Population Foundation of India welcomes the commitment shown by the Union Government by prioritising allocation of funds in the Union Budget 2023 for addressing the needs of vulnerable populations and young people by recognising ‘youth power’, ‘inclusive development’ and ‘reaching the last mile’ – three of the seven priorities called Saptarishis.
India’s youth are a welcome and important focus of this year’s Budget. The additional allocations to education, skill development, and employment opportunities will go a long way in empowering young people to realise their full potential. This announcement also holds particular significance against the backdrop of UN projections which show that India will overtake China to become the most populous country in the world by 2023. Only through such investments that expand opportunities for young people can India leverage the nation’s demographic dividend. Ms Sitharaman also referred to women’s empowerment as an important thrust area on the government agenda.
Poonam Muttreja, the Executive Director of Population Foundation of India, said, “We have continued to highlight the importance of investing in young people and the Government has fulfilled our long-standing request and expectation to focus on empowering youth and equipping them with education, skills and employment opportunities to ensure that India reaps the benefits of demographic dividend. The focus on reaching the last mile through targeted programme strategies and interventions will also go a long way in building an inclusive society.”
The government’s emphasis on skill development is equally important. The launch of the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana 4.0 to skill youth in the next 5 years on new age courses on subjects such as coding, AI, robotics, 3D printing, and drones, inception of 30 Skill India International Centres across the country, and providing stipend support to youth through the National Apprenticeship Scheme could provide young people with the skills and opportunities they need to succeed in the 21st century.
A National Digital Library at the national level for children and adolescents can also potentially help in improving educational attainment for young people by enabling them to access reading materials which are beyond their text books. States will be encouraged to set up physical libraries for them at panchayat and ward levels and provide infrastructure for accessing the National Digital Library resources. Much will depend upon how state governments implement this programme, particularly in rural areas, where accessing the library might be constrained by low digital literacy, gender-based digital divide and insufficient access as well as connectivity to digital devices.
The finance minister also announced the setting up of 157 new nursing colleges and a mission to eliminate sickle cell anemia by 2047, which is a welcome step. However, rural development and an overall focus on health were low on priority in the budget 2023, with greater focus on defense and infrastructural investments.
Dr. K Srinath Reddy, the Chairperson of Population Foundation of India said, “The announcement on the new initiative to boost research and innovation in health is much needed. The collaboration between ICMR and public and private medical facilities for using ICMR labs for research is a welcome step. As India is a leading manufacturer and exporter of pharmaceutical products, the new initiative will encourage the pharmaceutical industry to further invest in research and innovation in pharmaceuticals. The government will have to ensure that quality of research also goes up to match the international standards and to support new innovations.”