Sky-kissing condominiums and ritzy multi-level malls may be the order of the day in rapidly changing Indian cities, but the real India will continue to live in its rural outbacks for nearly 50 more years, the United Nations has predicted.
Breaking the urbanisation myth in a “projection report” released on Wednesday, the UN said that though most countries would see rapid urbanisation, India would continue to have the largest rural population in the world until 2050.
It also said though half of the world’s 6.7 billion people will start living in cities by the end of this year itself, “55 per
cent of India’s population will be living in urban areas, amounting to 900 million people” only by 2050.
The report titled “2007 Revision of World Urbanisation Prospects” provided official UN estimates and projections of urban, rural and city populations of all countries up to 2050, including India.
Asked why only 30 per cent of Indians lived in cities despite apparently aggressive urban growth, noted planning expert and convenor of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH)’s Delhi chapter, AGK Menon, said this could be a reflection of the successes of rural employment schemes and agricultural triumphs. “However, there is a clear need to have much more private entrepreneurial initiatives in rural India,” he said. The UN said Indian planners “indeed should be trying to foster economic dynamism” in rural areas, as 70 per cent of the country was rural.
Rural development, the report added, should increasingly focus on creating more employment opportunities in the non-farm sector. It said India was expected to urbanise “much less than China and, therefore, it is expected to remain the country with the largest rural population during most of the future decades”.
Concurring with the UN projections, Menon said creating non-farm employment was crucial to rural development, which alone could stem chaotic migrations to places already having a resource crunch.