Some of the most important functions of a welfare state are as follows:
(1) Compulsory functions (2) Optional functions.
1. Compulsory Functions of Welfare State:
This compulsory function of the State includes the following:
(1) Protection from external aggressions and war. For this purpose the state organises and maintains armed forces—Army, Air force and Navy.
(2) Protection from internal disturbances, disorders and civil wars. For this purpose the state maintains police and law and order machinery.
(3) Protection of life, liberty and rights of the people.
(4) Maintenance of peace, law and order in society.
(5) Controlling crimes, anti-social elements, and malpractices.
(6) Protection against terrorism has now come to be its essential function
(7) Protection of public and private property.
(8) Settlement of disputes among the people and their associations.
(9) Dispensation of justice. For this purpose the state organises and Z maintains a network of courts in all parts of the state.
(10) Issuing and regulating national currency and coinage.
(11) Controlling weights and measures
(12) Preservation, protection and systematic exploitation of the natural resources of the country.
(13) Making and implementation of necessary policies, laws and programmes for environmental protection
(14) Conduct of relations with other states, and discharging of international obligations as a member of the international community.
(15) Protection of Human Rights of all the people of the world.
All modern states perform all these functions. These are basically compulsory and protection function of the Welfare State.
2. Optional or Other Functions of Welfare State:
Welfare State performs several socio-economic development functions for securing the interests, needs and welfare of all its people. We can describe these functions in two parts: Social functions and Economic functions.
2. (i) Social Functions of Welfare State:
Welfare State acts as a very important agency of social transformation. It creates and maintains all essential conditions for securing socio-economic reconstruction and development of all its people.
1. Securing of Social Equality:
The state works for creating social equality among the people belonging to all sections of society. It grants equal rights and freedoms to them. It maintains the rule of law. It ensures equal opportunities for development to all its people. It does not discriminate between citizens on the basis of religion, caste, colour, sex, race, wealth and place of birth. It tries to secure gender equality.
2. Securing of Social Justice:
The State tries to secure social justice. It works for establishing such a social order as is proper and just for all sections of society. For this purpose, all the people are asked to contribute for general welfare. The state gives special facilities and opportunities to the poorer and Dalit sections of society.
It tries to reduce the gap between the rich and poor by checking socio-economic inequalities. It enacts laws for this purpose. For example, untouchability used to be prominently prevalent in India. It was against the concept of social justice and equality. The Indian State has made the practice of untouchability a crime punishable under law.
In order to secure social justice in India, special facilities have been provided to scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes. State has given special protection to minorities, children and women. Currently, India has been trying to give reservation benefits to the women.
3. Social Security Functions:
The welfare state provides social security to the people. Social security means giving state aid to the old, crippled, sick disabled and unemployed. It tries to provide additional protection to the weaker sections of society. In a welfare state, social security is provided on an extensive scale.
The state formulates and implements schemes, plans and programmes for controlling unemployment and for helping the disabled. In case of old age sickness, accident, physical disability and old age, the state arranges for health care, life insurance, provident fund, pension and medical assistance. The state provides gratuity and pension to the employees on retirement.
4. To Control Social Evils:
Progress and prosperity of society needs eradication of social evils. Earlier this work used to be performed only by private social and religious organisations. Mow, the state has taken upon itself the task of removing social evils. Through legislation, the state tries to remove these. In India, the state has made laws to eradicate sati, human sacrifice, child-marriage, dowry, child labour, bonded labour, prostitution, untouchability and other such evils.
5. Rendering Social Utility Services:
The State arranges social utility services for the benefit of its people. It includes arrangement for the supply of electricity, water, roads, transport services, post, telegraph and telephone services, Radio and T.V. The state spends crores of rupees for providing these amenities to its people.
6. Spread of Education:
Education occupies an important place in our social life. A man becomes a good man and good citizen only through education. Without education, no man can develop himself, nor can be become capable of discharging his responsibilities in society. Modern state regards it an important duty to spread education among its people.
Some states go to the extent of providing minimum compulsory and free education to its citizens. Indian State has granted the right to education to the children between the ages of 6-14 years. State gives financial assistants to educational institutions. It maintains public libraries and reading rooms. Meritorious and poor students are given state stipends and scholarships.
7. Protection of Public Health:
Welfare State looks after the health of the public. Healthy citizens alone can build a healthy and stable nation. The state spends crores of rupees on public health and sanitation and for checking the spread of diseases and epidemics. It establishes hospitals, dispensaries, maternity homes, child health care centres and other such institutions. It provides free medical aid to the poor old and disabled.
8. Family Welfare Functions:
These days increasing population has come to be a big challenge in societies like ours. The state takes steps to control this problem. The Indian State has been running a national programme for family planning and welfare. People are encouraged to adopt family welfare measures. They are even given free medical aid and other incentives for this purpose.
In fact, taking steps for providing social security and equality, and prevention of any type of discrimination on the basis of caste, colour, creed, sex, religion, or place of birth is a major function of the Welfare State.
2. (ii) Economic Functions of Welfare State:
1. Improving the Economic Health of the People:
The State acts as an important agency for raising the standard of living of its citizens. The state supervises arrangements for the provision of food, clothing, housing, education and health amenities to its people. These are the basic necessities of life. All citizens must have adequate means of livelihood and good wages for their work. The state draws up schemes for solving the problems of poverty and unemployment.
2. Planning Functions:
The State formulates and implements plans for a balanced economic growth of the country. Through these plans, the natural and human resources of the State are sought to be utilised in such a way as can lead to maximum benefits for the common people. Since 1950, India has been making and implementing five year plans for rapid socio-economic development of the country.
3. Development of Agriculture:
In a developing country, like India, agriculture is the main occupation of the people and hence, it is a major sector of national economy. Indian State has been making all-out efforts for improving agriculture and making it highly productive. It provides latest scientific know-how to the farmers. It provides them with the best seeds, good irrigation facilities, fertilizers, implements, machines, tractors and some other items at subsidised rates.
The State has built up dams and canals, ponds and tube wells for meeting irrigation needs of the agriculture sector. The State also fixes prices of various agricultural produces and at times even enters the market itself to save the farmers from panic selling. The state provides subsidies to the farmers.
4. Development of Industries:
Along with the development of agriculture, the State tries to boost industrial development. The state often provides facilities like cheap loans to entrepreneurs, facilities for the import of machinery from other countries, and even gives tax rebates. The State formulates and implements national industrial and economic policies.
5. Regulation of Trade and Commerce:
In order to bring about an economic change, the State regulates trade and commerce. It formulates and implements the import-export policy for promoting foreign trade. It fixes custom duties. The state also regulates internal trade. For this purpose, State regulates currency, circulation of currency, banks, insurance and all financial institutions. The state determines and controls weights and measures. It works for protecting the interests of the consumers as well as for controlling inflation and economic recession.
6. Equitable Distribution of Wealth:
The State tries to secure an equitable distribution of wealth in the society. It manages the national economy in such a way as can ensure that the wealth of the country does not get accumulated into a few hands. The state brings about all kinds of changes in the tax-structure so that the tax burden may fall on those who are fit to bear it.
The money obtained from taxation is spent on those programmes of economic and social development which go to benefit the common people. It eliminates the economic exploitation of the poor and workers.
7. Help to Workers and Weaker Sections of Society:
In order to bring about a desired economic change and welfare, the State protects the interests of workers and the weaker sections of society. It fixes working hours, minimum wages, and proper working environment, leaves benefits and also provides for insurance covers, provident fund facility and other such necessities… For improving the conditions of weaker sections of society the state gives to them special economic help.
Even in the contemporary era of globalisation, liberalisation, free trade, open competition and privatisation, the Welfare State works for preventing monopolies in wealth, widespread economic inequalities and exploitation of workers. The state continues to discharge its responsibility of securing socio-economic development of all the people. It continues to work for securing social justice, spread of education and health- care facilities for all its people.