Saturday, January 29, 2022

Bridging India’s Rural-Urban Divide

By The Editorial Team Updated: Jan 20, 2021 10:53 pm

The latest study conducted by the World Economic Forum (WEF) has brought to light a deep urban-rural divide that exists in India. According to the study, on an average 25-30 people migrate to cities from rural areas every minute in search of livelihoods. The reason behind such an exodus is not difficult to understand. From the said study, it is learnt that the urban areas of India accounts for nearly 70 per cent of the country’s GDP. Clearly, this huge gap has created two Indias. One India is relatively affluent, providing employment to many and largely being benefited from the advancements made by human society over the years. But, there is not much to say about the other India. People there still live in primitive times. They are deprived from even basic facilities. They don’t have access to education, health services, electricity and communication, apart from sources of livelihood. 

It is no gainsaying that India’s progress from a developing nation to a developed one will never be complete until we bridge this huge divide. The neo-liberal economy, which India has followed since the early nineties, has made the task more difficult as the concept of welfare state is highly diluted in the said policy. The neo-liberal economy believes in trickle-down effects. It values development in terms of GDP only. It argues that higher GDP means less poverty. But the reality is very different in India. From 2004 to 2014, India maintained an average growth rate of eight per cent per annum. The higher growth rate changed many things in urban areas. But, rural India remains relatively unchanged which is evident from the study of WEF. The study notes that 25 million households in India – 35 per cent of all urban households – cannot afford housing at market prices, thus negating the concept that higher GDP automatically improves living conditions.

Within a fortnight, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the budget for 2021-22. This is going to be the first budget after the Indian economy contracted nearly 25 per cent due to Covid-19 related lockdown. Now, things are limping back to normalcy. Apart from sustaining the turnaround, the Union Finance Minister will have to take concrete steps to prevent the widening of urban-rural divide. Despite constraints of funds, Ms. Sitharaman will have to allocate enough funds for rural developments; ensure moves to generate employment opportunities for rural youths along with providing quality health services and education to children. In other words, the reasons behind the exodus from rural to urban areas should be removed from the roots if we are truly interested in making full use of our potential as a nation. In his very first speech as the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee had advocated for meaningful steps in bridging the urban-rural divide, instead of banking only of trickling-down effect. It is time now to follow his words to narrow the gap before it reaches even more dangerous proportions.

By The Editorial Team Updated: Jan 20, 2021 10:53:42 pm