Welfare Rights in India – A Research driven analysis

This is a course that seeks to provide students with an overview of welfare rights in India, while simultaneously requiring them to conduct in-depth research on aspects of a specific welfare rights programme.

The discourse on welfare rights in India has, over time, moved from the political and administrative sphere to the legal and constitutional realm, as a result of juridification and judicialisation of the terms of the debate.

The decade between 2005 – 2015 has arguably witnessed an important shift – from
political to legal accountability — through the adoption of a rights-based approach to
welfare goals. Welfare goals such as education and equal access to work were
conceptualised as non-enforceable principles that must guide state policy under the
original Constitution of India. Justiciable rights to education, food and work in India are
now guaranteed through statutes. Not only has this shift ushered in significant legal and
institutional changes, it has also reconceptualized the role of the state and non-state
actors in the delivery of welfare entitlements. This course examines these changes in
order to give students a holistic understanding of the issues at stake. It starts with a
theoretical and comparative setting, before examining the historical evolution of the
notion of welfare rights in India before focusing on the more recent shifts described

Recent debates on the Indian welfare state remain limited to either supporting or
dismissing a rights-based approach to welfare without examining the institutional
modalities and processes for the realisation of these rights. It is in this context that we
situate the debate on the welfare state in India. We aim to provide a nuanced
understanding of how statutory rights to welfare can unfold within the realms of law,
politics, society and public administration. This course explores the historical origins of
the rights-based approach to welfare in India, the form it has most recently taken and the
scope of these new rights. We focus on the intellectual and political concerns raised by
the implementation of welfare rights. We aim to examine the scope and breadth of rights
articulated in the constitution and statutes, but also political mobilization that shaped the
formulation of rights in this fashion.