a provision common to most advanced industrialized countries. Antipoverty programs and the system of personal taxation may also be regarded as aspects of the welfare state. Personal taxation falls into this category insofar as its progressivity is used to achieve greater justice in income distribution (rather than merely to raise revenue) and also insofar as it used to finance social insurance payments and other benefits not completely financed by compulsory contributions. In socialist countries the welfare state also covers employment and administration of consumer prices. Most advanced nations are not true welfare states, although many provide at least some social services or entitlement programs.
The principal problems in the administration of a welfare state are:-

(1) Determining the desirable level of provision of services by the state,
(2) Ensuring that the system of personal benefits and contributions meets the needs of individuals and families while at the same time offering sufficient incentives for productive work.
(3) Ensuring efficiency in the operation of state monopolies and bureaucracies and
(4) The equitable provision of resources to finance the services over and above the contributions of direct beneficiaries.
In Indian context, ‘Welfare State’ denotes establishment of political democracy, provision of social and economic justice and minimizing inequalities in income, status, facilities and opportunities. The concept is embodied in Part 1V of the Indian Constitution, Directive Principal of State Policy. According to the Constitution, it is the duty of the government to follow these principles while making laws and thereby set the path towards a welfare State. The uniqueness about the concept in the Indian context is the Directive Principles containing the instructions to the government to establish a welfare State, is non justiciable and citizens cannot claim it as a right. This is because, India being developing and over populated country and it may not possible for welfare activities of the state reach every citizen of our country.

In later part of the 20th century, the wave of privatization and globalization came into existence in many countries. According to the market fundamentalists and Nobel laureates like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman,  the welfare state is a source of trouble and an anomaly that should be stopped. However another Noble prize winning economist argues, ‘The supremacy of the market which is proclaimed with ideological fervour is a dangerous mistake’ He considers the role of the state and it’s regulating activities to be essential and believes that market mechanisms are unsuitable means for the solution of social problem. It demands some rethinking and reform of various Welfare institutions which is more essential in the developing country like India where dispararities exist between different segments of the population and different regions of the country, for shortening these gaps and moving towards a more balanced development of the nation. However the welfare State is the greatest achievement of the 20th century and should be suitably adapted to the existing global condition as well as the peculiar situation of a particular country in order to lead toward overall prosperity of mankind.

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