Cities form focal points for a number of smaller settlements (including smaller urban places) around them. Together, the city and the dependant settlements constitute a functional region. All settlements within the city region interact with the city in many ways and this forms the basis of their inter-relationships. The city is usually looked upon as an entirely dependent on its surroundings, and less often as an independent unit. What is not so commonly understood is the fact that the city and the countryside are mutually interdependent and this relationship covers a wide range of physical, social and economic interactions. Further, the degree of interaction between the city and neighbouring settlements tends to decrease with distance. This general spatial phenomenon is known as ‘Distance Decay’ and has wide-ranging implications. Closely related to the above is the role of city in the socio-economic development of the region. While a city may either retard or promote growth in its surrounding region, in the post-colonial world, the city is often seen as a centre of development. DEPENDENCE VERSUS INDEPENDENCE It is often asserted that cities are somehow or other dependent on their surrounding regions for their existence and growth. In ancient times, a city emerged as a result of the surplus production of food and other basic necessities of life in the area. The city had a class of citizens, engaged in tertiary activities, who were dependent on the countryside for food. The city, therefore, could not exist without the countryside. In the modern world, cities still depend on the countryside to a considerable extent for the supply of milk, vegetables and even grain. In some cities in India these items come, not from immediate neighbourhoods, but from hundreds of miles away. The modern industrial city also depends on the countryside for raw materials of mineral or agricultural origin. Not all industries, however, are dependent for their raw materials on the countryside, and the dependence of the modern Indian city on the surrounding region is generally declining in importance. On the other hand, one might say that it is the region that is dependent on the city. The city in India today is the centre for a wide range of tertiary activities, and the countryside depends on the city for these services. Rural people come to the city daily for medical or educational facilities, for entertainment or for shopping. The city is the focal point for the distribution of a wide range of consumer goods- from clothing and footwear to electronic gadgets. The countryside is trapped in the process of modernisation and is, thereby, very dependent on the city for goods and services. The modern city is a centre of secondary and tertiary production, and for this it may not depend on the countryside at all. An industrial city may have no meaningful relationship with its surrounding areas. In the post- Independence period a number of such industrial cities and townships have emerged in different parts of India- the best examples being Rourkela in Orissa, Bhilai in Madhya Pradesh and Bokaro Steel City in Bihar.
In course of time, however, the interaction of industrial townships with the adjoining villages and towns does develop, in terms of employment of unskilled labour, the supply of milk and other perishable items and the supply of cheap housing for the low-paid employees of the city’s industrial establishments. When industrial cities are located in tribal areas, the city and countryside exist independently of each other. The tribal population cannot meaningfully interact with the industrial city without the basic features of the tribal way of life being destroyed, at least part of it. During the British period, the hill stations provided another form of towns independent of their surroundings. However, overtime, hill stations such as Shimla, Mussourie and Ootakamund have developed close relationships with the adjoining hill settlements. Complete independence of a city from its countryside is, therefore, a rare and temporary phenomenon. A more realistic and certainly the most common situations is one in which city and region are mutually interdependent. The city depends on the region for perishable items of food, for industrial raw materials, and as a market for its industrial products and tertiary services. The countryside depends on the city for non-agricultural employment, for sale of agricultural products and for various services and goods.