The Karnataka government has declared over 200 taluks as drought-hit, with the monsoon having been deficient right through the State. This is likely to lead to an influx from rural areas into cities, particularly Bengaluru. While the annual Periodic Labour Force Survey refers to a higher level of employment in rural than urban areas between July 2022 and June 2023, probably a lingering effect of the reverse migration that took place in 2020 and perhaps 2021, this trend may not last.

Large cities, Bengaluru included, are likely to see a big population increase. This brings into the fore the rural-urban gap, which is acute in Karnataka; according to Economic Survey 2022-23, Bengaluru Urban district contributes 35.6 per cent of GSDP at current prices.

Per capita disparities

In per capita income terms, Bengaluru Urban’s ₹6.2 lakh is six times that of the poorest, Kalburagi, at ₹1.2 lakh and twice the State’s per capita income of ₹3 lakh. That the imbalance is pronounced is also borne out by the fact that the per capita income of Bengaluru Rural, the fifth richest district (in per capita terms), has a per capita income of ₹3.2 lakh, or half that of Bengaluru Urban. The rural economy is unable to generate incomes; the State Survey says that Belagavi district was a leading contributor to the primary sector in FY22; yet its per capita income at ₹1.37 lakh places it at 27 among 30 districts.

Karnataka lacks a robust manufacturing sector spread across smaller towns, in contrast to Tamil Nadu. This would have absorbed the rural workforce by offering jobs aligned to their skills. IT sector is not that inclusive. A city is also a magnet for the socio-economic amenities and the cultural goods it provides. A drought brings into relief a very skewed development model.