— Keshav Chaturvedi
The new government in India is planning to replicate an attempt made by the state government (Gujarat) from where the present prime minister has been chosen. The concept is called “Rurban” development. The philosophy behind the concept is to provide city like infrastructure in the over grown rural areas with an aim to ease pressure on cities and also stop migration a step earlier.
According to the 2011 census report, a huge chunk of migration is happening within rural areas. The report says that almost half of the rural population now lives in 1.2 lakh (120000) villages with a population ranging between 2000 to slightly more than 10,000 inhabitants. In the last 10 years the number of big villages (those with more than 10000 inhabitants) has increased by 670. In many parts of the developed as well as developing world even cities don’t have this kind of population. Due to their organic and haphazard development these villages are raging hell in terms of hygiene and other facilities.
But the migrants prefer to move here from their village due to proximity in terms of distance and congruity in terms of social environment.
A large chunk of farmers are leaving their farms and moving to bigger villages or cities in search of employment. While the cities are a magnet for rural migrants in search of employment, they are not the preferred destination. As the results of the rural employment scheme (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Act) suggest that wherever it was employed with efficiency, the distress migration came down drastically.
The rural employment guarantee scheme initiated by the earlier government in India produced a remarkable result. The distress migration from the poorer states like Bihar almost stopped leading to a crisis of farm hands in Punjab.
Research has shown that as the farmers move away from agriculture towards other vocations there first port of call is a bigger village in the vicinity. It’s when the opportunity in the bigger village proves to be a mirage and the living conditions deteriorate that people are forced to move to cities.
Natural inclination among an over whelming majority of migrants is to return to their own home. Economic or ecological distress, are the only two reasons that force multitude of humanity to leave their known confines.
According to Mckinsey report the human species is on an irreversible path to urbanisation and by 2050 more than 80 percent of the population in developed world and 55 percent of the population in developing countries would be living in urban areas.
This prompted our former finance minister, P Chidambaram, to say that we should be prepared to accommodate a huge number of people in urban areas. But the problem with the breakneck urbanisation is it uproots a whole generation and leaves permanent scar on not only them but the following generations too. Report pouring in from China, suggest that the more than the authorities, it is the migrant herself who is facing the problem of adjustment. The administration on the other hand is trying to figure out how to upgrade the skills of largely unskilled folks for the information and service driven urban employment environment.
Many experts steeped into the age old wisdom of urbanisation say that this is the part and parcel of urbanisation. West also underwent such growth pangs and so should we. But that’s a lazy argument. West didn’t have a template in front of them. As the industrial revolution moved organically so did the towns and cities. They learnt while they grew. But today’s Asia can learn from the past mistakes.
There is no need for a population which doesn’t want to leave their native village to move to a city under stress, duress or distress. There is no need for a city to accommodate a large number of refugees who end up offsetting all the gains of planned development and resource allocation. We can see lose-lose situation where the incoming resident is unwilling but forced by circumstances and the host resident is resentful of her arrival. This whole sale over night transfer of rural population in the cities can be checked. The rate of urbanisation can be monitored and spaced out in a manner where the cities can get breathing space to grow in a more organised manner.
In this regard we should look at the concept of “Rurban” as a tool that eases the pains of urbanisation. If implemented with care and conviction, this can act as a bulwark to control migration. Availability of modern infrastructure and employment opportunities closer to home will stop a large chunk of population from moving to city.
With the availability of urban infrastructure the rural settlement will grow a bit more and it can then be turned into a municipal corporation. This will automatically qualify the rural area as an urban without the need to build new cities or expanding a few metropolis.
Once the distress migration is checked, these “Rurban” centres can be developed as the centers for excellence and economic growth. In time they will slowly assume many characteristics of a city while maintaining their rural social values and milieu. That too will change but at a pace which is convenient for the local populace.
Migration will still happen but of a small community of ambitious professionals who want to make it big in huge metropolis. This percentage of migration will be easily handled by the large urban conglomerates.
India like any other emerging economy or a developed one will one day become a fully urbanised society. However, it can use “Rurban” concept to present to the world a template of benign urbanisation where the citizens are offered a chance to set the pace of change and arrive at different stages of urbanisation when they deem fit. It is said that you can’t resist an idea whose time has come but you can surely ease the pain that is attendant to the introduction of an idea.
The author is a geography graduate and have been tracking the issue of climate change ever since the Rio Conference in 1992. He has also authored a book on the politics of climate change and was the content head of a renewable energy magazine – Energy Next. He blogs at — http://indiadynamic.wordpress.com/