The world is transforming rapidly. Hereto isolated rural areas are getting connected through the networks of communication. The process of linking initiated by colonization has gained momentum in the second half of the twentieth century. End of colonial era left the world closely linked than ever before. Newly liberated nations busied themselves in reconstruction and reformation of their impoverished rural agrarian societies. Rurbanization is a process of rural transformation. It is not yet caught attention urban planners but it is a prominent development process commonly witnessed in developing countries. Predominantly rural agriculture economy, forms of settlements, lifestyles, and social attitudes are changing and new rurban form is emerging. This paper describes some of the salient features of the process of rurbanization, indicates its origin, and discusses some of the effects the process has brought about. By borrowing metaphor from biology, one can describe suburban sprawl as process of grafting urban lifestyle on rural space. Rurbanization is a process of altering rural forms with pre-selected urban patterns and lifestyles, which creates new genetically altered rurban forms.

This paper is primarily based on Indian examples. Briefly described here are examples of two small but significant villages from the State of Maharashtra and examples of two important states in India with their emphasis on different aspects of urbanism. Introduction of modern agriculture in Punjab and policy of social change followed in Kerala are prominent but qualitatively different examples of rurbanization process.

Warna Nagar: In 1998 a group of 70 villages, with total population of 200,000 was selected for implementation wired villages project by National task force. Warana Nagar was already famous for its social and economic development through cooperative movement. Starting with a Sugar factory some four decades ago, the group soon diversified into dairy, retail marketing and education. Started by a dedicated Gandhian leader Tatyasaheb Kore, this group of villages offers an alternative development model. The engineering college has become hub of this group. All the villages are installed with an information kiosk which provides computer facilities and internet connectivity with help of satellite. The villagers can access all their information needs like bank transactions, marketing of their farm produce, tax and land records all in local Marathi language. Waran Nagar villages already enjoy highest income levels found in India.

Ralegan Sidhi: This drought prone village was notorious for its illicit liquor, goondaism and vandalism until 1975. Impoverished in last 100 years through the modern development which resulted in soil erosion, depletion of water table, and erratic rainfall which dragged Ralegan into a perpetual poverty cycle. It led to migration of some and impoverishment of some which totally disrupted community life. It was a hopeless situation when Anna Hazare, started working in Ralegan after returning from his active military service. Anna's honesty and hard taskmaster attitude, local ingenuity, people's grasp and understanding about the roots of the problems, their openness in accepting ideas from all sources, and above all, the collective response in taking up challenges of various schemes, brought about dramatic overall transformation. Village was transformed through its watershed and forest development, regenerated farms and dairy activity, and education. It became a model of economic, social and psychological success.1

Punjab: With construction of dam at Bhakra Nangal, introduction of high yielding wheat and rice varieties to the farmers, modern farming research and technology and setting up of Punjab agricultural university soon after independence, Punjab ushered in green revolution in India and made the country self sufficient in food. The initiative came from the central and the state government. Farmerís cooperation in the period made such achievement possible. Punjab contributed 70 % of wheat and 40% of rice consumed by India1 in 1999 and enjoys highest per capita income[i]. Punjab also boasts of modern industry. The economic success of Punjab has transformed it in five decades. However its social development record is not at all impressive. Women and the migrant labor have suffered in the process. Its sex ratio and record of social backwardness is a cause of concern. The model of development was based on western modern agriculture technology, which has also created many environmental issues through excessive use of fertilizers and chemicals. Farm productivity growth is also declining.

Kerala: Unlike Punjab, the State government of Kerala concentrated on education and social change emphasizing on the role of women and family health policies. Today Kerala is socially the most advanced state in India. Near universal literacy of population, lowest population growth rate (9% compared to ---- avrage for India) womenís participation in the workforce have become standards for other states. Economy of Kerala is transforming through its dominant economic links to prosperity of Middle East countries. Naturally gifted state of Kerala with its beautiful sea beaches, wild life sanctuaries is able to develop its economy through tourism. Health tourism promoted through naturopathic and traditional Ayurvedic health centers. Urban development of Kerala has taken much different form.

Rurbanization: Historical background

Rurbanization is a third world phenomenon observed in some countries in Asia, Africa, and South America. These countries are largely rural oriented, dominated by agricultural economy and agrarian social relations. Rurbanization is the result of rural development policies adapted by these countries after regaining freedom from the colonial rule. Such policies were based on mediated responses to modernization. Rurbanization is not a reaction against modernism nor it is pro traditionalism. First priority of countries like India was to address the problems of their large (90%) and diverse rural population. Rural development was the focus of economic development agenda and industrial growth was seen as a necessary complementary process[ii]. Planning for rural development itself was a revolutionary concept since most of the rural formations were result of slow evolutionary processes of many centuries. Modern state planning was seen as a tool for shaping and transforming the societies to a new higher level of civilization. Modernization of agriculture with help of science and technology was the main thrust of the economic policy. Introduction of irrigation, energy sources, machinery, fertilizers, hybrid seeds, pesticides was part of the hardware while education, training, agrarian land reforms, legal framework, finance and other services were part of the software of the policy. Successes, failures and partial successes of the policy set in the process of rural change. Results have triggered further changes, which have brought rural areas in close contacts with urban processes. The rural development has new rurban settings.

Rurbanization: What it is not.

Rurbanization is not to be seen as a universal, unidirectional, and standard process of change[iii]. Its uniqueness is in its complexity, variety, flexibility, transformability and adaptability. By its very nature it poses difficulties in measurability, evaluation, and absolute value judgements. It can be perceived differently by different observers and participants, thus poses challenges for easy categorization. Prescription of standard formula is frequently employed for rural change but the results have belied the hopes. One can equate the dilemma of rural policy planners to that faced by contemporary urban and economic planners in America in postindustrial era.

Rurbanization: What it is, how it started.

Rurbanization is a slow, low-key change and growth process. The changes do not appear dramatic or significant to start with.The slow speed of change can be steady or uneven. Rurban activities have remained undetected for a long time. They remain invisible to casual observers as well as detached bureaucracy. When substantial changes take place they appear dramatic and spontaneous to outsiders and hence attract attention. Small examples of positive changes start chain reactions and experiments in other places. The changes, many times are triggered by chance happenings, accidents and experiments.

Inputs supporting the changes are sometimes of physical nature like addition of a small irrigation scheme. They can also be ideas imported from other fields. At times simultaneous actions by many actors in different directions get linked in the process. Introduction of a particular variety of grain or plant becomes successful and more people from the region start experimenting. Knowledge about alternatives expands and provides many more alternative choices for the individuals than were previously available.

Presence or absence of urban activities in near proximity and type of activities located in such centers create demands for rural products. Establishment of various rural urban linkages and their capacities affect the potential growth of the rural settlements. On the other hand detrimental urban activities trigger protests from the rural communities and force certain concessions from the real beneficiaries.

Geographical, political, environmental, and economic constraints or availability of such resources affect pattern of growth. Effective implementation of government schemes under strict political vigilance facilitates growth. On the other hand lack of it may inhibit growth but many times the changes can take place because of lack of attention and obstructions from the state machinery.

Global processes can affect changes positively or they can also affect negatively. Economic development programs designed by government play important role in the rurbanization process. Development funds get allocated to certain proactive groups that provide new directions. Certain places receive new projects because they prove to be receptive to new experiments than others and promise better and quicker returns. They eventually become new models for neighboring villages.

Effects of Rurbanization: Effects of rurbanization can be seen at three levels. Local, regional, and state level. Changes are initiated in one field but effects are reflected in different fields such as economic, social, political, environmental, and physical.

Local economic changes appear to be the most significant. They are easy to identify, measure, and compare. Growth in agricultural production of a village is a good measure. Diversity of crops, mix of crops, agricultural yields, provide visible signs of positive change. Availability of finance, technology, knowledge inputs, insurance facilities all help the pattern and success of growth. Economic changes lead, support but sometimes also inhibit social changes. (Punjab economically prosperous but socially back ward)

Emphasis on social change affects the economic choices. Level of general education, education of women affects the population growth levels. Health care facilities affect the age structure of society, which affects the economy. Similarly social harmony can lead to a better management than the social tensions. Socio-economic changes affect the physical conditions of the villages. Introduction of services for the settlements such as drinking water supply, drainage, electricity, physical transportation facilities and communication facilities like telephone bring about the changes. On the other hand such facilities great created because of the demand created by other changes.

Psychological effects of the change processes are triggered by the physical, economic, social conditions. Peopleís perceptions and expectations change. Changes in attitudes, views further the choices. Many times psychological changes become the driving force behind rurbanization. A circular causality is set in motion and new lifestyles bring new changes.

Regional effects: Many small scale changes can take place in different villages of the region and they start getting linked up to form strong regional bonds. Certain regions get identified as examples of coordinated examples. Inter region movements get strengthened simultaneously new links are established. Reginal migration patterns start changing

State or national level effects of rurbanization and regionalization start reflecting on the migration patterns of people. Rurbanization reduces the need of population to migrate to the urban centers thus slowing down the growth rates of large cities. Rurbanization can start the process of reverse migration. Due to the revival of rurban economy people having ties with such areas start re-establishing the links and eventually return the area. Economic flow is thus affected by the process of rurbanization. Capital accumulation also starts at local level and starts flowing back from the urban region on a larger scale. Financial services start expanding. Information services like banking, internet, insurance services start location in the rurban areas.

Rurban regions attract new industrial capital. Policy of decentralized industrial growth supported by government facilitates the rurban regions to diversify their economic base.

Rurbanization and regionalism. Rurbanization and regional growth are closely linked. Enhanced agricultural production and common products of the region attract industries related to the same. Agricultural production of sugar cane in a region supports the sugar industry. Production of milk provides the basis for dairy industry. Similarly cotton, grains, fruits attract processing industries thus creating industrial and service sector employment. Regional Agricultural Universities concentrate on the regional agricultural research and production. Common regional identities emerge out of the rurban growth. From planning perspective the region as a unit rather than settlement or village appears to be more in tune with the scale and pattern of growth. Inter regional flows also establish linkages through coordination of policies. Multi-centric and diffused pattern of growth, diversified economic activities, networking, urban rural linkages strengthen and support region formation process.

Rurbanization, regeneration, and revitalization: Rurbanization is a regenerative process. Before the colonial rule the rural communities were more or less self-sufficient albeit at a much lower level of consumption. The pattern of life was totally disrupted and old production forms were completely destroyed which had psychologically affected the people. Through some of the rurban processes some of the traditional skills, crafts and production is regenerated. Old production centers are rediscovering and transforming themselves. With the help of expansion of market and communication facilities confidence is restored to the people. Rurbanization is also helping people look for local technical solutions for their environmental problems. Much of the rural landscapes and lands were destroyed due to de forestation, which had affected the depletion of precious resources like water and top soil. Destruction of forest also had affected the economic well being of the society, which had depended on the biomass for most of its basic needs of fodder for animals and fuel for domestic use. Depletion of water table is a common phenomenon observed in most of the regions in India. Large irrigation schemes have helped few regions. Growing frustration with large schemes and associated problems have made such expensive ventures unattractive and problematic. Dependence on state bureaucracy is also a fact of resentment. On the other hand some of the local examples implemented with help of dedicated experts, and participation and actions of local people have successfully regenerated the environment as well as economy.

Rurbanization has one more important aspect about it. It is an empowering process. The economic, social, physical and psychological regeneration takes place with active role and creative support of the local population. Knowledge of local people, their traditional practices, stories related to past, history embedded in the memories of the population all play an important role in the new rurban formations. Participants actively get involved in planning, implementation process. They also generate feedback and corrective measures. Their active role in decision making is decisive factor. This process is basically different than the modern planning processes. Planning experts are consulted on technical matters. Their advisory role is also found important for the rurban process. However the decision making rests with the active participants of the process. Decisions are based on the needs of the people rather than the needs of the specialists and theory based bureaucratic norms. Pragmatic approach to problem solving emerges out of such process. It is location specific and particularly suitable to the unique situation in time and space. This process empowers the people rather than the specialists or the bureaucracy or the state. An essential realization emerging out of this process is about the role played by women. In Indian tradition women were rarely consulted on public matters. Most of the decisions made by the local or higher level authorities have no knowledge about the adverse effects the detached planning decisions have had on women, children and families. Their basic and fundamental needs are not reflected in the traditional planning activities. But most of the successful examples of rurbanization are made possible due to active role women played in it at each stage. Participation of women in rural level decision making in India has proved the importance of the measure. Rurbanization and empowerment of women are thus complementary processes.

Urbanization and rurbanization:


Rurbanization is an emerging and potentially most important transformative process, observed in few pockets of the large third world, developing countries. It is fundamentally a process of transformation of rural areas by introduction of certain urban characteristics. It brings about differential growth patterns. However it is not based on the domination paradigm (domination of man over nature or state over citizens) and is fundamentally not an exploitative process. It is more of a regenerative, restorative and revitalizing process. Its emphasis is on healing the wounds suffered during the colonial rule. It positively affects people and environment. Its emphasis is on judicial consumption of resources. It combines traditional knowledge and practices with modern technology. It is a distributive and participatory process, which brings about changes in the lifestyles of participants. Modern technologies such as telecommunication and information technology can further and strengthen the process. It has potential of combining local actions with a global vision. Future oriented rurbanization can make the world a better place to live.


Knowledge based development: A new lending strategy for the World Bank. Compilation of papers by Paul Armington, Ross Paul, Michel Ward. Nov. 1998 (Unpublished book, available on web at ) Date of ref. 10 April 2001


Punjab Green revolution:, date 10 April 2001

Lessons from green revolution: Toward a new green revolution. Thechnical background document for World food summit. Web page, referred on 10 April 2001





1 Ralegan Siddhi : A Model for Village Development by Dr Ramesh Awasthi and Dashrath K. Panmand. An introductory book that chronicles the development of Ralegan Siddhi and Anna Hazare's contribution to the process.









1 Indian express news item, 6 Oct. 1999

reffered on 10 April, 2001

[i] Business Indiareport dated4 July, 2001 available at reffered on 10 April 2001

[ii] India started thinking about urban policy only in 1985 when the Government appointed a commission to study the problems related to urbanization.


[iii] Unlike the utopian idea of urban plannerís of the last century.