From Bharat To India: Understanding Rural-Urban Migration [RESEARCH]

By Tejaswini Pagadala:

[NOTE: This article has been written in three parts. At the end of each part please click on the read more option to read Pg 2 and Pg 3 of the research article.]

In a country with 600 million farmers, of which 40 percent are willing to quit farming for various reasons, mass migration from rural to urban areas has increased rapidly. Between 1991 and 2001, 73 million people have migrated from the rural areas to elsewhere. Mass migration is a phenomenon that is a consequence of various problems in the rural India.

Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, suggested that if people from the rural areas are brought to urban areas, the state could serve them better. But, this is a wrong notion which can lead to the destruction of agriculture on the whole, almost or completely damaging “Bharat”.

There are umpteen number of reasons for this, namely: health, poverty and hunger, water and sanitation, women and children, education and employment, environmental problems, resources, industries and corporates, etc. Now, let us analyze each reason and how and why the proposal cannot turn into action.

In terms of health, India has one of the most neglected health care systems in the world. India’s ranks among top five countries in the world with most number of HIV positive cases, present IMR in India is 52 deaths per 1000 live births and MMR is 230 per 100, 000 live births according to WHO statistics. Though, private and corporate hospitals are blossoming in the cities, villages in rural India still suffer from lack of proper health care services. Setting up public health centres (PHC) and community health centres (CHC) have solved a few problems in the villages. However, lack of proper equipment, operation theatres, paramedics, technicians and doctors are leaving most of these health centres in shams.

Services like 108 have been introduced in villages in case of emergency, but the patient will be driven in a van through roads which almost kill the person before reaching the PHC or the CHC which is mostly located in towns, about an hour drive from any village. Population is another major problem in our country. In the name of family planning, forced sterilization, birth control pills and Intra-uterine devices (IUD) are used. The effects of these can cause hormonal problems in women or sometimes, death.

Once we probe deeper into issues related to health, hunger and poverty stand tall in the list of factors affecting the health of people. India ranks 63rd in poverty Index and its rank in the standard of living compared to that of 186 countries is 126, which is much lower than many other developing countries. More than 320 million people go hungry to bed every day. Of these, many die, many suffer from various diseases. Most of them among the 320 million hungry people are the ones who live on less than Rs. 20 a day.

Like Mr. Devinder Sharma (Food and Trade Policy Analyst) said, “the biggest challenge our country faces with is, the way it has defined the poverty line.” The government calls a family as below poverty line (BPL) family if a person consumes less than 2100 calories a day. And if it is greater than 2100 calories a day, it is an above poverty line (APL) family. According to Sharma, 2100 calories if converted into currency is equal to Rs. 17 per day per person in rural areas and Rs.20 per day in urban areas.

In Everybody Loves A Good Drought, P. Sainath says “poverty line provides conceptual rationalization for looking at the poor as a ‘category’ to be taken care of. It does not take into account important aspects of poverty such as ill health, low educational attainments, geographical isolation, ineffective access to law, powerlessness in civil society and caste and gender based disadvantages.”

Apart from food security, what we also need to look at is water and sanitation problems. Even today, many people in the rural areas walk 10 kilometers or more to get water from the nearest drinking water sources. They are infected with various diseases because of sanitation problems. Depletion in ground water level and water pollution due to prevalence of toxics, sewage and other pollutants is also a trouble. For example: Many districts in Karnataka like Kolar have high fluoride content in them which makes the bones of people brittle, causing joint pains. Apart from this, fluorosis also decreases fertility rate in men and women. The reason for high fluoride content is because of depletion in the ground water level. (read more, click here)

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5 Responses

  1. Anirudh Nimmagadda

    Your capacity for research astounds me: the bevy of facts and figures you quoted in this article could only have been gathered through some serious effort.

    I am, however, less than impressed with the reasoning employed to reach the conclusion that our Prime Minister is ‘wrong’, and that rural-urban migration is not ‘ideal’ (few things ever are…). Having read the whole of your article multiple times, I am led to believe that you are arguing against rural-urban migration, since you think the benefits of living in urban areas may not trickle down to the ‘emigrants’. You also state that this migration will result in the ‘destruction’ of agriculture in India (how?), which, in my opinion, is hyperbole.
    If I am mistaken in my presumptions, I apologize, and the rest of my comment may be disregarded.

    Now, you have mentioned health (and affiliated factors such as hunger), poverty, illiteracy, ineffectiveness of law, etc. as contributing to the reaching of your conclusion, but, it is not at all clear from your article why the living standards of rural folk will be degraded on moving to cities.
    I would like to comment on each of these factors, in turn:
    1. Health
    You do an excellent job apprising us of the pathetic healthcare situation in rural areas, but tell us that the inhabitants of these areas will be better off sticking to village life, since they will be unable to afford the healthcare services provided in cities.
    To me, this seems a problem that is not very difficult to solve. The reduction in rural population should allow the government to divert some of the funds currently being spent on rural healthcare to sponsor medical services for the urban poor. A similar argument could be put forth for related issues such as food and water, which are more in more plentiful supply in cities than in villages. In fact, this might actually be on the mind of our PM, who is also a perspicacious economist.
    2. Poverty
    Your statements about the irregularity of income from agrarian production units, and how the poor migrate hoping to find more rewarding work, militate against your argument. While the ‘emigrants’ may not immediately be able to find a job, let us not forget that there is no income security in rural areas either.
    3. Illiteracy
    You write that while the quality of education in government schools leaves a lot to be desired, private schools are expensive, and cannot be afforded by the poor. However, it does not follow from this that poor families will be better off staying in villages. Hoping that government schools as they are will attract better teachers is, in my opinion, wishful thinking. Children of poor families would likely benefit more from government sponsored education at private schools in urban areas, since an average, but well-educated child is more employable than an extremely bright, but poorly educated one.
    4. Ineffectiveness of law
    It is true that the various crimes you have mentioned (infanticide, female foeticide, human trafficking, and abduction) are prevalent in India. But, while human trafficking and abduction are crimes arising from greed for money, or depravity, the others are crimes arising from a lack of awareness of the irrationality of certain traditions, and can be eradicated by educating those that adhere to them. This is more likely to happen in the dynamic environment that cities provide, than in idyllic villages. Further, perpetrators of such crimes are more likely to be brought to book in cities than anywhere else.

    In conclusion, I would reiterate that rural-urban migration is actually desirable. India’s rural population is ridiculously and unnecessarily large, and there are too few opportunities for gainful employment in rural India. While there are undeniably a few horror stories of unfortunate men and women who have been through trying times upon migrating to cities, these are more the exception rather than the rule. Over time, rural-urban migration will result in increased standards of living for all who choose to make the leap.

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