a year ago

Youths' rural to urban migration

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The migration of the rural higher-degree-aspiring youths and those seeking office jobs began, in fact, in Bangladesh in the 1950s. Dhaka being the capital of a province of the then Pakistan witnessed plenty of job prospects; and also the opportunities for post-secondary and post-Higher Secondary studies. These openings didn't fail to create a stir among the rural youths in general. They had felt being lured to the largest urban centre in the erstwhile East Pakistan. Initially, youths in small batches left for Dhaka. The trend of deserting the rural areas, like seen today, had yet to occur en masse. Educational and job prospects were spectacularly plenty in the early phase of independent Bangladesh, i.e. throughout the 70s, the `80s, and the `90s onwards up to 2021. On the eve of the country's golden jubilee, i.e. its completion of 50 long years, few want to fritter away the great opportunities. In the past decades, Dhaka and all of the regional major cities began pulsating with new arrivals from villages. Notably, as years and decades wore on, students and employment-seeking youths continued to leave villages for the larger urban areas in streams. In the midst of this exodus, the persons left behind comprised mostly the aged, the nearly unlettered people who veritably took the charge of looking after the extended families, farmlands and nondescript businesses.

In the recent times, a different spectacle also characterises the village scenario. Many rural areas close to considerably bigger cities are seen adopting the urban lifestyle. The youths staying back in villages for myriad reasons are found content with many age-old rural customs. They mostly belong to the moneyed class, many inheriting croplands from theirancestors. In some way, they pity the youths planning to migrate to the cities. As they might believe, it is the poverty-stricken village youths who are eager to migrate to the urban centres. As for education, most of them do not have much ambition. They find a JSC or a humble SSC certificate enough for their educational career. These youths help build an urban, liberal atmosphere in place, instead of the superstitious, anti-progress and cocooned rural communities. Despite these nearly committed efforts to free the country's vast rural swathes from all kinds of obscurantism, crass commercial interests are also found at play in many rural pockets. These are promoted by the youths who come back to their villages from the cities upon failing to make any headway in higher education, employment or business.

Thanks to the rise in the hitherto unknown facilities and consumerist amenities, the village dwellers are now being exposed to a semi-urban lifestyle. It comprises modern technology like smart phones, internet connections and many digital services. In order to enjoy these facilities directly and in an unhindered way, many youths prefer to live in the cities. Thus the post-adolescent youths living in villages become impatient to opt for the city life on the pretexts of studying. Yet despite the urban exoduses of ambitious rural people, the villagers of late also enjoy almost all the facilities found in big cities. Few villages close to the district or upazila towns are found lacking in the facilities of super-shops, spacious marketplaces offering varieties of commodities, well-decorated restaurants, and even beauty parlours. There is a catch, though. In spite of a section of youths staying voluntarily in villages, content with the rural settings' humble way, the rural landscapes have kept changing. According to Dr.Shapan Adnan, professorial research associate at the University of London, thus, refers to some events which have worked as key factors behind the rural socio-economic transition in the last eight decades --- from the Great Bengal Famine in 1943 to the birth of two states after the end of the British rule to the independence of Bangladesh.

 In an effort to make an in-depth study on the dominant socio-economic trends in today's Bangladesh, Dr Adnan is right in his observation. He catches the rural youths' mood, saying, "There is a trend among the younger people, who have the means to do so, to leave the village. In the long term, these processes may lead to shifts in the demographic structure to such an extent that the old, the very young and the infirm remain in the villages, while the working age-groups move to cities and townships."

The sudden spurt in the policy-makers' turning to rural development through constructing wide-ranging communication infrastructure including vital bridges, upgraded roads, and reaching electricity to the remote corners of the country spawns all-round development of the country. Yet there are blows coming right from the blue. Bangladesh being part of the globe, it had to bear the brunt of the two worldwide calamitous events sweeping mankind. One of them, the corona pandemic, is said to be on the way out barring its reappearance in some regions. But the other calamity, the Russo-Ukraine war, continues to get fiercer by the day. The global recession, sanctions on Russia, the inflationary pressure leading to price rise of essentials absorbed by the poorer nations cloud the countries' socio-economic ambitions. Bangladesh being still a post-LDC developing status aspirant nation, it cannot skirt the domino effect of the ongoing global mess-up. Against this backdrop, the mass migration to its large cities and also return to villages cannot be taken perfunctorily. However, thanks to the younger population's dithering over choosing their final destinations, the rural landscapes may have to wait long to get a permanent look. The unplanned 'urbanisation' of villages may, finally, peter out prematurely.


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