Rubanised India: Changing Development Narratives

A lot of states in India are predominantly urban. Delhi NCR, Haryana, Goa, Punjab along with Coastal  Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat have urban landscapes. A large number of folks have moved on from agriculture to the service economy, given up their lands in lieu for SEZ’s and made an attempt to join the community of wage earners in the network economy. Four Lane Highways are built, new factories are set up- the marginal farmer now works as a gate keeper in on the same piece of land his farm land used to be on (Ala the movie Shanghai). This has made a few farmers rich who drive Pajeros in Gurgaon but the tenant farmers who are now landless move to cities to join the unorganized economy.

Urbanization and the proliferation of towns and new expanded cities are the locus of the neo middle class with global aspirations. He wants to send his kid to a public school and not a Kendriya Vidyalaya and works in a IT related job. The new workforce is tiny and has transitioned past caste or religion based affirmative action to find them work. This although has not changed basics: attitudes towards women, religion still plays a major role in our social fabric and the ills of caste still persist.

As cities expand in to the hinterland, the villages in the periphery of these cities demonstrate symbols of modernity such as a motor bike and a dth box on terraces. Sadly these same places lack clean drinking water and primary health centres that are poorly staffed.

Rubanization is a two way lane; the physical infrastructure will have to complimented by social software of cultural up gradation, medical facilities and maintaining natural social capital. Urban communities have a propensity to rediscover identities in their faith and exert a community centric politics. Delhi Sikh Riots and Gujarat 2002 are illustrations to make that point robust.

The politics of urban India is changing too. Manifestos proclaim the free distribution of laptops and slogans of India Shining and Bengal Leads flood the airwaves. This though has extremely limited political payoff. The mantra of Bijli Sadak Paani is commonplace in political discourse. Newer actors have entered the scene such as the Aam Admi Party and Team Anna, espousing Middle Class India’s grievances. The Shiva Sena and MNS base their survival on the Urban Vote, along with the BJP and the Congess in Delhi.

Narendra Modi’s victory for the third term has vital implications for the politics of urban development in our country. Modi won 80% of the urban seats in Gujarat to drive home his win. Dixit in Delhi is the three term CM of the Congress with a urban banner.

The down side of rubanization is the inability of our economy to create meaningful employment away from the land. The Demographic Dividend can tick way to a Demographic timebomb if proper environment and opportunities are not rendered to the youth. In this Web 2.0 globalised age of social media on our cell phones, expectations are rising and the demand is not being met by the education sector nor by the industry. Frustrations can leads to a politics of politics and parochialism if not checked in time. Structural reforms are needed to create jobs.Development is often all about employment. Youth are already angry with the inflation and the widening chasm between the have and the have nots. Not everyone can join the global economic mainstream. It needs a distinctive skill set. The MBA degree is now a mere pre requisite for a job of any sort.

This mega trend will accelerate in the coming decade and has a potential impact on politics and demographics beyond current estimates. Interesting times are certainly coming up.

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