General Studies Paper 2 (Social Justice)
Question:- 43. India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country in a few years. Discuss the challenges of rising population and suggest solutions. (250 words)
Aug 19, 2022



The United Nations’ World Population Prospects (WPP), 2022, forecasts India becoming the most populous country by 2023, surpassing China, with a 140 crore population. Last year, India reached a significant demographic milestone as, for the first time, its total fertility rate (TFR) slipped to two, below the replacement level fertility (2.1 children per woman), as per the National Family Health Survey. However, even after reaching the replacement level of fertility, the population will continue to grow for three to four decades owing to the population momentum (large cohorts of women in their reproductive age groups).


LINKAGE POINT: This growth in population comes with various challenges such as:




  1. 1.Environmental and ecological consequences-
  • -pressure on land, fragmentation of land holding, collapsing fisheries, shrinking forests, rising temperatures, rising sea-levels, loss of plant and animal species.
  • -Urban population growth has outpaced the development of basic minimum services; housing, water supply, sewerage and solid waste disposal are far from adequate; increasing waste generation at home, offices and industries, coupled with poor waste disposal facilities result in rapid environmental deterioration. Increasing automobiles add to air pollution.


  1. 2.Poverty:
  • -Poverty persists in urban and peri-urban areas; awareness about the glaring inequities in close urban setting may lead to social unrest.
  • -Though poverty has declined over the last three decades, the number of rural poor has in fact increased due to the population growth. Poor tend to have larger families which puts enormous burden on their meagre resources, and prevent them from breaking out of the shackles of poverty.


  1. 3.Labour, employment and manpower:
  • -In most of the states non-farm employment in rural areas has not grown very much and cannot absorb the growing labour force. Those who are getting educated specially beyond the primary level, may not wish to do manual agricultural work. They would like better opportunities and more remunerative employment.


  1. 4.Water supply:
  • -In India, water withdrawal is estimated to be twice the rate of aquifer recharge; as a result water tables are falling by one to three meters every year; tapping deeper aquifers have resulted in larger population groups being exposed to newer health hazards such as high fluoride or arsenic content in drinking water.
  • -At the other end of the spectrum, excessive use of water has led to water logging and increasing salinity in some parts of the country.


  1. 5.Food security:
  • -Both lack of water and water logging could have adverse impact on India’s food production.
  • -There is very little arable agricultural land which remains unexploited and in many areas, agricultural technology improvement may not be able to ensure further increase in yield per hectare.
  • -improvement in purchasing power and changing dietary habits (shift to animal products) may further add to the requirement of food grains.


  1. 6.Economic implications:
  • -For India the current phase of demographic transition with low dependency ratio and high working age group population, represents both a challenge and an opportunity.
  • -The challenge is to develop these human resources through appropriate education and skill development and utilise them fully by giving them appropriate jobs with adequate emoluments.


  1. 7.Migration:
  • -Given the combination of high population growth, low literacy and lack of employment opportunities in the poorly performing States, there is increasing rural to urban migration as well as interstate migration especially of unskilled workers.
  • -Such migration in the short run assists the migrants in overcoming economic problems associated with unemployment. However, the migrant workers and their families may face problems in securing shelter, education and health care.


  1. 8.Health implications of demographic transition:
  • -The challenge for the health sector is to promote healthy life styles, improve access to and utilisation of health care so that the country can achieve substantial reduction in mortality and morbidity.
  • -Occupational health and environmental health programme need be augmented to ensure that working population remain healthy and productive.
  • -With growing number of senior citizens there may be substantial increase in health care needs especially for management of non-communicable diseases.
  • -Increasing availability and awareness about technological advances for management of these problems, rising expectations of the population and the ever escalating cost of health care are some of the problems that the health care system has to cope with.
  • -Mental health; lifestyle diseases





  1. 1.Steps will have to be taken to provide for the minimum essential needs of the vulnerable migrant population.
  2. 2.The challenge of unemployment has to be met through well planned schemes for HRD and employment generation which are implemented effectively so that there is improved national productivity and personal savings rates; appropriate investment of these savings will help the country to achieve the economic transition from low economic growth – low per capita income to high economic growth – high per capita income. It is imperative that programmes for skill development, vocational training and technical education are taken up on a large scale in order to generate productive employment in rural areas.
  3. 3.Research in biotechnology for improving development of foodgrains strains that would tolerate salinity and those which would require less water gets high priority. Simultaneously, a movement towards making water harvesting, storage and its need based use part of every citizens life should be taken up.
  4. 4.The poor and populous States must make concerted advances in women’s literacy, health, and participation in the workforce, emulating the achievements of the good performing states.
  5. 5.Effective and efficient implementation of schemes like AMRUT, SMART cities, Piped water for all, Make India India and Sustainable development goals framework will certainly help in augmenting the social infrastructure and will help India in reaping the benefits of its demographic dividend.
  6. 6.Making agriculture remunerative and keeping food prices stable is crucial to ensure nutrition for all.
  7. 7.Managing forest and water resources for future generations and willful implementation of sustainable development goals must assume center stage in policy-making.
  8. 8.India is called a young nation, with 50% of its population below 25 years of age. But the share of India’s elderly population is now increasing and is expected to be 12% by 2050. After 2050, the elderly population will increase sharply. So, advance investments in the development of a robust social, financial and healthcare support system for old people is the need of the hour. The focus of action should be on extensive investment in human capital, on older adults living with dignity, and on healthy population ageing.




In the 1960s, India had a population growth rate of over 2%. At the current rate of growth, this is expected to fall to 1% by 2025. We should be prepared with suitable infrastructure, conducive social welfare schemes and massive investment in quality education and health. The focus should not be on population control; we do not have such a severe problem now. Instead, an augmentation of the quality of life should be the priority.