Reimagining the urban-­rural dichotomy

Why in News?

  • The traditional dichotomy of rural and urban in India has been a longstanding feature of the country’s socio-economic landscape.
  • This dichotomy is based on a clear distinction between rural areas, which are typically characterised by agriculture and traditional practices, and urban areas, which are characterised by modernization, industrialization, and a more cosmopolitan lifestyle.
  • However, over the years, this dichotomy has become increasingly blurred, giving rise to a rural-urban continuum that is unique to India.

Growing Trend:

  • Technology and economic globalisation have increased mobility of resources and people, and enhanced inter- and intra-country connectivity.
  • The extension of transport and communication systems, improved access to energy, increased affordability private and public transport as well as penetration of economic and other networks into remote areas promote a rural-urban continuum.
  • Rural hinterlands are connected to multiple urban centres. The movement of goods, people, information and finance between sites of production and consumption has strengthened linkages between production and labour markets.

Impact of Rural-Urban Continuum on Socio-Economic Development:

  • The continuum provides opportunities for people living in rural areas to access urban markets, services, and employment opportunities. This can help to stimulate economic growth in rural areas and reduce poverty levels.
  • In addition, the rural-urban continuum can help to promote cultural exchange and integration, as people from different regions come into contact with each other.
  • As the pull factors grow, push factors driving populations out from both rural areas and urban areas are also intensifying. In the process, a mixed economy zone of primary and secondary-tertiary sectors has evolved.
  • The rural-urban continuum can also lead to a range of socio-economic challenges, including urbanisation, environmental degradation, and social inequality.
  • As people in rural areas migrate to urban centres in search of employment opportunities, urban areas become increasingly congested and overpopulated. This can lead to a range of problems, including traffic congestion, pollution, and inadequate infrastructure.
  • As more and more people move to urban areas, the demand for resources such as water, land, and energy increases, leading to unsustainable use of natural resources.
  • This can have a negative impact on the environment, including soil erosion, deforestation, and loss of biodiversity.
  • Finally, the rural-urban continuum can lead to social inequality, as people in rural areas are often marginalised and excluded from the benefits of economic growth.

Case Study:Kerala

  • Kerala is well known for the rural-urban continuum in the coastal plain.
  • This was noted even by Moroccan traveller Ibn Batuta in the 14th century.
  • The trend further spread over the lowlands and adjoining midlands and highlands.
  • Geographical factors supported by affirmative public policy promoting distributive justice and decentralisation have increased rural-urban linkages and reduced rural-urban differences in major parts of Kerala.

Way Forward:

  • The rural-urban continuum in India is a reflection of the country’s unique socio-economic and cultural landscape.Government must identify challenges for improving both urban and rural governance and opportunities for enhanced access to employment, services, institutional resources and environmental management.To achieve rural-urban partnership, a systems approach is recommended where the city and the surroundings form a city region for which a prospective plan is prepared integrating rural and urban plans within a common frame.Rural urban linkages must be better mapped, for which satellite-based settlement data and its integration with Census data may be useful.
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