Poverty and Livelihood: Livelihood Transformation and the Widening of Rural-Urban Disparity

Dilip Kumar Saha

Settlements in most parts of the world are differentiated on the basis of population, occupation, social infrastructure or amenities and consumption patterns. In India the classification of settlements is done by the census organizations as rural and urban. This rural urban dichotomy in India like other developing countries is related to the agricultural-industrial dichotomy. Today the world is transforming rapidly and as rural areas get connected by network communication, rural areas are getting transformed rapidly with urban characteristics. The recent changes brought about in the economy due to economic reforms adopted between 1991 and 1993 has led to an blurring of the difference in urban and rural population in most countries particularly visible in the developing countries with a convergence between urban and rural lifestyles in the type of services available in the economic, social and demographic characteristics and levels of personal mobility. So it is high time that census organizations wake up and bring about the classification of an intermediary centre between the strictly rural and urban area and identify the RURBAN centers and give them legal status and a statutory body for the governance. The ‘Census Town’ identified by the census organization falls in this category where it does not get the legal status of a town. So, they hang in the middle without any civic amenities and are often governed by village Panchayat though they possess distinct urban characteristics. If proper governance is provided to these census towns or RURBAN units it can play an important role in sustainable urban development in India. Most of the RURBAN units have distinct urban consumption behavior pattern and changing occupation from agriculture to service sector. Finally, I raise question whether to categorize these villages as Rural, Urban or RURBAN.

Key -Words: Census, Classification, Settlements, Semi Rural/Rurban, Census Towns, Transformation, Governance.

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Most development theory and practice is implicitly based on the dichotomy between ‘rural’ and ‘urban ’areas, populations, occupation, social infrastructure or amenities and consumption patterns. This reflected in the division of policies along with spatial and sectoral lines, with urban planners usually concentrating on urban nodes and giving scant attention to agricultural or rural-led development while rural development planners tend to ignore urban centers and define rural areas as consisting only of villages and their agricultural land.

This, however, does not reflect the reality of household’s livelihoods, which often include both rural and urban elements. For example, many urban enterprises rely on demand from rural consumers, and urban access to urban markets and services is crucial for most agricultural producers. In both rural and urban areas, a significant proportion of households relies on income diversification and on the combination of agricultural and non-agricultural income sources.
This rural urban disparity/dichotomy in India like other developing countries is related to the agricultural-industrial dichotomy. The recent changes brought about in the economy due to economic reforms adopted between 1991 and 1993 has led to an blurring of the difference in rural and urban population in most countries particularly visible in the developing countries with a convergence between rural and urban life style in the type of services available in the economic, social and demographic characteristics and levels of personal mobility.

This paper reviews the way in which urban and rural livelihoods are intertwined, drawing on many examples from India and also around the world. It highlights how positive rural-urban interactions and equitable development can be fostered by backward and forward linkages between agricultural production and industry and services.

1. To find out the ways in which urban and rural livelihoods are intertwined.
2. To find out sectoral interactions, which include ‘rural’ activities taking place in urban
areas (such as urban agriculture) or activities often classified as ‘urban’ (such as
manufacturing and services) taking place in rural areas.
3. To evaluate the role of India census in designating rural- urban status to settlements
over the years.
4. Why is urban status being denied to certain category of urban settlements?
5. To find out invisible and denied urban areas in the study area.

The entire work will be carried out on the basis of secondary sources of information, such as some books, research papers, journals, different census reports, internet, etc. subject to the availability and the nature of the data.

Rural, Urban Definition and Role of Indian Census
The agricultural and industrial dichotomy has been the corner stone of rural-urban classification across many countries of the world. The definition of rural and urban varies among different countries of the world and variations in the definitions of urban centers also.

There are three major problems with this view.
a. The first is the demographic and economic criteria.
b. The second problem is that of the definition of urban boundaries.
c. The third problem in the definition of the boundaries between ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ areas.
Most countries use population and administrative criteria for designation of an area as urban. But six countries of the world have used economic criteria for identifying urban areas and India is one among them. In India the inclusion of work force is also defining urban areas.

If we see the developing countries where the agricultural base is relatively large and so the labour in it, most of them have used population and administrative criteria for defining urban areas as for e. g. in Thailand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Indonesia urban areas are identified only on the basis of administrative criteria, while Nepal uses only the population factor and Japan has used both administrative and population criteria.

In India the definition of settlements is accorded by the Census of India. The method of identifying an urban area was first specified in the 1901 census under British India. This has undergone changes during the successive census but the core method has been more or less similar. According to the 1901 census, all urban areas included municipalities of whatever population and every other continuous collection of houses permanently inhabited by not less than 5000 persons. In 1911 the same definition was adopted with the inclusion of ‘civil lines’ not included in municipal limits and cantonment areas. The same definition was used in the 1951 census. During this period the definition of urban areas varied among different states and provinces of India. In the 1961 census a uniform definition was adopted for defining urban and rural areas. In 1961 the uniform definition for an urban area is given as__
A) All places with a city corporation, municipality, cantonment board or Notified Town area
B) All other places which satisfied the following criteria i) a minimum population of 5000,
ii) A density of population of at least 1000 per sq. mile (390 per sq. km.) iii) At least
3/4th of the male working population engaged in non-agricultural activities.

From the above analysis we see two types of urban areas or towns were identified, those which satisfied A and also B were designated as Statutory Towns and those which satisfied only B were known as Census Towns, the implication being that these Census Towns had the potential to become Statutory Towns. So this universal definition of urban area not only tried to apply strict criteria but also tried to clearly dichotomize space into rural and urban categories along the agricultural-industrial continuum. This definition continued till 1981 when two distinct changes were brought about-i) work force ii) occupational categories.

As urbanization takes place there will be spatial spread and urban areas will engulf adjoining villages or villages come in contact with urban areas and may gain urban characteristics. So there will transitional zones between the rural and urban areas. There is also dichotomy in the governance of urban settlements where statutory towns have municipal governance while census towns and outgrowths are outside the purview of municipal governance and are governed by rural institutions like panchayat. The transitional areas have no specific governance and often neglected by municipal and rural governance.

The Case of Bardhaman District and Suppressed Urbanization
Bardhaman is one of the developed districts of West Bengal with a high rate of urbanization. The percentage of urban population was 39.97 in 2011 higher than the state average of 31.89. West Bengal recorded the highest number of census towns in 2011 which was 780. Bardhaman district also recorded the highest number of census towns and statutory towns outside Kolkata Metropolitan Area districts. It is one of the most urbanized districts of West Bengal outside Kolkata Metropolitan Area. According to the 2011, census data the district has 131 villages with a population of more than 5000 persons and 18 large villages with more than 10,000 persons. Now if we consider the census criteria for qualifying these villages as urban areas it can be seen that 8 of these villages satisfy the entire requirement to be termed as urban that is census towns, but they have not been classified as census town that is urbanization denied. If only the population and density criteria are taken into consideration, then all the 131 villages can be termed as urban. So it is clear that the level of urbanization in Bardhaman district is suppressed or underestimated.

Denied Urbanization
In Bardhaman district statutory status or municipal status has been denied to Chittaranjan census town whose population in 2011 is 45957 persons, a density of 2332 persons/sq Km and 99% of the male main workers engaged in non-agricultural activities. This is on the basis of the norm for attaining statutory status for towns according to the West Bengal Municipal Act 1993. But if the Government of India, municipal law is taken into consideration then municipal status is accorded to settlements in transitional areas with population less than 25.000 but with 85% or more in non-agricultural activities, then 19 of the towns classified as census towns in 2011 would be eligible to have municipal status. All these 19 towns have population ranging from 10,000 to 25,000 and have more than 85% work force in non- agricultural activities.

In Bardhaman district statutory status has also been denied to Manker __ one village panchayat of Panagarh sub- division, situated near Panagarh Air Port, whose density of population in June 15, 2012 is 1100 per sq. km. ; literacy rate 77.15%. It is a invisible urban or no census town which has degree college, B. Ed. College, technological college.

In Samudragarh which has 7 villages whose population in 2011 is 13,089 persons, a density of 3109 per sq. Km.; 72% of population engaged in non- agricultural activity. In Sumudragarh a large number of population are working in textile manufacturing industry. But they denied statutory status or municipal status.

Spatial Linkages
Internal migration is often seen as essentially rural-to-urban and contributing to uncontrolled growth and related urban management problems in many large cities in the south. This has resulted in many policies to control or discourage migration. While migration restriction is infrequent, many countries have sought to make cities relatively inhospitable, for example bulldozing informal low-income settlements, or making difficult for new migrants to secure property rights to land or access to public services. These measures generally have little impact aside from lowering welfare, especially for the poor. In fact, most of the growth in urban population is due to natural population increase. Since rural to urban migration is fastest where economic growth is highest-__ as migrants tend to move to places where they are likely to find employment opportunities__it is not in reality as problematic as it is made out to be.

Multi-Spatial Households
Household membership is usually defined as ‘sharing the same pot’, under the same roof. However, the strong commitments and obligations between rural-based and urban-based individuals and units show that in many instances these are ‘multi-spatial households’, in which reciprocal support is given across space. For example, remittances from urban-based members can be an important income source for the rural-based members, who in turn may look after their migrant relatives’ children and property. These linkages can be crucial in the livelihood strategies of the poor, but are not usually taken into consideration in policy-making.

Flows of Goods
Exchange of goods between urban and rural areas are an essential element of rural-urban linkages. The ‘virtuous circle’ model of rural-urban development emphasizes efficient economic linkages and physical infrastructure connecting farmers and other rural producers with both domestic and external markets.

Sectoral Interactions
The growth of urban agriculture since 1970s has long been understood as a response to escalating poverty and rising food prices or shortages, often exacerbated by structural adjustment and economic reform. Recent research shows that its nature may be changing, and that at least in low income nations, a significant proportion of high and middle-income urban farmers engage in commercial production. More needs to be known on how this may affect access to urban food markets for producers, especially smallholders, from surrounding rural areas.

Rural-Urban Linkages and Rural Livelihood
The positive impact of rural-urban linkages on rural livelihoods is summarized in the ‘virtuous circle’, where rural-urban development is mutually dependent and integrated. However, rural-urban linkages should not be assumed to be beneficial in all circumstances. In some cases, they can increase inequality and the vulnerability of those groups with least assets.

Especially where land ownership is highly unequal, government policies and subsidized credit institutions set up in small towns tend to benefit already privileged urban elites and large farmers. When inputs and services for agricultural development are locally available, those small farmers who cannot afford to buy them tend to loss their land to large farmers who in this way reinvest the profits from their increased production.

Migration as a livelihood strategy is also mediated by access to assets. Those who move tend to be young , physically fit and often better educated than average, and have access to urban-based social networks. The elderly and the poorest people do not usually migrate, and labour availability in peak agricultural seasons can become scarce. Over time, migration may erode village-based networks as migrants become part of urban-based networks, and remittances tend to decrease.The following is a tentative list of issues related to rural-urban linkages to keep in mind in the formulation of natural resource policies and projects:

*Agricultural production is assumed to benefit from proximity to urban markets. However, the degree to which households can take advantage of this proximity depends on their physical, human and financial resources, as well as their social capital and their access ( in physical as well as social terms) to markets. Projects aiming to increase agricultural production should also consider the challenge raised by commercialization, which can include merchants’ monopolistic practices and competition from other areas, as well as lack of information on markets for small farmers.

* It should not be assumed that reinforcing the physical infrastructure connecting rural and urban areas is necessarily beneficial or negative. A low intensity of rural-urban linkages can be the result of specific socio-economic conditions in a given rural area, which may also affect different groups in different ways, as well as the result of poor transportation systems. This calls for a better understanding of socio-economic condition before steps are taken to strengthen physical linkages.

*Linkages between rural settlements and more than one urban centre are likely to be more successful for rural development as they increase the range of income diversification opportunities and the number of potential markets. This is also because in many cases different flows have different spatial patterns. Understanding these patterns and the reasons why some groups may be excluded from some or all rural-urban linkages can give indications of priorities for policy and project interventions.

*Migration is an important element of livelihood strategies. In many cases, it is more useful to understand households as multispatial rather than ‘rural’ or ‘urban’, and to encourages the positive linkages between spatially distant members, by recognizing urban-based members’ claims on rural assets and facilitating their contribution to the rural economy, for example through the productive investment of remittances.

*However, in some instances the household members who ‘stay behind’ in the rural areas have little say about the management of local resources, as control remains with the migrant members. This is particularly the case for women, although it is also mediated by a range of factors such as culturally-specific gender roles and relations, gender divisions of labour within households, land tenure and women’s workloads. This should be taken into account when targeting extension messages in rural areas, so that assumptions are not made about who controls resources.

In summary, rural-urban linkages play an important role in the ways in which livelihoods are constructed, although the traditional dichotomy between ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ development theory and practice has underplayed their significance. However, while rural and urban relations should be seen as mutually reinforcing, generalizations on the nature of rural-urban linkages across different locations and in terms of how they affect different groups must be avoided. Within specific regional contexts, while there is potential for rural-urban linkages to contribute to poverty reduction, this will only occur in physical linkages.

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The writer is the Asstt. Professor, Dilip Kumar Saha, Department of Economics, Halakura College