What is the Impact of Social Welfare Schemes?

What is the Impact of Social Welfare Schemes?


Social welfare schemes have long been a tool for governments to address the needs of the populace, particularly the economically disadvantaged. In India, such schemes have gained significant political importance, influencing voter behavior and election outcomes.

  • Since 2004, the link between social welfare policies and voting patterns has been a topic of considerable interest and debate.
  • Welfare programs like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in 2009 and the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) in 2019 have played pivotal roles in shaping electoral mandates.
  • With the 2024 elections, understanding the impact of these welfare schemes on voting behavior is crucial for grasping the political dynamics at play.

GS-02 (Polity)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Public Welfare in India:
  • Increased Beneficiary Base
  • Challenges in Accessing Welfare Benefits
  • Lack of Sentimental Attachment
  • Challenges to Increasing Voter Turnout in India
  • Advantages of Higher Voter Turnout
  • Key Takeaways

Public Welfare in India:

  • According to Part IV of the Indian Constitution, which outlines the Directive Principles of State Policy, India is a ‘welfare state’.
  • Legislative efforts have been made to abolish practices like untouchability, forced labor, and Zamindari.
  • The government has also established fair-price shops to provide essential commodities at affordable rates for economically disadvantaged and marginalized groups.
  • Additionally, measures have been implemented to reserve seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in government jobs, educational institutions, Lok Sabha, and Vidhan Sabha.

Increased Beneficiary Base

  • Over the years, there has been a noticeable increase in the percentage of voters who report benefiting from social welfare schemes.
  • Data from five major schemes—Public Distribution System (PDS), Ujjwala, MGNREGS, Ayushman Bharat, and the housing scheme—show a significant rise in beneficiaries.
  • In 2019, an average of 27% of the electorate claimed to have benefited from these schemes.
  • By 2024, this figure had risen to 41%. This increase could indicate better delivery of welfare programs or a rise in the population requiring such assistance.
  • The most substantial increase in beneficiaries was observed in the PDS. In 2019, 43% of respondents reported benefiting from the PDS, which surged to 67% in 2024. This rise was particularly pronounced among rural voters (73%) compared to urban voters (56%).

Challenges in Accessing Welfare Benefits

  • Despite improvements in technology aimed at reducing corruption and leakages, nearly half of the beneficiaries reported difficulties in accessing welfare programs.
  • This suggests that technological advancements have not necessarily translated into easier access for citizens. Nevertheless, beneficiaries tend to prefer the incumbent government when they feel they have gained from its policies.

Lack of Sentimental Attachment

  • Despite benefiting from welfare schemes, voters do not exhibit a strong sentimental attachment to the parties that inaugurate these programs.
  • There is a notable gap between the attribution of credit for welfare schemes to the central government and the actual voting for the BJP and its allies. This suggests that while welfare schemes can influence voter preferences, they do not necessarily translate into unwavering loyalty to the implementing party.

Challenges to Increasing Voter Turnout in India

  • Logistical Challenges: India’s vast geographical expanse and diverse population make it difficult to ensure all eligible voters have easy access to polling stations.
  • Voter Apathy: Many eligible voters are disinterested in politics and elections, often discouraged by perceived corruption, lack of responsiveness from elected officials, and disillusionment with the political system.
  • Lack of Awareness and Literacy: Especially in rural areas, many eligible voters are unaware of the importance of voting, their rights, and the electoral process, compounded by high illiteracy rates.

Advantages of Higher Voter Turnout

  • Enhanced Government’s Legitimacy: More voters lead to election results that better reflect the will of the population, giving elected representatives a stronger mandate to govern.
  • Increased Accountability: When more people vote, elected officials are more likely to be responsive to the needs and concerns of their constituents, knowing a larger portion of the population is engaged.
  • Political Stability: Higher voter turnout increases political stability by reducing the chances of disputed elections and promoting policies that reflect a broader consensus.

Measures to Increase Voter Turnout in India

  • Accessibility and Ease of Voting: Improve the physical accessibility of polling stations, reduce wait times, and make the voting process more convenient through technological innovations.
  • Voter Education: Intensify efforts to inform citizens about the importance of voting, the electoral process, and the impact of their votes through TV, radio, social media, and community outreach programs.
  • Remote Voting: Implement secure and accessible remote voting options for internal migrants, ensuring they can participate in elections despite logistical and financial barriers.

Key Takeaways

  • Rising Beneficiary Numbers: The increase in reported beneficiaries of welfare schemes highlights either improved delivery mechanisms or a growing need among the population. This trend is crucial for understanding voter behavior and the effectiveness of government policies.
  • Access Challenges: Despite technological advancements, access to welfare benefits remains challenging for many. This indicates that further efforts are needed to streamline the process and ensure that benefits reach the intended recipients more efficiently.
  • Credit Attribution: The shift in credit attribution to the Union government for welfare benefits signifies the importance of centralized schemes in shaping voter perceptions. Effective branding and communication strategies are essential for political parties to gain electoral advantage from these programs.
  • Development Priorities: Voters’ preferences for development priorities significantly influence their party choices. Political parties must align their agendas with the development aspirations of the electorate to garner support.
  • Voter Loyalty: While welfare schemes can sway voter preferences, they do not guarantee long-term loyalty. Political parties must continuously engage with voters and address their evolving needs to maintain support.


Social welfare schemes play a pivotal role in shaping voting behavior in India. The increase in beneficiaries, challenges in accessing benefits, and shifts in credit attribution all contribute to the complex relationship between welfare policies and electoral outcomes.