The Directive Principles enshrined in the Constitution guide India to be a “welfare state.” In particular, Article 38 requires the state “…to secure a social order for the promotion of the welfare of the people” and “…. strive to minimise the inequalities in income, and endeavour to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities, and opportunities, not only amongst individuals but also amongst groups of people residing in different areas or engaged in different vocations.”
In keeping with this spirit, the Government is committed to the welfare and equitable development of the country’s citizens. The focus is on all aspects of enabling a congenial environment for a wholesome and dignified living, including not just a means of livelihood but also the provision of clean drinking water, healthcare, social security, quality education, connectivity, etc.
The Government is making all efforts to meet the demands of society, as economic growth without shared prosperity and well-being is devoid of meaning. In this vein, the chapter ‘Social Infrastructure and Employment: Big tent’ in the Economic Survey 2022-23 presents a review of the progress of these governmental efforts. It is sprinkled with data analysis and box write-ups on various aspects of social sector initiatives of the Government and their outcomes.
Employment generation, coupled with improving the quality of jobs, is a priority. Following this path, the organised sector job market conditions measured by EPFO and NPS subscriptions indicate a YoY increase, pointing towards improved formalisation. The urban labour market indicators have improved beyond pre-Covid levels, with the unemployment rate falling and the labour force participation rate increasing.
The female labour force participation rate (FLFPR) has increased substantially, driven by the rural FLFPR, which has risen from 18 per cent in 2017-18 to 28 per cent in 2020-21. More than 75 per cent of rural female workers are employed in the agricultural sector, implying a need to upskill and create employment for women in this sector. Here, self-help groups are serving as an effective conduit to tap the rising willingness of females to work.
In an important outcome, the NFHS 2019-21 shows there has been remarkable improvement in most aspects of health indicators and quality of life parameters, such as availability of electricity, clean cooking fuel, sanitation facilities, clean drinking water, health insurance, etc. This is accompanied by the UNDP’s acknowledgement of India being one of the few countries on its way to achieving the UN-SDG target of halving poverty by 2030.
The special focus on 117 Aspirational Districts across the country has resulted in steady improvements across several parameters, such as financial inclusion, health and nutrition, maternal and infant mortality rates etc., in such identified districts. A bouquet of social protection schemes, customised for different sections of the population such as the elderly and unorganised workers, have been prioritised, ensuring a shield of dignity for every member of society.
The emphasis on creating accurate land records for rural planning and reducing property-related disputes through SVAMITVA is a structural reform in rural land management and individual economic empowerment. The path-breaking Ayushman Bharat scheme, with over 22 crore beneficiaries, is being further tech-enabled through digital health ID ‘ABHA’ and telemedicine through eSanjeevani.
Within the progressive framework of the National Education Policy, improving schools’ basic facilities and the pupil-teacher ratio is expected to yield medium-term human capital dividends. The expanding higher education and skilling infrastructure is improving the quality of education and employability of the youth. There are now 23 IITs, 20 IIMs, nearly 650 medical colleges, 25 IIITs, over 1113 universities and enhanced skilling initiatives.
These breakthroughs have materialised due to smart policymaking meeting process re-engineering, technology adoption and effective implementation. The ecosystem of Jan Dhan Yojana-Aadhaar-Mobile trinity, common service centres, geospatial technology, and real-time monitoring of outcomes have infused speed and efficiency into the citizen-state relationship. Technology is being harnessed to help deliver various Government schemes to the targeted citizens.
Aadhaar has been instrumental in enabling targeted delivery of Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT) through 318 Central Schemes and over 720 State DBT schemes, seamless portability of ration cards across States through ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ and a national database of unorganised workers ‘eShram portal’. The ‘National Career Service’ project is a one-stop solution providing various employment and career-related services.
Welfare for all, in the spirit of a “welfare state”, is being realised steadily and surely.
The writers are officers of the Indian Economic Service. Views are personal
There has been a remarkable improvement in most aspects of health
indicators and quality of life parameters