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12 Numbers That Will Straddle 2023 and 2024

Like the years gone by, 2023 too was defined by a unique set of numbers.

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A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. But numbers too tell fascinating stories: of continuity, change, hope, despair, excitement, and ennui.

Like the years gone by, 2023 too was defined by a unique set of numbers. Here is a list of 12 numbers that would forever be unique to 2023 and 2024 in a random order of significance.

3.1 Million

This remains a contentious topic even now in contemporary electoral discourse. Overseas Congress leader Sam Pitroda has once again raised concerns over them.

The government had set aside about Rs 1900 crore for this in 2023. When voters queue up outside polling booths during the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, awaiting them across India will be about 3.1 million Electronic Voting Machines (EVM).

Doubts about the efficacy and reliability of EVMs have been periodically raised; the first time by the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) after its loss in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and subsequently by opposition parties after the BJP started winning elections.

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$1.5 Billion

This number reflects the astounding success of digital payments in India; a thing so ubiquitous across nook and corner of India that even visiting dignitaries are stumped by this revolution. In 2023, transactions using digital mode or the UPI have crossed $1.5 billion.

There is hardly any establishment, shop, or service provider that doesn’t have a scanning machine that is used by the consumer to pay for goods and services. Apart from physical infrastructure, this remains the success story of India over the last decade.

$125 billion

This jaw-dropping number is the cumulative total of money sent back home by blue and white-collar workers and other overseas Indians. India's remittances the highest among all countries in the world. The next highest was Mexico with $67 billion in inward remittances.

Along with FDI, remittances have played a big role in reducing the current account deficit of India to very manageable levels.

72,000

It’s almost as if the bulls have been given the license to run amok in Dalal Street and annihilate the bears. Sure, there have been days and weeks when the Sensex has tanked. But overall, there has been a massive increase in optimism with the Sensex breaking all records to breach the 72,000 mark.

In January 2023, the Sensex hovered around the 60,000 mark. This bull run has taken India’s market capitalisation beyond the $4 trillion mark; the fifth rank in the world. If the bull run continues, India could displace Hong Kong and become number four.

0

4 Million

Ever since the Indian economy bounced back from the COVID-19 shock, upper-middle-class, and affluent Indians have gone on a spending binge. This is best reflected in sales of passenger vehicles which will touch the 4 million mark for the first time ever in a calendar year in 2023.

Even the market structure is changing with consumers increasingly opting for SUVs and high-end models. Aspirational Indians, on the other hand, are not so exuberant as two-wheeler sales are still far below the peak of 22 million achieved in 2018.

820 Million

This is a reality check for India. The Narendra Modi regime decided in 2023 to extend the scheme launched in April 2020 to give free food to all “poor” or vulnerable Indians by five more years till 2028.

It is estimated that 820 million Indians will benefit from this scheme. In 2022-23, this scheme came with a price tag of Rs 2.87 lakh crores, making it arguably the largest welfare scheme run by any government anywhere in the world. The vulnerable Indians will benefit immensely as food usually accounts for more than 50% of a poor family’s budget.

350 Million Tons

This is yet another record. Enterprising farmers of India have started using innovative methods and apt technology to such an extent that they have produced more than 350 million tons of fruits and vegetables in 2023. For some years, horticulture output has been larger than agriculture output, a dramatic shift largely unnoticed by most.

Ten years ago, while agriculture output including oilseeds was close to 300 million tons, horticulture output was 280 million tons. But millions of farmers still fail to gain from higher productivity due to a lack of organised markets and cold storage facilities.

$10.7 Billion

It doesn’t matter if the Indian cricket team keeps failing to win any ICC tournament. For Indian fans, cricket remains a religion, and its stars are the reigning deities. The biggest showcase of cricketing talent and entertainment in the world, the IPL got even bigger in 2023.

It has been valued at a staggering $10.7 billion, making it one of the most valuable tournaments in the world. Stars too are raking it in. In a recent auction, Australian fast bowler Michael Starc was snapped up by Shah Rukh Khan-owned Kolkatta Knight Riders for a Rs 24.75 crore pay package.

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800 Million

Go anywhere in India, from a crowded market to a metro coach to the dining table inside a household, and the ubiquitous sight is that of people fiddling with their mobile phones. Some are checking news; quite a few access porn sites but most are immersed in their chosen social media platform. By the end of 2023, a shade more than 800 million Indians had become active users of the internet.

There has been a slowdown in growth since COVID-19 as less affluent Indians have postponed smartphone purchases. But with companies like Reliance Jio offering low-end but functional smartphones, wait for another explosion in internet usage as data costs remain among the lowest in the world.

215 Million

India is still home to the largest number of poor people in the world, about 215 million in 2023. This number has been provided by the Niti Ayog which launched a multi-dimensional poverty measure in 2021 where 12 quality-of-life-related indicators are factored in to measure poverty.

The updated export for 2023 states that close to 15% of Indians live in multi-dimensional poverty. Some states like Odisha have shown remarkable improvement; others like Bihar still have one-third of the population living in poverty.

33%

There is no clarity on when this will happen. The optimists think by the time the 2029 Lok Sabha elections come by. The pessimists think never. But it will happen. The parliament finally passed a Bill that guarantees one-third representation to females in all state assemblies and the parliament.

By any yardstick, this will be a historic move as female representation in legislative bodies remains low at about 15% while females now outnumber males in voting. When this happens, Indian democracy will deepen.

50 Million

This is not a record to be proud of by any means. Every time a new Chief Justice of India assumes office, there are solemn assertions of reducing the number of pending cases and taking “urgent” steps to expedite cases. Yet, the number of pending cases in India crossed the 50 million mark in 2023.

The rate at which things are going now, it will take 250 years and more to clear the backlog. This remains a key reason for India's failure to dramatically improve Ease of Doing Business metrics despite so many reforms in other areas.

(Yashwant Deshmukh & Sutanu Guru work with the CVoter Foundation. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the authors' own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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