India today has a little more than 400 million people, roughly one-third of its population, living in urban areas. By 2030, it is likely to have 600 million people in urban areas, next only to China. The 2011 Census lists 53 cities with a million-plus population each. Urban experts tell us that to house 600 million people properly, we need to create ‘one Chicago every year’ till 2030! This is indeed a formidable challenge and if we fail to rise to this challenge, we will end up making slums in these cities.
Within this chorus of rising urbanisation and its associated challenges, there is also talk of ‘rurbanisation’ of India, albeit somewhat muted. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been talking about it—his statement “Gaav ki atma aur sheher ki suvidha”, essentially means that it will have the spirit of a village but the facilities of a city. He has also been talking about building 100 model cities/towns in India, which will be clean (recall his statement in Varanasi regarding the cleaning up of the city) and hygienic, with better and faster connectivity. If this happens, it will be a dream come true, giving job creation and income augmentation a boost in ‘rurban’ India. Improving sanitation, especially safe drinking water supply and sanitary toilets, can play a catalytic role in reducing malnutrition amongst children.
In any case, with higher and rising per capita incomes of urbanites, they are going to demand more and better food. But they don’t produce food. Much of it is produced in rural areas, and this will be quite the wave for rural people to ride, supplying food to urban areas in a seamless manner through well-integrated food value-chains. These value-chains can create a win-win situation for rural and urban population, and also build an effective bridge of ‘rurban’ India. But how can this be achieved?
In order to understand this, we may have to go back to mid 1960s. The memory of standing in queues for hours to get just two litres of milk in Delhi are still fresh in the minds of many. But the night of October 31, 1964, which the late Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri spent in Kheda, Gujarat, talking to farmers till 2 am, changed the course of milk’s history in India. He decided to launch the National Dairy Development Board, with Verghese Kurien as its chairman, which later