Context: The New welfarism approach followed by the present government can better explain the reason for the overall rise in stunting rates.
- The 5th round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) that covers dimensions such as health, nutrition, and the overall quality of lives, has been recently released.
- It provides reliable and independent evidence to assess micro-development performance under this government.
- NFHS-5 has highlighted the dismal performance of country in reducing the malnutrition specifically stunting.
- The findings of NFHS-5 show, how the government policy has consciously adopted the New Welfarism approach providing Tangibles services, instead of providing Intangibles social benefits i.e., improving nutrition level.
What is New welfarism approach?
- The New Welfarism approach is more similar to the Basic Needs approach to development but a very distinctive approach to redistribution and inclusion.
- It does not prioritise the supply of Intangible public services such as basic health, primary education and safety security net.
- Instead, it focuses on tangible essential goods and services, normally provided by the private sector, such as bank accounts, cooking gas, toilets, electricity, housing, water and cash.
What are the findings that supports New Welfarism approach?
- Firstly, Increase in Bank accounts leading to women’s financial inclusion and empowerment: As of 2019, 72 per cent of all women had bank or savings accounts that they report as being able to use themselves.
- Secondly, increase in electricity connections, sanitation facilities, clean fuel: Ninety-eight per cent of all households had access to electricity, nearly 70 per cent to improved sanitation, and 60 per cent to clean cooking fuel.
- Third, increase in beneficiaries: Also, the percentage of households that have gained access to these goods and services each year, has accelerated since 2015
- Fourth, increase in child Stunting rates: The improvements towards child stunting, an intangible service has been disappointing as the overall stunting rates are flattening rather than decreasing and urban rates are rising.
Why the New Welfarism approach focuses on tangible goods more than Intangible goods?
- Ideological dimension: The government believes that Providing tangible goods and services such as bank accounts, cooking gas, toilets, electricity, housing will make a critical difference to the lives of the poor.
- Strategic dimension: Providing tangible goods and services that are relatively easy to deliver, measure and monitor has high electoral opportunity in it. Whereas, providing intangible services such as primary education is difficult to define and less measure and hence difficult to convert into a political advantage.
Thus, the findings clearly explain that the failure on stunting is mainly due to the shift in government policies towards New welfarism approach where the tangible goods and services are prioritised rather than intangible services such as nutrition, education, child stunting etc.