Skip to main content

Cornell University

Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition

The Future of India’s Social Safety Nets: Focus, Form, and Scope

India’s rapid economic growth and wealth creation in the past three decades have been marred by its persistently high levels of poverty and child undernutrition, along with rising inequality. Social safety nets, for those left behind, have therefore gained in eminence as a redistributive mechanism.

The Future of India’s Social Safety Nets: Focus, Form, and Scope explains how an array of social welfare programs (comprising the safety net) have emerged as a leitmotif of social policy in independent India and explores the key challenges and scope for innovations in redesigning India’s social safety net system for the future.

This open-access book provides a comprehensive analysis of India’s safety net by combining insights from a wealth of interdisciplinary scholarship on economic development, social protection, and the social policy process. It unpacks India’s social welfare programs in terms of their three essential aspects—focus (intended beneficiaries), form (transfer modalities), and scope (developmental objectives). Highlighting the developmental achievements and shortcomings of these independent schemes, the book proposes a framework to foster human resilience through social protection. Lessons from this book are equally relevant for other developing countries as they seek to build an efficient social safety net system.

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Agricultural Economics and Food Policy book series (Series Editor: Chris Barrett)

Download the book


“An invaluable springboard for further research and action in this field.”
Jean Drèze, Ranchi University

“It will become a standard reference in the literature.”
Ravi Kanbur, Cornell University

“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

“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

About the Authors

Andaleeb Rahman is a research associate at TCI.

Prabhu Pingali is the founding director of TCI. He is a professor in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, with an appointment in the Department of Global Development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University.