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Palgrave Macmillan

The Future of India's Social Safety Nets

Focus, Form, and Scope

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  • Open Access
  • © 2024

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  • Introduces a framework to study India’s social safety net system in terms of focus, form, and scope
  • Evaluates India’s safety nets according to requisite impact on on food security
  • Contains comparative studies of prominent safety net programs implemented in other countries
  • This is a open access book

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About this book

India has learned what to do and what not to do when it comes to implementing policy to address human suffering. The COVID-19 pandemic unified the international response in similar ways, and the world has a lot to learn about key initiatives in India that have been implemented since India's independence. This open-access book includes key learnings about the conceptualization, design, and impact of social welfare programs in India spanning more than a 75-year period.

The Future of India's Social Safety Nets provides a comprehensive analysis of these systems by combining insights from a wealth of interdisciplinary scholarship on social protection, economic development, and social policy. It covers India’s social development in terms of three essential aspects of policy design: focus (intended beneficiaries), form (transfer modalities), and scope (developmental objectives). Highlighting the developmental achievements and shortcomings of the myriad of social welfare schemes, this book proposes a framework to foster human resilience through social protection.

This is an open-access book.


Table of contents (10 chapters)


“Social policy received very little attention in India for a long time, despite its prominence in the Constitution. In the last twenty years, there have been significant moves towards a possible social security system. This critical review of recent initiatives is an invaluable springboard for further research and action in this field.”(—Jean Drèze, Ranchi University)

“As technology trends intensify market inequalities, as climate trends exacerbate uncertainties, and as trends in political polarization threaten to undermine social cohesion, there is no question that public safety nets will be a central part of policies to navigate the political economy of the coming decades. But what exactly should these safety nets look like? What design features will enhance their contribution to equality and to efficiency? And what does experience teach us about implementation of safety nets? This excellent volume presents a comprehensive and rigorous assessment of the Indian experience and, in doing so, shows the way forward for India and at the same time contributes to the global debate. It will become a standard reference in the literature.” (—Ravi Kanbur, Cornell University)


“From Independence, India has enshrined basic rights including the rights to dignity and freedom from exploitation. The nature and scope of programs to ensure these rights have evolved as the rural economy transformed and as the planned economy liberalized. Rahman and Pingali clearly elucidate the interaction of this economic transformation and the evolution of social welfare policy detailing the importance of historic and regional contexts. Despite gaps in implementation, they present a vision of the potential for social policy to move beyond palliative measures towards a resilient and inclusive social contract.”(—Harold Alderman, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Washington D.C.)


“In many ways, India is a global barometer of social protection – a harbinger of developments to come elsewhere in the world. Through thoughtful analysis and novel insights, Andaleeb Rahman and Prabhu Pingali take us on an extraordinary tour of key debates affecting Indian social protection policy, research, and practice. A must read for those that want to understand the past, present, and future of social protection in the country and beyond.” (—Ugo Gentilini, World Bank)






Authors and Affiliations

  • Tata Cornell Institute, Cornell University, Ithaca, USA

    Andaleeb Rahman

  • Tata-Cornell Institute, Cornell University, Ithaca, USA

    Prabhu Pingali

About the authors

Andaleeb Rahman is Post-Doctoral Associate at the Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition (TCI) at Cornell University, USA. His research spans food policy, rural transformation and the political economy of development with a geographical focus on India. He wrote his doctoral dissertation at the Indira Gandhi Institute for Development Research (IGIDR), Mumbai.

Prabhu Pingali is Professor of Applied Economics and Founding Director of the Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition (TCI) at Cornell University, USA. Pingali is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and an AAEA Fellow. He was president of the International Association of Agricultural Economists and has over three decades of experience working with some of the leading international agricultural development organizations.

Bibliographic Information

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