Vinod Anand | 13 Aug 2011

The concept of social welfare continues to remain as ambiguous in its benefits remain elusive to those in dire need.

THE UNDERSTANDING of welfare appears to be limited to the provision of services by the State to the under-privileged if one goes by the views of the theoreticians and practitioners in the field while demanding a comprehensive policy statement "because it provides a frame if reference to a specified area of activity, specifies the relationship between goals and the appropriate means to achieve provides guidelines for devising indicators to measure the effectively strategies to achieve these goals". They also state that "social welfare is defined as a strategy of action indicating the means and methods to social welfare services", and that "social welfare includes program are intended to cater to the need of persons and groups who by reason handicaps, social, economic, physical; are unable to avail of or of tradionally denied amenities and services provided by the community".

This understanding of social welfare is, however, far from corn does not comprehend the basic reality of welfare. "Welfare is a compound of material means and immaterial ends; it is located somewhere on the axis of wealth and happiness".

Welfare is not therefore adequately conceived as simply a collection of policies, programmes and agencies. These can at best be categorized as fire fighting equipment. Welfare would have to necessarily include in its ambit the well being of every the human community, more than a state of physical contentment, through even achieving that would be no mean achievement. It must extend to the political well-being of the citizen in terms of equality and justice. Welfare, therefore, refers to the quality of human existence. In a situation of gross inequality, welfare would imply positive discrimination in favour of sections, not merely social defence.

A more comprehensive assessment of social welfare, therefore, to include in addition to Welfare Policy Welfare Services and Social legislation, other legislation and state policy and praxis particularly its impact on the weaker sections. Most importantly, welfare would also include the mobilization the weaker sections both as an attempt to concretize their aspirations as well as their struggle to establish their welfare as a matter of right. This aspect is consciously included because if we were to take the history of welfare all over the world we would conclude that "specific reforms have come about as a result of pressure from the organized working class, though the enlightened a bourgeois and the threat of the unorganized working class have important sources of pressure. It is also true that the welfare state is a response to this democratically expressed aspirations of the working class. The welfare state has been formed around the contradictions and conflicts of capitalist development in specific historical contexts.

From the working class point of, it is a response to their continual struggle to improve and secure their conditions of existence or standard of living.We have to admit that for the Ruling class in these societies, welfare is understood as "a fiscal arrangement devised by the citizens of a particular society to adjust the distribution of income of that society in a manner most conducive to the welfare of all. It is a mutual benefit arrangement of a special kind, which to some extent favours the weaker at the expense of the stronger, and the rights it confers are not rooted in the nature of man, but rights created by the community self and attached to the status of citizenship"; Since, therefore, welfare is a benefit granted by the community to the citizens, the enjoyment of that relief or benefit is subject to the discretion of the state, it is consistently argued that there can be no legal right, right in the fullest sense to a benefit, the award of which is subject to discretion.