Welfare policy and Modi 2.0 (Indian
Mains Paper 2: Governance
Prelims level: Not Much
Mains level: Various welfare schemes coined by Modi govt era
- Housing, sanitation, gas connections (Ujjwala), direct benefit transfers
(DBT), income support (PM-Kisan) contrary to early indications, the Narendra
Modi government’s first term proved to be far more welfarist than was
expected of a government that campaigned on the slogan of minimum
- With the benefit of hindsight, many pundits now argue that it is this
medley of schemes that convinced voters to give the Modi government a
- Regardless of the many mysteries of the Indian voter, there is no
argument that these schemes will remain the hallmark of Modi 1.0.
Key analysis of the welfare projects
- Early in its tenure, the government embraced Aadhaar and DBT with gusto.
And in its last few months, it began the transition to basic income support
- Underlying this approach is the assumption that technology can
substitute for an incompetent and corrupt welfare bureaucracy.
- Moving money directly to beneficiary accounts removes bureaucratic
layers and tightens monitoring, thus improving efficiency and curbing
Flaw of redesign
- But recent studies show that rather than reducing bureaucracy, getting
the DBT architecture right requires significant bureaucratic intervention.
- From opening accounts to promoting financial literacy and facilitating
bank transactions, local bureaucrats are critical to DBT.
- Getting the DBT architecture right, requires bureaucrats to engage
citizens and coordinate across departments a skill that Indian bureaucrats
simply do not posses.
Examples from other countries
- Countries like Brazil and Mexico have invested in large cadres of social
workers at the local government level to do just this.
- Building a competent welfare bureaucracy,-The success of welfare
programmes in Modi 2.0 will depend on willingness to recognise that building
a competent welfare bureaucracy, even if its only task is to move money,
will require empowering local governments with skills and resources.
- Challenges with Digitised welfare systems
- Digitised efficiency risks casting citizens as passive recipients of
government largesse rather than active claimants of rights.
- Digitised welfare systems genuinely risk closing off spaces for citizens
to complain, protest and demand accountability when rights are denied.
Analysis of Ayushman Bharat
- With Ayushman Bharat, Modi 1.0 took a significant step towards
engineering an architectural shift in India’s welfare system, away from
direct provisioning (government running hospitals and schools) towards
financing citizens (through income support and health insurance) and
regulating private providers.
- But can a state that struggles with routine tasks regulate a sector as
complex as healthcare? Consider this.
- In the United States, medicare employs 6,000 staff to cover 44 million
beneficiaries who handle insurance audits, pricing, and anti-trust cases.
- The staffing requirement, at equivalent levels in Uttar Pradesh alone,
would amount to 10,000 employees.
- Importantly, in a sector like health where predatory practices are rife,
well-functioning government hospitals are a necessary check and balance.
Regulation cannot be a substitute for investing in public systems.
- Ayushman Bharat must be complemented with a concerted focus on
strengthening public hospitals.
Welfare through Centre-state relations
- Centre-state relations in welfare policy, rationalising the 400-plus
central government welfare schemes and restoring them to their rightful
place states remains an important unfulfilled promise of Modi 1.0.
- This multiplicity of central schemes has served to entrench a
silo-driven, one-size-fits-all approach that is inefficient as it fails to
capture state-specific needs.
- The proposed expansion of PM Kisan and the possible transition to a
quasi-universal basic income make the need to rationalise existing schemes,
and address overlaps and complementarities with existing schemes like
MGNREGA, even more pressing.
- Finally, no government can afford to ignore India’s learning crisis.
- Yet this was one of the most under-prioritised areas in Modi 1.0’s
- The newly-released national education policy emphasises the urgent need
to ensure all students achieve foundational literacy and numeracy. This
needs to be adopted and implemented in mission mode.
- Welfare in Modi’s first term was about grand announcements and ambitious
targets. But the difficult task of building a high quality, 21stcentury
welfare state awaits Modi 2.0.
- India doesn’t need new schemes, rather it needs consolidation and
balancing between competing welfare strategies. Getting this right will
require significant investments in state capacity.
- This is the welfare challenge for Modi 2.0
Q.1) Which of the following initiatives/indices have been launched by the
(1) Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital (SATH)
(2) District Hospital Index
(3) Digital Transformation Index
(4) Shagun Portal
(5) Composite Water Management Index
Select the correct answer using the code given below:
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 1, 2 and 4 only
(c) 1, 2, 3 and 5 only
(d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
Q.1) Can Modi 2.0 fulfill the long-awaited promise of cooperative federalism?