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    India is a welfare nation, possibly the largest welfare state in the world. However, the pandemic caused by COVID-19, revealed the lapses in the social welfare schemes and its implementation. 

Challenges to the social welfare scheme were posed by:

  • Large scale inter and intra state migration.

  • Massive food insecurity caused by the lockdown.

  • Health infrastructure was put into pressure, lack of oxygen supplies, lack of doctors, and infrastructure were clearly visible.

  • An estimated 75 million people have been pushed into poverty by the pandemic induced lockdown.

  • Economic capital without sufficient  social capital has proven to be insufficient in accessing healthcare facilities.

Present mechanism and Schemes:

  • Presently around 500 Direct Benefit Transfer schemes are going on including both Centre and State. However, these schemes have not been able to achieve their desired targets. 

  • Issues with the present schemes:

    • Though they cover a wide area of social protection, they are fractionalised in terms of implementation agency.

    • Lack of data collection from the grassroots. Further aided by digital divide in urban-rural areas. 

    • Exclusion error: Manya times the needful get excluded from the beneficiaries lists , due to non availability of the documents and lack of awareness.

Steps that need to be taken:

  • Universal social security programme:

    • It will resolve the data collection. 

      • The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) is a kind of scheme which can be strengthened into universal social security as it already incorporates the public distribution system (PDS), the provision of gas cylinders, and wages for the MGNREGS. 

    • It will also help in reducing the exclusion error for example, PDS if connected to the universal identifications documents will aid migrants, students to avail ration in other states as well. 

  • For instance :

    • World: In the 19th century, Ireland was suffering from poverty and famine, it introduced the Poor Law System which was financed by local property taxes. It bears the fruit of timely assistance and maintaining dignity for the poor. 

    • Today, the social welfare system in Ireland covers all the four premises including social insurance, social assistance, universal schemes, and extra benefits/supplements. 

  • In India universal social security scheme are not distant reality, it just need a dedicated effort and will to achieve the target:

    • For example: universal healthcare programme, universal immunisation programme.

  • There is a need to consolidate the data of centre and state  both in order to prevent the duplication of the data.


Thus, There is an urgent need to rationalize these schemes and leverage their potential by better targeting of schemes and delivery of the envisaged help. The pace of the execution can be improved by using the experience gathered in the implementation of the schemes so far and leveraging the technologies available in present times.

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