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The Eighth B G Kumar Memorial Lecture

The Eighth B G Kumar Memorial lecture, made possible by a generous contribution from the family of BG Kumar who instituted an endowment at CDS after his untimely passing away, was delivered by Dr Pronab Sen who is currently the Country Director for the International Growth Centre’s India Central Programme and also a member of the High Level Expert Group on Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress and the Technical Advisory Group of International Comparison Project (World Bank). He spoke on ‘The Puzzle of Indian Urbanisation,’ at the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Trivandrum on 20 February, 2017.

Prof. Sunil Mani, the Director, welcomed the audience as well as the family members of BG Kumar. He also welcomed Dr Sen and introduced him to the audience. He described BG Kumar (Gopu) as a promising and independent minded economist who had he been alive, would have reached great heights in his career.
Dr Sen starting his lecture by saying that it was a great privilege to be invited to CDS to deliver the lecture. He pointed out that the global experience is that as countries develop, the pace of rural to urban migration accelerates and deceleration happens only when the level of urbanisation is very high.  In India, on the other hand, migration started to decelerate at a time when the urban population was below 25 per cent of total population, and continued to decelerate over three Censuses. He also addressed questions as to whether slum life in urban areas is better or worse than living in a village, are rural areas really becoming the suburbs? The living condition of urban migrants needs to be looked into, as migration takes place the early migrant grabs the land or space in urban areas leaving later migrants to be left with other land. New slum clusters in North India are very often urban replicas of their villages.

Dr Sen felt that that even though a lot of studies have been done on migration of rural to urban India, they have been more descriptive in nature, a more empirical approach would open up areas of research asking precisely the kind of questions that Gopu was working on. More efforts should be taken to  motivate debates and discussions around this seriously neglected and under-researched issue which can have substantial bearing on the country’s future development strategy.

The floor was then thrown open for an informal interactive session with students, research scholars and those from the audience. At the end of the discussions Prof Sunil Mani thanked Dr Sen for his nice lecture on various dimensions of directions between rural and urban India, and also on how he was able to connect with Gopu’s interests.  He went on to say that the CDS would also explore the possibility of conducting one more event in addition to the memorial lecture to institutionalize the memory of Gopu. Prof Mani invited Mr. Sarath Chandran of Gopu’s family to present a memento to Dr Sen as a token of appreciation. He also thanked the guests from outside for attending the function.

Lecture by Prof.Pronab Sen