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Is Every Citizen Equal In The Indian Welfare State?

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The idea of citizenship is the relation of the individual with the state. The welfare state’s duty to treat everyone as an equal should be at the heart of citizenship. Let’s trace in history why citizenship is at the heart of our understanding of the welfare state because societies have always been welfare societies. No society can thrive without institutional arrangements to promote the welfare of citizens. But what happens when you look into the history of human civilization, some sections of the people faced injustice and insecurities that led to the formation of an idealistic welfare state.

Ideal Welfare State And The Indian Context

Nowadays, people are facing injustice and oppression by the powerful and that lead to deprivation and here the state should come in to promote the well-being of the citizen. An ideal welfare state should help us to live as equals and more precisely as equal citizens. Since we know citizens are different by nature and capability in society. Surely not, we have so much of a chasm in society that divides citizens. This division has stigmatized and deprived certain sections of the society and as a welfare state, we are failing if we are not able to secure our citizen’s wellbeing.

Representational Image.

Let’s understand this phenomenon in the Indian context. India is a welfare state and is supposed to provide basic facilities such as health, education, right to livelihood, political equality, civil right, and social rights, etc. to its citizens to promote the overall well-being of its citizens but it does not seem to be happening in India. Here in India, the benefit is not reaching the people who are at the bottom of the pyramid especially the marginalized people. We cannot say that entirely it’s not reaching but what should have been the ideal situation after 75 years does not seem to that extent.

What is happening in India is that those who have more say in the political atmosphere they are reaping the benefit of the welfare state. In India, research and study suggest that the more privileged the citizen the more civil right and that translates state into action to provide welfare to the privileged citizen.

Through observation, I have seen in my Panchayat in the Indian state of Bihar in Jamui. The upper caste has better access to education, health, roads, and basic facilities. This is because they have a say in politics, political representation from their caste and the scheme will drive them to the place. When they will approach the government officials they will listen to them and will act accordingly but when the lower caste people approach the political leader and government official they will not listen to these people.

Political leaders will listen when the election approaches once they get elected they listen to their people only and do welfare to their community people. In terms of political participation, we have very few people from the marginalized community this is why because an “economically in egalitarian society cannot become politically egalitarian”. As we know that in India you need too much money to fight an election. When you cannot fight election your political participation would be less and if it is less you will not reap the benefit of the welfare state because political representatives will drive the welfare to their community people.

In the Indian context, the welfare state is failing and it is very evident when you look at the status of health and education. Even after the independence, we are not able to provide the basic fundamental things forget about political participation, equality, and many more thing. We have the example in UP hundreds of kids dies because of shortage of Oxygen and in Bihar also hundreds of kids due to acute encephalitis syndrome. This incident shows that we have failed as a welfare state and as a citizen, we have never demanded collectively from the state a robust health system. Even the COVID-19 has exposed the state lakhs of people died due to shortage of essential medicine and oxygen this show as state how much we are prepared for the uncertainty and this exposed our health system.

Let’s talk about MDM in UP a reporter get jailed by the state government when he showed the reality of MDM. This shows the failure of the welfare state it was the duty of the state government to provide a basic meal to the kids. It is not about the UP only but all across the country. So, citizenship should be at the heart of our understanding of the welfare state to avoid injustice and promote the well-being of the citizen.

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        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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        Find out more about her campaign here.

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        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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