Foundations of an Effective Self-Help System

Parth J. Shah


The debates over the nature of the welfare state and its reforms are becoming central to the public discourse in India and around the world. This debate on reform, if it were to lead to any concrete outcomes, requires clarity on certain foundational ideas of welfare state.  The purpose of this note is to problematise three basic ideas, namely, the definition, goals and characteristics of a good welfare system. Additionally, the note examines how states have become more effective by focusing on measurable outputs than the current practice of using ambiguous phrases like ‘promote individual well-being’. The note also makes a case for (i) initiating direct citizen participation that would further target and localise the services required, making them more effective; and (ii) making citizens the eyes and ears to assess performance of the system first hand.

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