In this essay…
Activities, reactions, and the movements of the human being are the command of nature. Nature guides species for their evolution and sustainability. For example, nature guides migratory birds to migrate in the climatic conditions that can be tolerated by the species. Siberian Cranes migrate to India because, during winter, they cannot survive in the extreme winters of their country. Thus, in this process, migration is one of the few commands given by the nature.
On the same line, people from villages migrate to cities for financial security and overall development of themselves and the concerned families. So, urbanization is not a deliberate effort. It is necessitated by human needs. Over a period of time people migrates to the cities, and followed by this the process of development gets evolved. Ultimately, it leads to the establishment of complex interdependence among migration, urbanization, and development. In the age of the 21st century, this inter-dependence has become necessary.
Migration and Urbanization
The culture of migration is traced in India even before the pre-historic period. Nomadic people use the resources of a certain place and then move to other places in the search of food, shelter, and suitable climatic conditions. The excavation report suggests that the people of the Indus Valley Civilization lived in cities that were arranged symmetrically as the economic center of gravity. Trade with Mesopotamian and Egypt is also found. The presence of skilled people, potters, weavers, etc was also found in cities.
This trend was even continued in medieval India. Important centers were developed in cities. People migrate and get opportunities to work and earn in cities. Some of them used to migrate to cities for a very short period so that they can sell out grains in the Anaj mandi. Alauddin Khilji specially worked for price control on commodities in cities. Some people were engaged in the work of arts and architecture in cities. Similarly, Port cities like Puhar, down the South were the important economic center.
When the Britishers came to India they started exploiting natural resources. Revolution Industrial revolution in England leads to the breaking of urbanization in colonial India. Britishers started importing raw materials from India and exported finished goods to India. It destroys the urban economy. People engaged in cities started going back to their village, which is called ‘reverse migration’. However, Britishers had developed some important cities as economic centers, especially near the coast of importing finished goods.
Thesis of inter-dependence
When Britishers went back from India, India started developing relations with urban cities. India’s first priority was countering poverty and focusing on development. The first, five-year plan focused on agriculture but the second five-year plan (Mahalanobis Plan) focused on industrial development. It was an attempt to re-develop Indian cities for economic development. That’s why India initially focused on heavy machinery in industries that would probably translate into the consumer goods industries later. The growth of consumer goods industries attracts people toward cities.
Cities attract people towards it for better job opportunities, educational facilities, healthcare system, etc. For example, cities provide jobs to skilled engineers in MNCs as well as to street vendors. Indian cities received new energy after the introduction of computers followed by a new economic policy in 1991 that focused on LPG (Liberalization-Privatization-Globalization). The pace of migration toward cities increased. It led to the development of cities. 74th amendment act 1992 provided constitutional status to urban local government. Thus, urban local government complimented LPG reforms and developed Indian cities.
Political development along with economic reform of the 1990s created a link between cities and villages. For example, villages support cities through the production of foods, vegetables, milk, etc. In return, cities provide employment, good education to their children, and economic growth to the country. This economic capability helps in sustaining imports of necessary items like fuel needed by everyone even in villages. Apart from this economic inter-dependence, a social inter-dependence developed where it absorbs disguised unemployment founded in villages where people more than required are engaged in cities.
Similarly, the migration and development of cities offered a balance between agricultural growth and industrial growth. Before LPG reform, a large number of people were dependent on local money lenders in villages. They are charged a high-interest rate. But the urbanization helped in two ways – First, urbanization and economic growth collectively supported financial inclusion. Second, the extra member of the family engaged in disguised unemployment earns a monthly wage and sends a part of the saving to his/her villages for investment in agriculture. Thus, it created a complex inter-dependence.
The necessity of this development and inter-dependence
The development of interdependence between migration and urbanization and development is necessary. It provides an opportunity for the inclusive and overall development of people as well as society. Socially, it provides an opportunity to realize social justice and equality (Article 14) in public affairs. For example, a man from the subaltern class faces discrimination like untouchability and not having inter dining together in villages. But these things are not shown in cities where people have food together in hotels and restaurants.
Apart from this, it empowers women to participate in the workforce equally on par with men. It makes women independent and reduces dependency on husbands. Getting wages helps women to take care of their health as well as the health of the children since it has been one of the biggest obstacles in malnutrition and child undernourishment as found in the Global Hunger report 2021. Thus, women get an opportunity to explore themselves economically and socially. Further, it has a spillover effect in other domains of women’s development that increases their bargaining power in the family.
However, these social changes translate into economic development. For example, the former managing director of IMF Christian Lagarde estimated in her study that India can increase its GDP by 27% by achieving gender parity in terms of participation in the workforce. Thus, becoming economically stronger helps in strengthening India’s sovereignty and increases the capability for spending on public welfare schemes like PM Gareeb Kalyan Schemes and MGNREGA. World Bank report also validates this assertion that the LPG reforms and increasing urbanization has helped India in reducing poverty.
Along with these, urbanization is needed for realizing unity in diversity. Every city can be represented as a mini India where people belonging to different cultures, and different places live together in apartments. They share their culture and create tolerance and social interdependence in society. A study finds that communal disharmony in societies is seen because people are isolated and there is a lack of awareness about diversity. Cities provide a space for realizing mini India.
Cog in the wheel of development: Challenges
However, interdependence between migration and urbanization and development poses some challenges. For example, excessive urbanization has led to encroachment of ecological balances like lakes, ponds and water reservoirs, etc. During the rainy season, the water didn’t find its way into cities and subsequently leads to urban floods – Mumbai Flood and Chennai flood. It also leads to uneven development due to market-driven cities located in the western part. It has been one of the prominent causes of security issues like Naxalism and violence along the red corridor (From Tirupati to Pashupati).
Apart from the ecological issues, it creates pressure on a small area and resources. It leads to problems like a slum areas. For example, Dharavi in Mumbai is Asia’s largest slum area. Socially, the joint family is breaking. The system of family insurance found in villages is breaking and the tradition of the nuclear family is taking place. It leads to the prominence of westernization instead of modernization. Mahatma Gandhi cautioned against westernization and appealed for inclusive growth through the village republic.
Urbanization has been changing the food habits of the people. Food habits in India are distributed as per the command of nature. For example, people living in eastern India has the wet climatic condition and that’s why they prefer spicy food. Similarly, extreme summer in southern India makes them eat rice or rice-driven foods like Idly that will be suitable for climatic conditions. But unsustainable food intake has led to obesity, malnutrition, and diseases.
Efforts made by the government
However, the Government of India has been trying to manage urban challenges through smart city missions and developing industrial clusters in other regions as well. To reduce regional inequality, the Indian government has been working with Japan in north-eastern India. India’s Look East policy is an effort to cultivate extensive economic and strategic relations with the nations of Southeast Asia to bolster the development of north eastern India. Japan has been also working with India for connecting the urban population through metros and corridors.
Among the numerous social problems of urbanization, the problem of housing is the most distressing. For ensuring shelter for all, the government has launched PM Awas Yojna. Similarly, the government is planning for a ‘one nation one ration card’ to target poor people living in urban areas. It will help them to get subsidized food anywhere irrespective of the state boundaries. NITI Ayog is releasing Swachhta ranking on the line of competitive federalism so that lifestyle in urbanization can be improved at a greater pace.
Thus, urbanization has become the need of the people for the overall development who migrate to avail these opportunities. The case study of China’s rapid growth also suggests us to focus on urban governance and urban developments to mitigate the challenges. All of these can lead to achieving SDGs Goal 11 which promises to promote urban planning for achieving sustainable development.
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