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Peri Urban and Rurban Dreams

Several concepts have come into being to bridge the rural-urban divide not only in India but also in several developing countries. The economists, social scientists and planners have their own approaches and solutions for the hybrid space, called peri urban by the geographers and planners. Rurban and peri urban areas perceived in India’s transitional context are highly amorphous and vague in the wider context of historiography and research study themes. In English usage of ‘peri urban’ started in research detestations and descriptive narratives at Chicago.

University as early as in 1930. ‘Fininge   belts’, urban ‘fringes’ are some of the others expressions that came up subsequently. However, the early concerns of peri urban planning concepts first surfaced in South Africa when severe drought and depression drove the people on migration from rural areas to the fringes of urban cities like Johannesburg and Pretoria in 1930 where access to urban area was restricted on racial considerations. Water and health became pivotal in peri urban areas in the wake of competing demands which led to an anti-peri urban movement in Alexandra outside Johannesburg during 1958. After the initial stages of diffusion in sub-Saharan Africa after 2000 peri-urban studies extended their scope enormously all over the world and several guidelines were developed to tackle the issues surrounding the peri urban areas.

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Studies on peri urban areas

In India several studies have been made on peri urban areas around mega metros like Delhi, Kolkatta, Chennai, Mumbai followed by many cities like Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Lucknow. However myriad of peri urban areas around several cities and towns at district and regional levels lack attention in India. While keeping the focus on peri urban water, sanitation and land use issues, the features included linkages, flow of goods and services as well as maintenance of characteristics features of rural and urban areas. Peri urban areas thus are seen as may be having axis to good regional transportation and industrial employment.

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But in many instances they lack the services, amenities and regulatory controls which urbanization needs to provide. By 1980, yet another concept and emphasis in geographical development became rampant. That was the concept of ‘Rurban’ areas though the concept was old; Rurbans are different and have different historiography. Rurban areas characterized as isolated residential areas in the rural setting opening opportunity to any economic activities and occupations that shortly relocated to urban plots. Gujarat state has come out with an initiative of developing Rurban areas. They are viewed as environments linking rural with urban amenities and lifestyle. However, Rurban policy designs are still at an early phase in India. The Gujarat Rurban model link taluk villages (Towns) with tribal villages on the population criterion.

Abdul Kalam’s dream project, PURA

Then came the initiative was known as the provision of urban Amenities to Rural Areas (PURA) a dream project of AP Abdul Kalam. This initiative was subsequently extended and merged with Shyam Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM). Of late, the Ministry Of Rural Development (MoRD) came up with the proposal to include 1000 more Rurban ‘clusters’ that are geographically contiguous villages. But the scheme had several setbacks. During the financial year 2017-18 the revised estimates of the budget were brought down to 60%. Afterwards in 2018-19 and 2019-20 the figure had been just 37.5%. Moreover as the programme started the actual expenditure has fallen by nearly 200% from budget estimates.

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Bridging the rural-urban divide can ever happen at this pace. It will no doubt remain an uphill task in India.

Similar to PURA, now the SPMRM is centered on the development of a cluster of villages that preserve and nurture the essence of rural community life, without compromising on the facilities perceived to be essentially urban. In other words in a nutshell the mission aims to bridge the urban-rural divide. 

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