07 Jul 2017 06:18am IST
Recently ‘MODI (Making of Developed India) Fest’ was held at Kala Academy, Panjim to mark the completion of three years of BJP rule at the Centre. The main objective of this Fest was to highlight the various people oriented schemes provided by Modi Government. Provision of Social Security Schemes (SSS) has always occupied significant place in the agenda of any political party in India. It is the primary responsibility of the State to protect its citizens against the economic and social distress, through a series of social security measures. The distress may be due to lack of sufficient earnings, or stoppage or substantial reduction of earnings resulting due to circumstances such as sickness, employment injury, invalidity, death, etc. The measures include provision of medical care, subsidies for families with children, unemployment benefits, maternity benefits etc. Provision of such measures can help empowerment of weaker sections and build in them confidence and increase self efficacy. Through such measures the state can ensure wellbeing of its members, as they, in turn, are optimum human resource.
Modern state is a welfare state, and many countries world-over have been imparting various security programmes to its citizens. A cursory glance at the expenditure on social welfare by different countries clearly reflects the glaring difference between developed and developing countries. Countries like Switzerland and The United States are proactive towards providing various social security measures for its people. India is also slowly moving towards a comprehensive and integrated SSP (Social Security Programme). It has evolved Minimum Needs Programme (MNP) to take care of various contingencies faced by common people. The beginning was done in the year 1948 when the Government of India accepted the principles of health insurance and passed the ESIA (Employees’ State Insurance Act). This act is viewed as first health insurance scheme in South Asia. Over a period of time the scope of social security has widened and not only labour, but also other vulnerable sections of the society such as old people, destitute, SC/ST communities, women and children are given the benefits of certain schemes. Measures are introduced with integrated schemes covering various contingencies of life like unemployment, injury, sickness, etc. These schemes envisage active state participation, right from enactment of legislation to the implementation of the scheme.
Economists & intelligentsia support Social Insurance Schemes as accepted norm, but are critical of Social Assistance Schemes which they view as a burden on government exchequer. Under social insurance, a person contributes a small amount from his/her earnings, and benefit is provided to this person as a matter of right in amounts which combine the contribution of the beneficiary, with subsidies from the employer and/or by the state. Social assistance means small amounts are provided to persons sufficient to meet a minimum standard of living from general revenues of state. It is a ‘non-contributory benefit’ to the beneficiaries which cannot be claimed as a matter of right.
The Directive Principles of the State Policy in Part IV of the Constitution in India provides guidelines for the State to provide for decent living for people in India, and this goal can be achieved by implementing well worked out schemes. The problem arises when schemes are floated mainly to create and nurture the vote banks without examining the feasibility of its implementation. Also some of these schemes are drafted by bureaucrats sitting in ivory towers without taking the ground realities into considerations resulting in a paradox between what people are given and what they actually need. This is one of the reasons why funds allotted to the schemes remain unutilized as there are no takers for it. Many a time people are not even aware of schemes provided. Delay in disbursement of benefits is common grievance of the beneficiaries. Some of these schemes are discriminatory in nature. For example, under the Dayanand Social Security Scheme (DYSS), if one spouse is availing the benefit the other cannot. This normally results in man taking away the benefit while the wife cannot. The procedure for availing these schemes is also cumbersome and often the rules, which should have been enabling, are in reality so rigid that the neediest people may be left outside the beneficiaries’ net. Various schemes are announced at the time of elections, a few are implemented, and with the change in the government the schemes are discontinued. This puts the people in great hardships. In Goa, few years back, there was scheme for widows called ‘Widow Pension Scheme’. But with a stroke of a pen this scheme was discontinued and it was announced that the widows should now apply under DYSS. Though Government ensured automatic switchover of the existing beneficiaries, the eligibility criteria of the two schemes differed and as a result many beneficiaries from the earlier scheme fell out from the benefit of the latter.
The Central Government as well the state governments have to take the onus of providing the basic necessities to the needy in India. However there cannot be uniform policies for the whole of India as there are inter-regional as well as intra-regional socio-economic, geographical and cultural differences. It is therefore necessary to implement SSP with thorough study of who should get what, when and how, i.e. classifying the vulnerable sections, deciding on time span for the benefit, and sincere and efficient machinery for its implementation. Such efforts will bring the country closer to fulfilling the provisions in the Directive Principles in the Constitution of India.
(Seema P. Salgaonkar is Associate Professor of Political Science, Govt College of Arts, Science & Commerce, Khandola).