One of the biggest problem in the world today is coping with the rising urbanization brought about by the economic liberalization. Although it has brought economic reforms and development but it has played a devil in the dark creating some dire and dirty consequences as well. The rising urbanization has seen exodus of people from rural to urban areas in search of better jobs, wages, higher standard of living and other facilities like scope for good education, health, transport and housing facilities. Now it has got its own pros and cons. Some advantages can be a better social integration, opening up new markets, whereas adversities are many, ranging from creating congestion to higher urban unemployment problems. In many cities, overcrowded lanes, increasing pollution, generalized security concerns and a rising cost of living are negatively influencing the everyday experience of its citizens. The most vivid consequence is creation of more and more slums with poor living conditions which have grown exponentially in the last two decades. According to the 2011 census, roughly 1.37 crore households in India live in slums with no proper provision for housing, water, electricity and healthcare. On the flip side can a turnaround be expected in the near future? The world would be a dull place if everyone agreed on the same thing and if everyone thought the same that nothing would ever change. For many years it has been the default assumption that rural-to-urban migration is the only known pattern of urbanized migration and this trend is supported solely by economic considerations.
But of late, some reverse trends have also been observed in some parts of the world where people are moving from the cities to rural areas and it will not be surprising if more and more people decide to move out of the cities to enjoy a peaceful living in rural areas. It is perfectly reasonable to consider moving to a place where the pace of daily activities is slower, groceries are cheaper and the air is cleaner. Early signs of such reversal of the urban to rural population flow were witnessed during the 1970s where several groups of people relocated to rural America. This reversal documented during the 1970-73 period was a result of several decisions both private and commercial in nature ranging from development of rural recreational and retirement facilities to the decentralization of manufacturing industries.
Yearning for rural lifestyle is legitimate desire among the city dwellers and some of the motivations behind this kind of migration may be attributed to causes like:
Rising Urban Unemployment: Since more and more people migrate to cities in search of jobs and a better living but the jobs are limited, several people are left out in surplus searching for jobs without any means of livelihood. Also urban job creation is becoming increasingly difficult due to rising wages, compulsory employee fringe benefits etc.
Increasing Cost of Living: As cities become more and more overcrowded, price of land, property and basic amenities like food grains and vegetables keep on skyrocketing creating day to day living difficult for people with low levels of income.
Poor living conditions in Slums: Immigrants from nearby villages do not have a good income and thus are forced to live in low cost dwellings in slums. The living conditions in these slums speak appalling stories of deprivation. The slums are situated in the least habitable parts of the city have no access to education, healthcare facilities, safe drinking water or electricity. Malnourishment and diseases are common among the children and the adults living here and also these areas are seen as the breeding grounds for crime, drug abuse and alcoholism.
Quality of Life Considerations: These maybe simple lifestyle and a slow pace of life as compared to the fast and competitive life in cities which takes a toll on the mental and physical health of people and often is a cause of stress. Also, the environment in the rural areas is peaceful and full of serenity. Other factors are:
- Cheaper groceries and housing
- Lack of Pollution: The lush greenery and abundance of plantations ensures a pollution-free environment and a healthy atmosphere as compared to the cities.
- Natural Beauty: The yet unexploited landscape provides zones of natural beauty amidst habitations and is a treat to the eyes for a change from the overcrowded buildings in cities.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables: By the extensive use of chemicals for artificial ripening of fruits to selling genetically modified fruits and vegetables the people in cities are now facing a lot of health issues and have less access to fresh fruits and vegetables from the farm.
- Water Scarcity: All major cities in India be it Delhi, Kolkata or Mumbai face water supply problems to housing localities. Very few households have access to clean drinking water. Water supply is often from polluted rivers leading to several water-borne diseases among children and adults.
- Overcrowded places in cities causing traffic congestion
Environmental Issues: The increasing urban population has to bear the brunt of environmental issues like increasing surface temperatures due to deforestation and global warming. The high concentration of industries and factory outlets causes ambient air pollution, pollution of rivers, lakes and coastal areas and inadequate waste management practices and which are serious concerns facing the cities.
Rising Heat: Rising surface temperatures are posing serious health risks to people especially the vulnerable groups- infants and elderly persons. Thus, the increasing global warming is causing a rise in sunstrokes, diseases such as skin cancer due to harmful exposure to UV rays.
Less rainfall: The rainfall pattern has also been affected causing a problem for both the farmers as well as the citizens due to rising heat. Sometimes are there is less rainfall damaging the agricultural produce while other times heavy rainfall and unpredictable weather patterns creates flood and water logging problems.
Increase in Terrorism and Political Violence: The terrorist groups are generally seen targeting developed centers and dense urban agglomerations be it the 9/11 twin towers attack or the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. The connection between terrorism and urbanization becomes relational and bigger cities are a more attractive target for terrorist activities and people aiming to create political unrest in the country.
INTIATIVES TO BOOST THE RURAL ECONOMIES
Rural Development Initiatives can trigger reverse migration of urban population to rural zones. Lately many initiatives have helped in boosting the purchasing power of the rural population thereby creating an increased demand for goods and services. One such latest initiative taken up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) which will go a long way in arresting rural-urban migration. This scheme encourages Members of the Parliament to identify and develop one village from their constituency and develop it as a model village by 2016, two more by 2019 thus covering and developing more than 25,000 villages with 800 odd parliamentarians in our country. One good village will inspire the entire area to develop, thus creating a viral effect.
PURA: This concept was given by our late President Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam with an aim of transforming rural India in 2003. Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas commonly known as PURA is a scheme that aims at making rural areas as attractive residing areas for the middle class by providing access to similar amenities that cities provide. With such basic services, PURA is expected to attract industries too and generate a virtual cycle that will create and sustain jobs for the rural youth. It focusses on providing:
Municipal Services: Water, energy, sanitation
Social Services: Education and training for employment, health services
Transport Services: Roads and public transport
Other services: Housing plus communications, commercial services, governance services
SOME BENEFITS OF REVERSE MIGRATION:
- Agricultural Intensification
- Development of small businesses
- Development of local crafts
- Improved health services in rural areas
This circular pattern of both-way migration is an invitation to ask ourselves: Is it the moving solution to migration problems? Where will these exoduses lead us to? Will affordable housing ever be enough and what will happen when the villages also run out of land as is happening with the cities? The main contention is not urban to rural migration or rural to urban migration. Although reverse migration will ease down the population density from the urban areas but as more and more people start migrating to rural areas on top of existing rural population, again the same scenario will be reproduced there of resource shortage, destroying the natural habitats etc. The major concern should be to check the enormous population growth which is the root cause of the underlying problems.
[The article has been co-written by Swagatika Sahoo and Basudev Basak]