According to some analytical projections, India has already surpassed China to become the most populous country in the world. The World Population Review—a non-government organization providing live demographic estimates based on recent growth—estimated India’s population at the end of 2022 at 1.417 billion, about 5 million more than China’s 1.412 billion.
India had deferred the 2021 census because of the disruptions caused by the Covid pandemic, hence the population trends could not be updated. Nevertheless, multiple estimates including that by the United Nations projects India’s population to surpass that of China this year.
The upward trend in India’s population is projected to continue till at least 2050, after which the country’s population may start shrinking. The accolade of being the world’s most populated country is not one without issues. The continuous growth in population poses numerous challenges to the government of India. From providing education to creating new jobs to housing and utilizing the young population of India, the Modi government is faced with an uphill task.
The growth in population demands sustainable development and expansion of urban centers and provision of health and housing facilities. Whereas, the present situation of India is that despite being one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, it is unable to cope with the challenges of unemployment and poverty.
About 50 percent of India’s population is under the age of 30 with 27.3 percent of its population aged between 15 and 29 years, making it one of the youngest countries in the world. Effectively utilizing this youth bulge can further expedite its economic progress, however, it will require the Indian government to expand its industrial base, attract more foreign direct investment and invest in youth empowerment.
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The uneven spread of the population geographically and the huge disparity in the population of its administrative units is also a grave challenge hampering the sustainable development of India. Its most populous state is Uttar Pradesh, with a projected population of 230 million people which is roughly equivalent to the population of Pakistan, whereas most of its other states are much less populated. Urbanization is at the root of this problem.
In order to tackle the challenge of urbanization, the Modi government needs to focus on the rural areas so to provide its inhabitants with equitable facilities. Agriculture remains the backbone of the Indian economy, and in the coming years, its significance will further increase in view of the needs of the growing population. Hence the youth must also be provided opportunities to earn a respectable livelihood in the agricultural sector.
Tackling the global threat
The growing population has become a global threat as it is the root cause of numerous ailments in the contemporary world. It increases the pressure on global resources and the environment. India is among the eight countries expected to be responsible for more than half the projected increase in the global population by 2050.
Hence, the Indian government needs to focus on initiatives aimed at curbing population growth. Raising awareness regarding family planning methods can be effective in tackling overpopulation. Although India has seen an increase in the use of family planning methods from 53.5 percent in 2015-16 to 66.7 percent in 2019-21, the aim must be to reach 100 percent. The increase in the use of family planning methods has yielded positive results as is evident in the fact that India’s annual population growth has decreased to an average 1.2 percent since 2011 as compared to 1.7 percent in the previous 10 years.
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Similarly, the fertility rate – the number of children per woman – fell to 2 in 2019-2021, down from 3.4 in 1992-93. These positive trends must not only continue but should be accelerated with the help of the government, so to save India and the whole world from overpopulation. Pakistan has its own massive issues of an unsustainable growing population and is far behind India on any initiatives to tackle the issue.