Sorokin in his Rural-Urban Sociology (1929), uses the word "rurbanization" which according to him is a terminological invention of C. J. Galpin in 1918. Parson in 1949 exposed the idea of “rurbanisation” in his book – Essays in Sociological Theory. According to him, Rurban communities are the rural socio- geographic spaces where styles of life and the standard of living have changed so much that they resemble those in urban localities (Parsons, 1949, p. 435).
Rurbanisation may be due to either urban expansion or rural migration. This change is made possible through urban – rural interactions, including accumulation of capital /remittances and exposure to western /modern ideas and lifestyles that eventually build new mindsets.
The urban agglomeration /urban sprawl and emergence of rurban areas are a global phenomena. However, features ascribed to rurban areas may vary from country to country and hence, the term rurban may be understood differently in different countries /areas. For instance, Merriam-Webster dictionary defines rurban as “relating to, or constituting an area which is chiefly residential but where some farming is carried on”. Cambridge Dictionary uses rurban to describe “land in the countryside on the edge of a town or city, on which new housing, businesses, etc. are being built”. Here rurban essentially refers to a fringe area of the urban. A slightly different interpretation is given in business / law dictionaries, wherein rurban stands for the new development of land that is between an area of rural activity and the edge of suburban area that has already been developed. On the other hand, economists generally emphasize on the rural aspects / rural areas more, and are inclined more to the fact that rural areas acquire certain urban features to become rurban. It is not necessary that such areas are positioned adjacent to an urban area.
In the Indian context, rurban setting may be seen commonly in states like Kerala, Goa and the mountainous regions, unlike in other larger states where the rural-urban divide is more pronounced.
In some countries, the term rurban relates to rural- urban cooperation / partnership / interaction. For instance, in Europe RURBAN (Partnership for sustainable urban-rural development) is a preparatory action agreed by the European Parliament in 2010 and managed by the European Commission. It aims to:
- analyse territorial partnership practices for towns/cities and rural areas
- achieve better cooperation between different actors in developing and implementing urban-rural initiatives
- promote territorial multilevel governance
- assess possible economic and social gains from enhanced rural-urban cooperation
- identify the potential role of urban-rural partnership for improving regional competitiveness and regional governance
In India, the term rurban entered the official government literature through the Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM) announced in the Union Budget 2014-15. This was following the Rurban development model of urbanization of the rural areas, adopted in the state of Gujarat through which people living in the rural areas are given efficient civic infrastructure and associate services. Ensuring availability of amenities to rural populace is on the top priority of the central government as 69% of India’s population resides in villages.
The Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission is launched to deliver integrated project based infrastructure in the rural areas, which will also include development of economic activities and skill development. The preferred mode of delivery is through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) while using various scheme funds for financing.
Government approved the Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM) with an outlay of Rs. 5142.08 crores on 16 September 2015. The Mission aims at development of rural growth clusters which have latent potential for growth, in all States and Union Territories (UTs), which would trigger overall development in the region. These clusters would be developed by provisioning of economic activities, developing skills & local entrepreneurship and providing infrastructure amenities. The Rurban Mission will thus develop a cluster of Smart Villages.
Thus, in India, for the purposes of SPMRM, Rurban areas refer to a cluster of 15-20 villages having about 30 to 40 lakh population. The clusters will be geographically contiguous Gram Panchayats with a population of about 25000 to 50000 in plain and coastal areas and a population of 5000 to 15000 in desert, hilly or tribal areas. As far as practicable, clusters of village would follow administrative convergence units of Gram Panchayats. These clusters are intended to be well delineated areas with planned layouts prepared following the planning norms (as laid down in the State, Town and Country Planning Acts/similar Central or State statutes as may be applicable), which would be duly notified by the State/UTs. These plans would be finally integrated with the District Plans/Master Plans as the case may be.