Formally called the Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM), the Rurban mission was developed to bridge the gap between rural and urban India. Launched in 2016 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the mission was kicked off with the aim to create 300 rural growth clusters across the country.
At the launch of the Rurban mission, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, "We cannot leave people to their fate. Therefore, we devised the idea of the Rurban mission that would promote the growth of villages and its residents at the place where they are.”
The initial vision of the initiative was to convert geographically contiguous villages into growth centres consisting of all kinds of facilities with respect to education, healthcare, infrastructure and yet, keeping the ‘rural spirit’ intact.
How is Rurban different?
Anurima Mukherjee Basu, a professor who teaches urban planning and specialises in rural-urban linkages, reiterates this and says, “The uniqueness of Rurban mission compared to schemes like PURA (Providing Urban Amenities to Rural Areas) and UIDSSMT (Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns), is that it focuses on the larger picture. While PURA and UIDSSMT, are both aimed only towards providing urbanized infrastructure in rural areas, Rurban goes a step beyond to ensure access to basic amenities like education, healthcare, housing, etc.”
Mukherjee Basu emphasizes the neglect towards peri-urban areas in the country. She adds, “There have been many schemes in the past which have specifically focussed on urban areas or rural territories. The peri-urban areas were not given much importance. This was mainly due to a policy gap.”
However, she feels that the Rurban mission will improve things for the better.
New age (R)urbanization - Decentralised and revitalized
Mukherjee Basu talks about the massive shift in urbanization patterns across India. She says, “If we look at the 2001 census, urbanization and population explosion was majorly witnessed in the larger cities and in existing urban areas. In the 2011 census, a clear shift in urbanization can be seen, which is also known as subaltern or in-situ urbanization, with inhabitants crowding in peri-urban areas, smaller towns and rural belts.”
Alongside Rurban, due to other corridor-led developments, rural areas are set to undergo massive transformations in the near future, reveals Mukherjee Basu. The most notable among these corridor-led developments is the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC).
DMIC is a planned industrial development between India’s capital, New Delhi, to India’s financial hub, Mumbai. The development under DMIC comprises 24 industrial regions, eight smart cities, two international airports, five power projects, two mass rapid transit systems, and two logistical hubs. In addition to these direct developments, large patches of peri-urban and rural areas located along this corridor, will be witnessing massive transformations.
Mukherjee Basu is extremely optimistic about the indirect role DMIC can add to the rural and peri-urban areas along that corridor.
“With land being available at cheaper prices, and traditional occupations such as agriculture and fishing gradually getting replaced by other businesses like trading, logistics and manufacturing, rural India is undergoing transformation by leaps and bounds,” says Mukherjee Basu.
In addition to developing rural areas, the Rurban mission aims to limit migration from rural to urban areas, with a vision to decongest cities.
Prime Minister Modi emphasized this during the launch and said, “The burden of population in cities has resulted in growth of slums. Even migrating people don't think about where they would live and from where they would get basic facilities like drinking water.”
Adding to it, he said that migration leads to uneven development of cities. “Should we then leave people to their fate? Should we compel them to live in jhuggi jhopri? We cannot. That is why we came up with this 'Rurban Mission'.”
Rurban mission - Ground reality
Mukherjee Basu, who has worked on Rurban projects in Gujarat, says that the Rurban mission has not been able to live up to its expectations in some regions. “The initial progress of this mission in Gujarat was very good. However, progress has become sluggish of late, especially after COVID-19.” She adds, “Some states like Chhattisgarh are very proactive, and have done extremely good work.” As per state rankings released by the Government of India in December 2020, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, emerged as the top five states, as far as work in the Rurban mission is concerned.
However, one of the reasons why the Rurban has not been able to achieve the level of success that other government missions like Swacch Bharat (Clean India) or Smart Cities have been able to achieve is a lack of coordination between the central and state governments. This makes aspects like funding and approvals difficult and time consuming. For instance, the preparation of DPRs (Detailed Project Report) is a tedious process wherein the State has to mobilize DPRs from different line departments for different projects. This adds up to the existing delays.
Edited by Roshni Shroff
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