Burgeoning cities

Burgeoning cities

Provisional  figures of the 2011 census show that India is being more rapidly urbanised than in the past. Urban population grew by 90.99 million between 2001 and 2011 while the rural population increased by only 90.47 million. Fort the first time in history, the absolute increase in population in urban areas is more than in rural areas. The contrast in growth rates is very striking. It was 31.8 per cent in urban areas against the rise of 12.18 per cent for the rural population. The figures are specially important for Karnataka which now has over 35 per cent of its population living in towns and cities. Along with Kerala and Punjab, it has joined Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu in the league of the most urbanised states in the country. About 31.2 per cent of the country’s population now live in urban areas. The saying that India lives in its villages may not be true in the coming years  if the trend continues. The trend is likely to accelerate.

This will present many challengers and opportunities for the country. Urbanisation is an important condition and corollary of economic growth. It has been so the world over. It happens because of the migration of rural population to urban centres for better opportunities. But feeding the entire population will be a major task unless agricultural production is increased exponentially. Governance will pose another serious challenge. Better infrastructure will have to be provided to the urban clusters which will grow in size and numbers. Facilities like housing, transport, electricity, water and health care will need to be expanded. Policing will demand greater attention because cities are more prone to crime than rural areas. There will be greater environmental problems arising from pollution of air and water and inadequate arrangements for waste disposal. Urban administration will have to be improved through strengthening of local bodies which are in a poor shape now. Towns and cities will receive greater political attention because more people live in them. But it should help to improve liveability.

The opportunities should also not be missed. It will be easier to deliver goods and services to the urban population. The shift from a rural to urban economy can lead to faster growth through higher investment, consumption and savings. While the entire country will need to be prepared for the new challenges, the task is more urgent for states like Karnataka which have moved past the threshold.


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