The Population Foundation of India commends the government’s interim budget 2024-25 for its strong emphasis on prioritizing two key demographic groups: youth and women. The stepping up of investments in these two groups is something Population Foundation of India and others have been advocating for a long time. Such a move is critical for accelerating human development and capitalising on the demographic advantage India has. This budget, according to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, is focused on “GYAN”—Garib, Yuva, Annadata, and Naari (Poor, Youth, Farmers, and Women), and aims to “leave no one behind”.
“The devil, however, lies in the details and we hope that the government’s commitment to these groups will translate into adequate budget allocations, especially in the realm of health and education,” said Poonam Muttreja, the Executive Director of Population Foundation of India.
The finance minister also announced the formation of a high-powered committee to address “fast population growth and demographic changes”. “We hope this committee will recognize that though India has surpassed China as the world’s most populous country, we have done well in stabilizing population growth,” said Muttreja. “We need to adopt a forward-looking approach to address the challenges and opportunities presented by the ongoing demographic changes in India and across the world. We must reimagine how we invest in meeting our population’s needs.”
India’s 370-million-strong young population can be a massive strength with adequate and strategic investments. “By investing in the health, education and skilling of our young people, we can become a source of human capital not only for India but for many parts of the world facing a shortage of labour, given the current population dynamics,” said Muttreja.
“Our young country has high aspirations, pride in its present, and hope and confidence for a bright future,” the Finance Minister said. We agree with the Finance Minister on the energy, ambition and aspirations of our young population, which we have often come across in our work across the country with young people. We hope that her statement will go some way in realizing these aspirations.
Demographic transitions also require preparations for an aging population by investing in social and health infrastructure, to harness not only a demographic and gender dividend but also a “silver dividend”. According to the UNFPA’s India Ageing Report, 2023, 20 percent of India’s population will be over 60 years old by 2050.
The finance minister made several key health-related announcements, including additional medical colleges, and an initiative to encourage cervical cancer vaccination for young girls aged 9-14 years. The finance minister also announced the integration of all maternal and child healthcare schemes into a comprehensive program.
“We hope that the government’s efforts in this regard will align with a life-cycle approach, crucial for women’s health and empowerment,” said Muttreja.
A notable recommendation includes upgrading Anganwadi centers under Poshan 2.0 is a significant move to improve nutrition, which is needed urgently to address the high prevalence of anemia, especially among young girls. Extending Ayushman Bharat health benefits to India’s more than 2 million female frontline workers, such as ASHAs and Auxiliary Nurse Midwives, would greatly benefit those who are at the forefront of our healthcare system.
The empowerment of women through entrepreneurship and the substantial increase in female enrollment in higher education and STEM courses were significant milestones, highlighted in the FM’s speech. How the country’s 83 lakh Self Help Groups (SHGs) are transforming the social and rural landscape of India showcases the power of women in driving socio-economic change.
The National Health Mission under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has seen a minor increase in budget allocation, rising to Rs. 31,967 crores from Rs. 31,550 crores in the 2023-24 budget. Additionally, the budget for family welfare has been set at Rs. 1,602 crores for 2024-25, up from Rs. 1,440 crores in 2023-24.
“We also need the government to start investing in changing social and work more on changing male behaviours and responsibilities,” said Muttreja.
Furthermore, under the central sector schemes/projects, the allocation for family welfare schemes is Rs. 695 crores for the fiscal year 2024-25, compared to Rs. 640 crores in 2023-24.
Population Foundation of India is optimistic that the government’s vision, as reflected in this budget, will translate into impactful policies and programmatic investments. We remain committed to working alongside the government and other stakeholders to ensure that the promise of this budget is realized, leading to a more inclusive, healthy, and empowered India.
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