For many years now, conversations have been rife about the rural-urban divide in India. The disparities are endless, whether it's about income distribution, consumption, availability of physical infrastructure and social infrastructure, or overall quality of life. I've always believed India is not in the cities; it is in our villages. After all, out of 121 crores, the rural population accounts for 69%, and the urban population is 31%, as per the 2011 census. Despite these big numbers, economic policies are primarily focused on urban areas. The intention was that India's growth and the expansion of industrial centers would eventually trickle down and have a positive domino effect on the rural communities. That being said, the majority of our rural areas are excluded from India's growth story.
In general, the rural-urban divide has eventually culminated in two opposite identities, India and Bharat. One could say that India is urban and progressive, while Bharat is rural and still developing. Rural India is coping with many problems, lower wages, smaller landholdings, and a lack of opportunities. This has for many years pushed the community to migrate to urban areas. However, with the pandemic, they are back to their homes, looking to make a living from there itself.
This brings us to the critical aspect of 'inclusive growth.' The government recently compiled the estimates of rural and urban per capita income in terms of Net Value Added (NVA), INR 98,435 in urban areas and INR 40,925 in rural areas. Rural income plays a significant role in boosting India's spending and consumption power. Even today, the ongoing economic slowdown is partly believed to be because of the fall in rural demand.
India is steadily growing to become the third-largest economy in the world. We've been constantly torn, as we are on par with certain developed nations while still being counted amongst the poorest countries with many people living in poverty. This shows just how vast the divide is and still how closely knit the urban and rural life is in the country.
Many of us living in urban cities feel these rural communities and these problems are distant, and we lack understanding of how it affects us. But the fact is the rural community is closer than we think. Just a few kilometers away from the hustle-bustle, there's an entirely different scenario. Many don't even realize that the rural sector benefits from remittances sent by urban-based family members. With the increased potential through infrastructure and quality of life, rural India can become independent or less dependent on its urban linkages. But, it is time the urban population understands and embraces rural problems as their own, because one simply cannot progress without the other.