Essay on the Concept of a Welfare State



The concept of a welfare state, signifying a regime which seeks to ensure the maximum happiness of maximum number of people living within its territory, is by no means new. Several Kings and Emperors in the course of history have given the highest prio­rity to the people happiness and welfare, even as there have been numerous rulers in ail ages who proved to be tyrants and concen­trated all their efforts and most of the State revenues on their per­sonal comforts and luxury. The State of Mauryas and Emperor Vikramaditya for instance, were largely a Welfare State. The golden era of Emperor Ashoka in the ancient days and emperor Akbar during the Mughai period are two outstanding instances of rulers establishing a truly Welfare State in their lifetime.

A Welfare State also implies an efficient administration, speedy justice for the people, a regime totally free from graft, corruption, inefficiency, sloth and the frustrating complexities of red tape etc. in modern times a Welfare State means all this and much more. Among the measures which the people of such a State expect are social Welfare legislation, adequate health and medical facilities especially for the poor, the weak, the old and the disab­led—in other words, the admittedly weaker sections of society.

In India the concept of a Welfare State was accepted decades ago. During the British regime, social Welfare was not among the principal objectives of the government. The emphasis then being on maintaining law and order and also on facilitating the economic exploitation of the Indian people by British economic interests. But since the dawn of independence in 1947, the Indian leaders have earnestly sought to establish a Welfare State. The constitution of India, which was drafted after a good deal of discussion in the constituent assembly by the country's ablest people of all communi­ties, seeks to establish a Welfare State. The Preamble of the Con­stitution clearly indicates "general welfare" of the people as one of the objectives of the Union of India. The Preamble aims "to secure to all its citizens justice, social, economic, and political, liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship, equality of status and of opportunity."

The Preamble to the Constitution enunciates the great objec­tives and the social goals for the achievement of which the Indian constitution has been established. There objectives are : to secure to all citizens of India social, economic and political justice; to secure to all Indian citizens liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; to secure to them equality of status and oppor­tunity; and to promote among them fraternity so as to secure the dignity of the individual and the unity of the nation. The Indian constitution having been conceived and drafted in the mid-twentieth century an era of the concept of social Welfare State—is pervaded with the modern outlook regarding the objectives and functions of the State. It embodies a distinct philosophy of government, and, explicitly, in articulate terms, declares that India will be organized as a social Welfare state, i.e. a state which renders social services to the people and promotes their general welfare. In the formulations and declarations of the social objectives contained in the Preamble, one can clearly discern the impact of the modern political philosophy, which regards the state as an organ to secure the good and welfare of the people.

This concept is further strengthened by the Directive Principles of State Policy which set out the economic, social and political goals of the Indian constitutional system. These directives confer certain non-justifiable rights on the people in the form of directions to the State to achieve and maximize social welfare and basic social values like education, employment, health etc. In the directive principles the philosophy of a welfare is very much pronounced and well developed. To take only one example, Art, 29 a Directive Principle, lays down that the shall strive to secure a social order in which social, economic and political justice "shall inform all the institutions of nations of national life". In consonance with the modern beliefs of man, the Indian constitution takes due care to set up a machinery so as to enable the state to march forward towards the goal of an economic democracy along with political demo­cracy for the latter would be meaningless without the former in a poor country like India; it lays special emphasis on land and places the government under an obligation to take necessary steps to that end.

Although the words "Welfare State" are not specifically men­tioned into the Constitution, the aims and objectives clearly point to such an entity. Moreover, what is not specifically stated in the Preamble is mentioned in the Directive Principles of State Policy. Article 38 of the Chapter defining these Directives runs as follows : "The State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing arid protecting, as affectively as it may, a social order in which justice, social economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of national life."

Article 39 of the Directive Principles Jays down aims and objects which unmistakably indicate the broad policy the Govern­ment of India (and the Slate Government) arc expected to follow and all these are designed to lay the right foundation for a Welfare State. The Article says: The State shall in particular, direct its policy towards securing.

(a) that the citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood;

(b) that the ownership and control of the material resources of the Community are so distributed as best to sub serve the common good; (c) that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment;

(d) that there is equal pay for equal work for both men and women;

(e) that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and the citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength;

(f) that childhood and youth are protected against exploita­tion and against moral and material abandonment.

The Directive Principles of State Policy in the constitution of India are perhaps the most exhaustive in the constitution of any democratic country outside the communist bloc. Every possible effort has been made to include all available means to ensure social and economic justice which broadly speaking, long the basic founda­tions of a Welfare State. These cover adequate means of livelihood, ownership and control of the means of production, the health and general well-being of all sections of the people, especially, the young, the old and women the relatively weaker sections of society. These groups generally need special protective measures in almost every set-up. The Directives also seek to eliminate, as far as possi­ble, the exploitation of people by others and lay down the universal principle disapproving of the concentration of wealth and of the means of productions, covering, by implication, both the agricultural and the industrial spheres.

The Directives go even further. They provide for just and humane conditions or work and maternity relief, for free and com­pulsory education of children, promotion of educational economic interests of the backward and weaker sections of society, raising of 'the level of nutrition and the standard of living and organization of agriculture and animal husbandry. These aims are specified in Articles 42,45, 47 and 48.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had distinct concept of a Welfare State and gave some vital clarifications in this regard, Apart from the generally accepted stipulations, he said in Parliament, once on February 2, 1953, and again on February 17, the same year that "a Welfare State has no meaning unless every individual is property employed end takes part in-nation-building activities. When there is unemployment, he felt, there could be no Welfare State. In any case the unemployed people—and their number runs into millions-are not parties to the Welfare State but "outside its pale". He also affirmed that "to realize the ideal of a Welfare Stale requires hard work, tremendous effort and co-operation". According to his con­cept India may not become a Welfare State for many decades yet because the unemployment problem was unlikely to be solved for many years to come.

Pandit Nehru also drew a distinction between a Welfare State and the Socialistic pattern of society. It is true that a socialistic economy must provide for a Welfare State but it does not necessa­rily follow that a Welfare State must also be based on a socialistic pattern. "We cannot have a Welfare State in India", he added "with all the socialism or even communism in the world unless our national income goes up substantially. Socialism or communism might help you to divided. Your existing wealth, if you like, but in India there is no existing wealth for you to divide; there is only poverty to divide.

The people's happiness —the ultimate aim of a Welfare State— can be assured only when every one has enough to eat, some shelter in the form of a house, or at least a modest roof over his head, some work to do so as to able to earn a living und some opportunities to contribute to nation-building, which implies con­structive activity. Besides, everyone must also have the means to satisfy his basic needs, consumer goods etc. Everything, as Pandit Nehru said, has ultimately to be judged in terms of human welfare, and the only worth while yard stick we can employ is the happi­ness of our people.