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The Urban-Rural Dichotomy

The Urban-Rural Dichotomy

July 19, 2013
When the class divide is accompanied by growing indifference on one side, and growing hatred on the other, something is seriously wrong.

With a growing economic division, middle class people from the cities are slowly falling on one side of the divide or the other. However, the divide between the urban and rural classes of India is growing at a much faster rate, and should be a much larger reason for concern.

The urban-rural dichotomy that exists in India is not a recent development. It has been there for centuries, from the days when India was a collection of many kingdoms. We hear of the great cities of Hastinapur, Ujjain, Kannauj, Agra and Hampi. But we get to know very little of the rural parts of the kingdoms or empires in which these great cities were located. Through the centuries, the wealth was generated in the countryside and flowed into cities, which gave little back in return. The transformation from monarchies to the new democracy that emerged post independence did little to alter the processes and mindset that were shared by urban and rural India. The countryside had to give; the cities kept taking.

Look at manner in which the state considers it legitimate, by passing appropriate legislation or orders, to force villagers to sell a part of what they produce at a price that the state considers to be fair – be it rice, wheat, cotton or any other product. Never does the state ask the manufacturers of soap, packed food, salt, cars or machinery to sell a part of their total production to the state at a price the state fixes. Notice how villages are evacuated to dig mines or build dams, industries, or power plants, whereas lakes within the cities get filled to build skyscrapers and SEZs. After all, providing water to a city is the nearby village's responsibility.

But things are changing. For good or bad? We don't really know. Gone are the days when the rural crowd greeted their urban counterparts with grace and humility. With the advancement of television and mobile phones in practically every corner of the country, villagers are exposed to what urban India has achieved. This is leading to growing hostility against city-dwellers, against what they perceive as a luxurious way of life, against a place with paved roads, street lights, beautiful buildings, cars and glass-fronted shops with all kinds of glittering goods on display. This is scary!

For most of the urban population, the biggest tragedy lies in the fact that we just don't care. Even the ones who do, are happy just to know that rural population is getting the basic amenities. They are comfortable accepting the villagers as second class citizens. As long as they are not starving and dying, things seem fine. The difference lies not in just a school, but in what kind of school; not in just a health clinic, but in the kind of healthcare.

For the rural population, the biggest tragedy is that the urban-rural divide continues to grow in a democracy where the countryside sends its representatives to Parliament and to State Assemblies where they cannot, or do not, resolve these differing perceptions.  Our lawmakers continue looking at our villages from the outside and determining what is good for them. Unless we don't switch to a economic model where both parties benefit, we will continue to head towards disaster.


  • Sourav Roy
    Sourav Roy
    04.08.13 08:51 PM
    Thanks Harry. A lot of people tend to associate the class theory only on economic grounds. I strongly believe there is a cultural aspect to it. Hence the article :)
    22.07.13 11:22 PM
    @ Sourav

    Like you said old habits die hard and the whole mind set need to change on both sides otherwise it will never change for better.

    As always nicely written mate. :)

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