Villages Around Our Cities

March 19, 2024 Vaidya R

When we think of our city districts, like Bengaluru, Chennai, Mumbai, Pune or Ahmedabad, we think of sprawling metropolises with buildings crowding the landscape. However, this is true only for some of our cities like Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi where the city limits also define the district limits. In the case of Pune, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru Urban, the city limits are only a small part of the actual district area.

Total area vs Municial Corporation limits in Bengaluru Urban, Ahmedabad and Pune. Src: Wikipedia

Most of these areas outside the city limits continue to be villages with farms even as the cities grow outwards enveloping them with every delimitation of the municipal corporation wards.

The Mission Antyodaya, announced in 2017-18 aims to bring more accountability and governance in the villages. For this it is “envisaged as state-led initiative with Gram Panchayats as focal points of convergence efforts”.

Does having a major metro next door help the districts have better access to utilities in the form of regular electricity, drains and anganwadis? Are the people less poor with better income? These are some of the questions that come to mind when we think of these villages. As mentioned above, many city-districts like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata don’t have any villages in their surroundings and Antyodaya data for them is thus not available. Bengaluru Urban, Pune and Ahmedabad are unique in having large boundaries that encompass the city limits and these are three districts we’ll be comparing.

The latest data that is available on the Antyodaya portal is from 2020 and that will be the basis for our analysis. You can find the data here.


With large areas lying outside the city limits, the rural population in these districts is expected to be high. However, city populations tend to be a lot denser, and most of the population in these districts are naturally expected to live in the cities.

Total rural population in Bengaluru Urban, Ahmedabad and Pune. Src: Mission Antyodaya 2020

As can be seen, Pune leads the way with 4.5 million people living in its villages, while the villages of Bengaluru Urban district, despite having less than 30% of the area of Ahmedabad have more people living in them.


The larger area of Ahmedabad however translates to more area that is available for farming than in Bengaluru Urban. Pune, however leads the way in total area available and sown, even though the percentage area that is sown is a touch under 60%.

Total cultivable land, sown land in 2020 and percentage of land sown in Bengaluru Urban, Ahmedabad and Pune. Src: Mission Antyodaya 2020

Even with just over 1.39 Lakh hectares available for cultivation, only a third of that land is actually sown in Bengaluru Urban.

The source of water could also be an important factor. While the farms of Bengaluru are almost entirely dependent on ground water, those in Ahmedabad and Pune have access to water from canals also. In Ahmedabad, two-thirds of the land sown is irrigated with water from canals.

Percentage area irrigated by ground water and canals in Bengaluru Urban, Ahmedabad and Pune. Src: Mission Antyodaya 2020

Despite the large share of canal water in farming in Ahmedabad, and less than 14% of the land being dependent on ground water, the absolute area that is dependent on ground water in Ahmedabad is higher than Bengaluru Urban. Pune being bigger in area as well as being more dependent on groundwater leads by a large distance.

Total area irrigated by ground water in Bengaluru Urban, Ahmedabad and Pune. Src: Mission Antyodaya 2020

Data from the National Compilation of Groundwater Resources from 2020 also shows that Pune extracted the most ground-water for irrigation in 2020, again by a distance. However, even though the land irrigated with ground-water in Pune is six times that of Ahmedabad and eight times that of Bengaluru Urban, the absolute ground water usage in Pune is only thrice and five and a half times of Ahmedabad and Bengaluru Urban respectively.

Amount of ground water extracted in 2020 Bengaluru Urban, Ahmedabad and Pune. Src: National Compilation of ground water resources 2020

However, data on the type of crops sown by area is not available to compare. There is also the possibility that in places like Bengaluru Urban ground water in villages is also used for domestic purposes in large quantities as the city expands and large communities are now coming up in the villages.

Access to Amenities

The main amenities this analysis looked at were access to more than 12 hours of electricity each day, having closed drains and anganwadis in the vicinity of the villages.

Access to more than 12 hours of electricity provides more livelihood opportunities, while closed drains are an indicator of better sanitation and health. The presence of Anganwadis in each village ensures access to better nutrition for children as well as lactating mothers.

Access to regular electricity, drainage and anganwadis in Bengaluru Urban, Ahmedabad and Pune. Src: Mission Antyodaya 2020

While more than 90% of the villages in Ahmedabad get regular electricity, the number is less than 60% and 50% for Bengaluru Urban and Pune respectively. Access to closed drains is similar where more than 80% of the villages in Ahmedabad are covered, while only 50% and 42% in Bengaluru Urban and Pune have access to closed drains.

However, when it comes to Anganwadis, the villages are better placed. Ahmedabad leads the way with 98% of the villages having access to Anganwadis, while in Bengaluru Urban the number is just under 80%. There is much to catch up in the villages of Bengaluru Urban, where despite proximity to the capital city, and having a smaller area, amenities are still lagging other districts.

Income and poverty

While income data is not available in the Antyodaya dataset, we looked at two parameters – number of households with either, or having both, kucha roofs or walls, and households with Below Poverty Line (BPL) cards. While higher proportion of the former is desirable, the latter needs to be lower.

However, it needs to be noted that better coverage of families with BPL cards can push up this proportion showing the district in poor light, while less coverage can show the district in better light.

Households with kuccha roofs or walls, and with BPL cards in Bengaluru Urban, Ahmedabad and Pune. Src: Mission Antyodaya 2020

In terms of households having access to kuccha roofs or walls, the percentage is uniformly low across the three districts. Pune is only marginally better where one in eight households have kuccha walls or roofs.

The households in the villages of Bengaluru Urban seem to be the poorest with one in two households holding BPL cards. Around a quarter of the households in Ahmedabad and Pune are BPL card owners, which seems to be suggest that poverty is much worse in the villages of Bengaluru Urban.


Large parts of Bengaluru Urban, Pune and Ahmedabad districts lie outside their city limits and have sizeable rural populations. Agriculture and farming activities are seen in these villages and they do place significant demands on the groundwater table for irrigation. Pune and Ahmedabad also have a lot of farms that are irrigated by canal water.

However, despite being close to metros, access to amenities is a mixed bag, especially in Bengaluru Urban. While all districts have good coverage of Anganwadis, access to closed drainage and regular electricity supply is middling in the villages of Bengaluru Urban and Pune.

Households in the villages of all these districts have poor access to good housing infrastructure, with only one in ten or eight households living in houses with kuchha roofs or walls. A quarter of the households in Pune and Ahmedabad are also holders of BPL cards while this number shoots up to 50% in Bengaluru Urban. Despite being close to major economic centres, the poverty levels in these villages is distressingly high, suggesting high concentration of the benefits of these cities and poor distribution around them, even within the districts.

In the case of Bengaluru Urban, the high rural population with much less cultivable area suggests small landholdings. It also indicates that large sections of the population are landless. This could explain the higher rate of poverty seen in the city. But it is in line with the large gulf seen between Bengaluru Urban and its neighbouring districts, where the fruits of the city’s economy stay within its city boundaries.