Rethinking the rural

An article of The Indian Express (23 May 2013)

India is urbanising away from the big cities. This trend calls for policy changes, Say “rural India”, and the image that flashes in our minds is that of a buffalo tied outside a mud hut. After all, for most if not all of us, rural equals agriculture. Imagine the surprise, therefore, when told that while all agriculture by definition is rural, the converse is no longer true. Now only one-fourth of rural output comes from agriculture. Fifty-five per cent of India’s manufacturing output comes from rural India. Seventy-five per cent of all manufacturing plants that started in the last decade started in rural India.

K.C. Pradhan from the Centre for Policy Research estimates that in the last decade almost 30 per cent of the increase in urban population came from the reclassification of villages into new census towns. Add that to the natural population growth in cities/towns (that is, urban-dwellers having kids), and it would seem that the conventional view of urbanisation, that of a poor migrant worker sitting in a train moving to a city, is fast becoming outdated.