Redressing the Rural-Urban Imbalance (Distinguished Lecture)

T Scarlett Epstein


This paper focuses on rural poverty, its causes and effects,
and suggests one of a number of possible measures to alleviate the
problem. It examines why there exists an urban bias in development, and
the impact it has on development patterns. The macroimplications derived
from intensive longitudinal micro-studies of two South Indian villages
are also examined. These studies throw into relief the key role
income-generating opportunities play in rural societies. They show how
the existence of such opportunities ensures the reduction of rural
poverty and removes, or at least reduces, the need for ruralurban
migration; whereas their absence has the reverse effect. As the growing
rural population accompanied by increasing water shortages reduce the
possibilities of continuing increases in agricultural productivity,
there is an urgent need to urbanise rural life and to make it more
attractive in terms of economy and infrastructure. Finally, an outline
of a Three-Level Rural-Urban Business Linkages paradigm, which though
putting emphasis on increased agricultural productivity, stresses the
growing importance of establishing agro-based industries and the
creation of other off-farm activities. It is presented as one option
that may be pursued to redress the rural-urban imbalance and thereby
reduce rural poverty. The paradigm involves a decentralisation of small
goods productive processes in a setting of Growth Areas and Growth
Centres that are linked with the nearest large towns and/or cities. As
long as the political will exists and the necessary preconditions are
met, the implementation of this paradigm constitutes a good chance of
improving conditions in both rural and urban areas.

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