Rural and Urban Landscapes — Problems and Solutions
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 26 Sep 2022
Some people including Mahatma Gandhi and some spiritual persons felt that a rural region is almost like the soul of India, clean and away from the materialistic and selfish tendencies prevalent in urban life. Moreover, environmentalists, advocates of sustainable economic growth prefer a rural landscape with farmers and other villagers — men and women leading a meaningful, purposeful life, as caretakers of cattle and other animals and producing food.
However, some scholars disagree with this view and feel rural life gives encouragement to caste, gender discrimination. There is greater social hierarchy that is difficult to breach and so backwardness and social stagnation are common. Educationally also villages suffer and women and girls are generally deprived of good quality modern education.
Even Gandhi ji had deplored the absence of good schools in the neighbourhood of children both in urban and rural regions. This affected girl children more that boys who could cycle or run to their schools since they were not afraid of molestation or other difficulties.
Today we have the right to education in nearby areas — despite which problem of girl students’ education in rural areas is severe.
Many men try to move to urban areas due to several factors — education being one of them. They also come for jobs, livelihood and a more purposeful life if they or their family are not involved in farming. There is a sociological issue involved. It is generally felt that life is stagnant in villages even among the farming community. There is very little industrial development and absence of electricity, machinery for taking care of tractors or attending to today’s means of communication such as Internet, Mobile phones or computers etc.
When some intrepid person or institution enters a rural region for development purposes, he feels a clear resistance and disapproval by upper category rural people. This was made clear in a film called Naya Daur directed by the famous director B R Chopra and which appeared in cinemas in 1957. People are also afraid of losing their lands to rich entrepreneurs who enter villages for development or any other purpose for the improvement of villagers’ lives, but also acquire lands for themselves for personal benefit. There is absence of good roads, electricity and water taps in village homes and other necessary infrastructure is also lacking.
One-may wonder why some villages do not come together to solve these issues. There are sociological and cultural differences between villages that may be far away that do not allow this integration.
Although people — generally men, don’t cross over to other villages, there is out migration to nearby urban areas for education, jobs and skill generation etc. Many of these males are married and come to their villages regularly to be with their families; sometimes they bring their wives also who work as domestic helps in urban centres.
As a result of the above factors, urban populations are increasing in India. Some big urban cities like Delhi, Mumbai or Chennai are far away from many villages, so new urban areas due to emigration from villages, are also coming up. It has been observed that there has been a tenfold or more increase in urban population in a 100 year span from 1901 to 2001. Even rural populations are also increasing due to natural increases but the rate is slower than for urban populations.
States like Punjab and Haryana in the north of India have had what is termed as Green Revolution, where their agricultural output increases tremendously. This was achieved by inviting labour from nearby regions as well as by utilising some machinery and equipment such as tractors and diesel run motors to extract underground water. This revolution was of great benefit to local farmers and the outside labour who got better wages. Many labourers returned to their own villages but some stayed on to work as delivery boys, drivers and in security services in nearby towns.
Some villages are doing well and largely self sufficient, but there is rural distress in several regions. After trying out various means to improve their condition, some farmers’ protests are regularly occurring to highlight the problems. There are several issues involved — poor output in small holdings, clashes between farmers with large and small holdings, minimum prices being insufficient, growing influence of corporate sector, etc. This has resulted in greater divide between the rich and small farmer.
When local governments are unable or unwilling to help, farmers go on mass protests on roads, sitting in harsh weather conditions, raising slogans against local governments, blocking roads with their tractors and doing everything to highlight their problems. Some farmers have even lost their lives in these protests. It is a shame and a huge tragedy, that not much is being done to alleviate farmers’ distress; or what steps are being taken are grossly insufficient.
Many a time their distress is aggravated due to political problems between the ruling party and opposition. Gone are the days and conditions of open and frank debate and necessary give and take. One wishes that Mahatma Gandhi and the Bhoodan — (providing land to landless farmers in 1950s) movement leader — Vinoba Bhave enter the scene to reduce tensions and promote peace and harmony.
Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. email@example.com
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 26 Sep 2022.
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