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Cities, villages can’t grow in silos

The promise of inclusive nation building aspires to transform rural and urban areas alike. The reality today presents the stark contrast in terms of efficient services and high-end infrastructure deficit in almost every Indian village. Is sprawl of cities an urban blight on villages?   

Historically, human beings created two kinds of places. One inside the walls—cities; and everything outside the walls. Cities became the places of innovations, inventions, industrial revolutions, commercial activities and economic growth while villages produced the food people consumed. By passing of time, cities remained at the centre of modernization in all spheres and villages just got a small pie of such transformation. All facilities relating to education, entertainment and basic amenities came up in cities; and villages remained outside the development realm. They never grew together and with same pace anywhere in the world.

The high-rise buildings and industrial units decked with thick round shaped chimneys emitting smoke became the icons of our progress and growth. As cities grew, they pushed the rural areas and agriculture land further and far away. The trend is continuing in almost every city around the world. You ask anyone, who has ever lived in a village and moved into a metro city because of professional or economical lure, about their favourite place to live. They will anytime choose a village over city if it provides certain basic facilities as a city does.

People are looking for integrated agrarian rural experience in urban environment. The trend is picking up in some parts of the world with popularization of urban farming. Experts of the view that residential communities should be inextricably linked with the sources of their food production and equally connected with the open space network—parks, water bodies, greenways in a city.

Two major prongs can be recognized in the budget this year which focuses on raising rural incomes and create employment opportunities: raising agricultural productivity and creating non-farm employment. This is complemented by provisioning of public services such as health, roads, and housing. All the implementing agencies must work together and ensure that the development of villages is not compromised.

Economical divide

Why cannot rural dwellers compete with urban dwellers in terms of income? Why do they have to move to cities for earning decent livelihood? Despite focusing on villages for so long, where did we go wrong? Anil Kakodkar, a celebrated scientist and former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India, recently said in his speech at an event, “there is thus no reason why rural income should not match or even exceed urban income, provided our higher education system can do capacity building of rural youth at scale and quality that is necessary.”

Capacity building of rural youth and building new avenues of employment with innovative ideas are key components for strengthening rural areas. AIILSG has embarked on this mission and started a mega skill center in Jharkhand to train youngsters from backward areas. The institute would play a role of enabler and train rural youth to become competitive in this cut-throat competition age.

Migration issues

Rural-urban migration has remained a major issue and politicians and bureaucrats have often blamed migrants for rising problems in cities. Some countries even restricted the movement of migrants coming from villages. Farmers, laborers who help built the city were kicked out of downtowns. The best suited example is China that had gated and locked some of its lower-income neighborhoods in some of its cities in 2009-10, with police or security checking identification papers around the clock. Chinese government came up with ‘sealed management’ policy. According to a media report, “Sealed management” looks like this: Gates are placed at the street and alley entrances to the villages, which are collections of walled compounds sprinkled with shops and outdoor vendors. The gates are locked between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., except for one main entrance manned by security guards or police, there to check identification papers. Security guards roam the villages by day. It was said to be an effort to reduce rising crime often blamed on the millions of rural Chinese migrating to cities for work.

However, India has never restricted the movements of people from villages to cities anywhere in the country. Yet the issue of ‘outsiders’ has been raised by local political parties in metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru but it never did affect the movement of people beyond a period of time. The cities had different issues to deal with. Cities have been facing countless problems in handling the migration population moving into cities. The government agencies have failed in providing facilities and services required of them and one of the major issues being the non-availability of affordable housing alternatives to floating population. The proliferation of slums in major cities is the result of poor policy solutions to handle the correlated issues such as health, education, employment, rehabilitation, etc.

Experts of the view that residential communities  should be inextricably linked with the sources of their food production and equally connected with the open space network—parks, water bodies, greenways in a city

Every government agency must work towards providing social protection to the poor and vulnerable. Social protection measures are viewed as a set of public measures evolved by the state to meet its national and international obligations to eliminate poverty, deprivation and extreme vulnerability. The efforts should be made to address the issues in both areas, urban and rural. The government must mark the areas which need interventions to improve facilities and services to benefit large section of people. As most of the government welfare schemes require residence proof, migrants face hurdles in accessing and availing the schemes and public services, which thus hamper their ability to claim basic socio-economic and political rights. There are many other issues faced by migrants but lack of accurate data on the trend is the prime issue of concern and government with social organizations must work together to address the issue with a right approach.

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