Urbanisation in India India has the second largest population in the world, with an estimated total population of 1.18 billion in 2010; approximately 28 per cent of this population lives in an urban setting (Census of India 2002). It has been suggested that if urban India were a separate country in itself, it would rank as the fourth most populous country in the world (Visaria 1997). Although the pace of urbanisation has slowed in recent times (Krishan 1993), in absolute terms an extra 68.15 million people entered the urban population between 1991 and 2001. Thus, enormous pressure is placed on the existing urban infrastructure; the provision of housing, sanitation, basic public utilities as well as such things as schools, hospitals and transport. It is estimated that 14.6 per cent of urban India (approximately 31 million people) were living in slums in 1988-1989 (Visaria 1997). In some of India’s major cities this fi gure is much higher, with up to 30.6 per cent of Mumbai’s population living in slums (Visaria 1997). Such rapid and impoverished urban growth has produced many social problems, not least of which are public health issues concerning pollution and disease (Mutatkar 1995). In Delhi, the fourth most polluted city in the world where an estimated 7491 pollution-related deaths occur annually, 64 per cent of its air pollution is attributed to vehicular emissions – an estimated 1300 tonnes of vehicular pollution are released into the air per day (Agarwal, Sharma et al. 1996). India’s overcrowded cities contribute other environmental pollutants; it is estimated that the coliform (faecal bacteria) count in the Yamuna, Delhi’s main river, increases 3000-fold in its passage through this city (McMichael 2000). Disease in these cities is also rife. For example, deaths caused by pneumonia in 1989 in urban areas of Maharashtra state were nine times those in rural areas. Deaths by tuberculosis were over two times, and deaths caused by heart disease were more than four times, those in rural areas (Mutatkar 1995: 978). Bearing in mind that Maharashtra is considered to be one of India’s most progressive states, the comparative lack of quality of life that urban dwellers face is signifi cant regardless of the supposed benefi ts that proximity to public services should bring. The crowding and adverse conditions under which so many poor city-dwellers live has led many theorists to argue that these conditions encourage suicide (for a discussion of the linkage between urbanisation and suicide in the nineteenth

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sive’ nature of urban residents and the ‘friction of city life’, and provided data from across Europe that supported his position (1881: 169). As we have noted in earlier chapters, Durkheim also argued that modernisation and urbanisation disrupt social integration through migration and loss of traditional beliefs and support mechanisms, and lead to higher levels of either anomic or egotistic suicide (Durkheim 1951, e.g. 377-378). Rural society, on the other hand, was considered to uphold traditional belief systems and lifestyles – that is rural society was considered to be ‘integrated’ – and as such, to protect against suicide. Halbwachs further developed Durkheim’s hypothesis, attempting to demonstrate empirically that French suicide rates were higher in urban areas than in rural areas (Halbwachs 1978). Although he struck problems of reliability which (favourably) biased his work, Halbwachs concluded, as had Morselli before him, that the fundamental social differences between the urban way of life and the rural way of life contribute to a distinct divergence in suicide rates (Douglas 1967). Ever since, research into suicide differentials between urban and rural suicides have been couched in terms of these hypotheses and few dissenting voices have been heard (see Beskow 1979; Capstick 1960; Labovitz and Brinkerhoff 1977; Micciolo, Willams et al. 1991).