Is India more Rural & less Urban?

Posted on July 21, 2010

By Anurag Butoliya:

The world today looks at India as the next superpower. Multinational companies find India as their next promising market. New Delhi is becoming the next Manhattan. Big corporates are setting up offices in Indian metropolitans & the country is their preferred base for the Asian markets. With Foreign Direct Investment pouring in India , urbanization is spreading its roots in India like never before. Fat paychecks, cars, better roads all speak about India’s growth story.

Figures too bolster such contention. During last fifty years, India’s urban population has grown 5 times. In numerical terms India’s urban population is second largest in the world after China. These facts do speak volumes of our glorious journey, but then the country faces the other side of the situation time & again.

Rural economy is a major issue & is always a top priority with the policy makers. Corporates strategize separately for the urban India and rural India. The reason – the needs of urban and rural India are different and need to be addressed separately. If urbanization is happening in India at such a fast pace, why do policy makers talk about urban India and rural India separately? Why not have a single policy framework to address all the issues pertaining to the whole clan. A logical answer maybe that there is something missing in our growth story that has translated into a gap between the two ‘Indias’. A closer watch at the urbanization characteristics of the country reveals that the real urbanization in the country has taken place in clusters around the metropolitan cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore etc. The urbanization that has taken place in other parts of the country cannot be called urbanization in real sense.

Uttar Pradesh on record has 704 cities but the population and the economy of the state remains largely rural. The major issue for such a discrepancy is the country’s vague definition of a town. For the Indian government any place with high density of population and a municipal corporation becomes a town. Thus in most cases a town becomes a town only on paper but not in reality. Other important indicators of the quality of life like education, infrastructure is not taken into account. Only 3 million of the country’s population can be considered urban, having access to proper education and information technology.

A greater part of the population finds itself tagged urban even though the accessibility to urban infrastructure remains a distant dream for them. The metro cities tend to be overcrowded because people in any case tend to migrate to places where quality of life is better. The country needs a more pragmatic approach to appraise the population, and to classify it as urban and rural. This might be the first step to bridge the divide between the real urban and the “tagged” urban India.

The writer is a Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.

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