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Emerging Welfare Regimes

Harihar Bhattacharyya

Edited by Louise Tillin , Rajeshwari Despande and K.K. Kailash 
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2015, pp. 237, Rs. 1400.00


Those with some knowledge of the rise and expansion of social welfare states in the West post-Second World War know that social welfare for the socially and economically underprivileged and needy was necessitated for the sake of capitalism in order to mitigate many social and economic tensions. It proved functional for a considerable length of time until about the 1980s when the new Right political philosophy and political economy came out with a virulent assault on social welfare and the public institutional structures built around it. That suggests that welfare or social policy, as it is also known in public policy studies, was a political strategy on behalf of and for the sake of political order and stability in capitalism. But the scenario in India like most other postcolonial developing countries was different in the sense that post-Independence it could not afford to give away things to the market (which in any case it was not able to take on), but had to stand for various provisions for welfare for the large majority of the people. It is true though that in most cases such efforts did not bear fruit. The late Indira Gandhi’s (Prime Minister) so-called ‘garibi hatao’ (1971) has not, arguably, resulted in the removal of poverty. Oddly enough, India does not figure comfortably in any count of global development indices despite decades of social welfare and also over three decades of globalization. The book under review is pioneering in the sense that an attempt has been made for the first time to pay serious attention to public policy issues in the genre of State politics thus far neglected. On the face of it, globalization and welfare do not go together. India’s GDP today is mostly produced in the private sector suggesting that considerable strides have been made in liberalizing the economy since the 1990s. Nonetheless given the variegated nature of the States, politically, socially and economically, a pro-market public policy without any regard to the needs of the poor and underprivileged cannot simply work. This is for two reasons. First, various Statebased ruling (or in Opposition) parties in the States commit themselves without fail to provide for welfare (e.g., Rupees two a kilogram of rice or a free bicycle to the girls students). The state standing for the market does not go well with the Indian voters. Second, with coalition governments at the Centre with ...

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