The term vulnerability is defined as “proneness to harm or damage originating from external forces”. According to a widely quoted description, vulnerable groups are:
“Groups that experience a higher risk of poverty and social exclusion than the general population.
Ethnic minorities, migrants, disabled people, the homeless, those struggling with substance abuse, isolated elderly people and children all often face difficulties that can lead to further social exclusion, such as low levels of education and unemployment or underemployment”.
Some common characteristics of vulnerability faced by these vulnerable sections are as follows:
• They, as a group, are vulnerable
• This vulnerability is due to many factors – socio-cultural, economic
• This vulnerability is systematic and structured
Various groups in India can be included under vulnerable sections viz.- children, women, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward classes, minorities, senior citizens, disabled persons, LGBT communities, poor persons etc
Rationale of Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections
Constitutional and Philosophical Basis
• Preamble to the Constitution of India seeks to ensure “Justice, social, economic and political” and “Equality of status and of opportunity”.
• Fundamental Rights in various articles provide for various rights such as – Right to Equality, Right to Live with Dignity, Right to Education, Right against Untouchability, Right against Exploitation etc.
• Directive Principles of State Policy also enjoins upon the state the primary responsibility of welfare of all its citizens, in effect, making it a Welfare State.
• Various Conventions under United Nations also provides for state support to vulnerable sections, like – United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
• These vulnerable sections need special assistance and care from the state for their well-being.
• Without state help, they will have to face many disadvantages and will not be able to avail fair and equal life choices as those enjoyed by other citizens.
• Inclusive Growth – Inclusive growth is necessary for high economic growth and they in fact hold a symbiotic relationship with each other.
• The objective of inclusive growth will remain unfulfilled if these sections are not provided help.
• Welfare schemes protect the poor and disadvantaged and equip the labour force in the lower rungs of the skill/economic welfare thus enabling them to better participate in the process of accelerating economic growth.