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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 03 February 2024

  1. Survey as a Substitute for Census
  2. Budget 2024 and India’s Progress


In her Interim Budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made a noteworthy announcement, stating that a high-powered committee would be established to address the challenges arising from “rapid population growth and demographic changes.” The Union government has repeatedly delayed the decennial Census, which has not been conducted for the first time in a decade since 1881. This postponement raises questions about the basis for Sitharaman’s statement.


  • GS-1- Population and Associated Issues
  • GS-2- Government Policies and Interventions

Mains Question:

Multiple surveys present data that provide a way to substitute the Census- that is yet to be conducted for this decade. Comment critically. (10 Marks, 150 Words).

About the Census:

  • Population Census involves the comprehensive process of gathering, organizing, analyzing, and disseminating demographic, economic, and social data concerning all individuals within a country or a well-defined region at a specific point in time.
  • The Census serves as the foundation for assessing a country’s progress over the past decade, monitoring ongoing government initiatives, and planning for the future. It offers an instantaneous snapshot of a community, valid at a specific moment.
  • The Census Operations in India occur in two phases: Houselisting/Housing Census, which records details of all buildings (permanent or temporary) with their type, amenities, and assets, and Population Enumeration, which gathers more detailed information on each individual, whether an Indian national or otherwise. The enumeration is conducted after creating a list of all households to be surveyed.
  • The first synchronized census in India took place in 1881, initiated by W.C. Plowden, the Census Commissioner of India. Since then, censuses have been consistently carried out once every ten years.
  • While the Census of India Act of 1948 provides the legal framework, it does not specify the timing or periodicity. Although the Indian Constitution mandates a Census, there is no constitutional or legal requirement for it to be conducted decennially.
  • The ten-year frequency aligns with many countries, such as the US and the UK, while others like Australia, Canada, and Japan conduct it every five years.
  • The decennial Census in India is overseen by the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • Initially, until 1951, the Census Organization was established on an ad-hoc basis for each Census.

Relevant Statistics:

  • Although India is now recognized as the most populous country, recent data from the Sample Registration System statistical report in 2020 and the National Family Health Survey 5 (2019-21) indicate a decline in the total fertility rate (TFR) to 2 overall.
  • Only a few states, namely Bihar (2.98), Meghalaya (2.91), Uttar Pradesh (2.35), Jharkhand (2.26), and Manipur (2.17), have a TFR above 2.1.
  • It is evident that the high population growth observed in the 20th century has been significantly curtailed. The TFR dropped from 5.7 in 1950 to 2 in 2020, albeit with regional variations.
  • The southern states’ population share decreased from 26% in 1951 to 21% in 2011, primarily due to a rapid reduction in TFR resulting from improved socioeconomic conditions and education, despite increased migration to these states.

Delay in Census:

  • While the mentioned surveys are robust and essential, they cannot substitute for a comprehensive Census.
  • The prolonged delay in its execution reflects poorly on the Union Home Ministry, suggesting a lack of priority for this crucial aspect of Indian governance in favor of other motives.
  • The changing demographics in India and the increasing life expectancy present both challenges and opportunities.
  • The widely discussed demographic dividend, which refers to a higher proportion of the working-age population in developing countries, holds significance only if there are enough jobs available and if individuals have some form of social security as they age.
  • The potential of this dividend may be at risk due to high unemployment rates and the slow growth of non-farm jobs, which are crucial for increasing productivity and providing opportunities for skilled employment.
  • Disrupting the regular census schedule may yield data that is not comparable to previous datasets, posing challenges in analyzing trends and formulating well-informed policy decisions.
  • Relying on 12-year-old data in a dynamic context can undermine the reliability of information, potentially affecting various indicators for India and impacting the effectiveness and efficiency of developmental initiatives across sectors.
  • Census delays can have consequences for the allocation of seats for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in governing bodies.
  • Continued reliance on 2011 Census data may lead to inaccurate seat reservations, especially in areas where significant changes in population composition have occurred over the last decade.
  • The delay can disrupt government schemes and programs, leading to unreliable estimates in surveys related to consumption, health, and employment that depend on census data.
  • This could adversely affect policy and welfare measures, with an estimated 100 million people potentially being excluded from the Public Distribution System (PDS) food subsidy program due to outdated population figures from the 2011 census.
  • Houselisting, a year-long process, is critical for updating information on addresses in a country with an inadequate address system.
  • Delaying the census renders the list outdated, potentially resulting in incomplete or inaccurate information, thereby compromising the reliability of subsequent population enumeration and data collection.
  • Outdated 2011 Census data fails to address vital questions about migration, such as numbers, causes, and patterns. This information gap became evident during the Covid lockdown when migrant workers faced challenges without proper government support.
  • The forthcoming Census is expected to capture the scale and patterns of migration, helping to identify healthcare and social service needs specific to migrants, offering essential insights for targeted support and services.


The formation of a high-powered committee is pivotal, particularly if it actively addresses concerns related to employment, social security, and the issues arising from rapid urbanization and mechanization of work. However, if the committee chooses to focus on the ruling party’s particular concerns regarding population matters tied to religion and immigration, it may divert governance from effectively utilizing the diminishing demographic dividend in the country.


In the evolutionary and historical life cycle, transformative moments occur, and India has experienced a decade of significant change. It has progressed from an underdeveloped state to a developing nation and is currently recognized as the fastest-growing economy globally. India stands out as an economic beacon, consistently achieving a growth rate of 7%, surpassing the 2.5% growth seen in other world economies.


GS2- Health


  • Mobilization of Resources
  • Growth and Development
  • Government Budgeting

Mains Question:

The Budget 2024 reflected the aspirations of a new India by laying out the immense opportunity ahead of us. Analyse. (15 Marks, 250 Words).

India’s Remarkable Progress:

  • India’s remarkable acceleration has resulted in a meaningful present and holds the promise of a bright future.
  • India’s space program has garnered global admiration, showcasing the nation’s prowess.
  • Additionally, the country has adeptly navigated the delicate balance between renewable and non-renewable energy sources, surpassing other nations in terms of achieving targets.
  • The buoyancy in both metrics and spirit was palpable in the Interim Budget as well. The budget reflected the aspirations of a new India by outlining the immense opportunities that lie ahead.

Budget 2024:

Preventive Health Checks:


  • Preventive healthcare involves measures aimed at averting diseases rather than treating them. In India, the preventive healthcare sector is experiencing significant growth, with the country’s total preventive healthcare market now valued at over $800 million.
  • The healthcare industry encompasses various components such as hospitals, medical devices, clinical trials, outsourcing, telemedicine, medical tourism, health insurance, and medical equipment. India’s healthcare delivery system is divided into two main segments – public and private.
  • The public healthcare system primarily consists of limited secondary and tertiary care institutions located in key cities, with a focus on offering basic healthcare facilities through Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) in rural areas.
  • In contrast, the private sector plays a dominant role in providing secondary, tertiary, and quaternary care institutions, with a significant concentration in metros, tier-I, and tier-II cities.
  • Preventive health checks are essential for any nation to avoid the economic burden of citizens falling ill. Emphasizing healthy living and preventive healthcare is crucial.

Measures Targeting Preventive Health Care:

  • The initiative in the Interim Budget to promote Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination among young girls to prevent cervical cancer is commendable.
  • Similar measures can be implemented for various cancers and all non-communicable diseases, significantly reducing India’s overall disease burden.
  • The government needs to be encouraged to consider offering incentives for individuals to undergo preventive health checks.
  • India has made impressive advancements in health indicators over the past four decades, evident in the decline in infant and maternal mortality rates.
  • The Budget appropriately prioritizes maternal and child healthcare, recognizing the importance of their well-being. A healthy mother and child contribute to increased women’s participation in the workforce.
  • Life expectancy has risen from 53 years to 70 years in the last four decades, achieved with less than a 2% budgetary allocation for health.
  • If this allocation is increased to 5%, substantial progress can be made in achieving improved population health outcomes.

Innovation Revolution:

  • Establishing the groundwork for an innovation revolution, the government has identified ‘innovation’ as a crucial pillar for contemporary development.
  • To support this vision, a fund of ₹1 lakh crore has been earmarked, offering interest-free loans for 50 years.
  • This initiative aims to provide long-term financial support to the private sector, facilitating investments in research and technology.
  • The incorporation of technology has the potential to generate a substantial and widespread impact across various sectors.
  • In the realm of healthcare, enhanced technological collaborations can extend our reach, improving access to quality care.
  • This approach addresses challenges such as the imbalanced doctor-patient ratio and has the potential to significantly reduce healthcare costs.

Medical Tourism:

  • The Interim Budget addressed the influence of tourism stemming from religious and iconic sites and has allocated resources for States to promote this aspect extensively.
  • However, another dimension of tourism, namely healthcare or ‘medical value travel,’ is progressively gaining attention and becoming a significant motivation for travel.
  • Over the past decade, we have witnessed a transformation in this landscape, with ‘Heal in India’ reaching new heights.
  • India’s exceptional talent and globally recognized standards of clinical outcomes have positioned the country as an attractive healthcare destination worldwide.
  • Moreover, the potential for improved connectivity through new railway corridors, additional airports, and air routes holds the promise of granting Indians easier access to quality healthcare.


Beyond the explicit budgetary allocations, the noteworthy aspects include the surge in private expenditure, increased consumption, and the underlying theme that the private sector has surpassed expectations, playing a meaningful role not only in the economy but also in shaping our lives. With continued collaborative efforts, India has the potential to truly become limitless.

February 2024