By Jessica Castillo
LOS ANGELES – Some are calling it, ‘the great migration’, a ‘rural exodus’, or simply… ‘urbanization’. It is the movement of people around the world into urban centers that has both pros and cons and sparks a flurry of debate in favor and opposition of such movement. For many, this transition is a necessity. Rapid development and industrialization have forced the movement of populations into cities in an effort to replace the loss of rural occupations. For others, the transition offers new opportunities for business, education and eventual quality of life improvements. In India, this transformation is increasingly apparent as 2011 census data indicate that urban population has increased by 91 million. A BBC story in late September offered critique of this finding, pointing to the detrimental effects on India’s cities and the inability to cope with urban population demands. But what do these transitions really mean for India?
When I think of India, I think ‘vibrant’. I think ‘cultural’. I think ‘diverse’. While I am certain that I am not alone in my perceptions, there persists another set of assumptions about the nation. At last week’s Zocalo Public Square talk “Is India Rich or Poor?”, author Patrick French discussed these assumptions that often dominate the spectrum of foreign audiences’ knowledge of India: India is poor, spiritual, and continually associated with Pakistan. Other common negative ideas of India that emerged from the discussion are that it lacks infrastructure, and perpetuates class inequities. Where are these perceptions coming from? And why do they dominate the conversations surrounding an emerging market where the economy has seen such significant gains in the last decade?