India – A Welfare State

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 
(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 

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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