Category Archives: Articles / papers

Dynamism and Fragility of the Non-metropolitan Development in India. The Kartarpur Example: A Small Cluster-city of Craft Woodworkers

de Bercegol, R., & Gowda, S.

Espaces et sociétés, 2017 (1), 147-170.


Urbanisation in India is usually perceived as the problem of huge metropolises. The focus of this paper is on small conurbations in which specific urban dynamics emerge and contribute also to the current urban transformations. One of them, Kartarpur, is a small cluster-city of craft woodworkers. It shows both the dynamism and the fragility of this non-metropolitan urbanisation. The remarkable expansion of a small furniture industry is linked with endogenous factors rooted in a specific territory, far away from metropolitan development schemes. The analysis shows how a territorial cluster of local craftsmen, putting together their traditional know-how, allowed the creation of a real added-value which is upset by current neo-liberal evolutions.

Urbanization and Spatial Patterns of Internal Migration in India

S Chandrasekhar, & Ajay Sharma

Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, May 2014
With an urbanization level of 31.16 percent in 2011, India is the least urbanized country among the top 10 economies of the world. In addition, unlike other countries, the transition of workforce out of
agriculture is incomplete. This coupled with jobless growth in recent years has contributed to an increase in certain migration streams. While rural-rural migration continues to be the largest in terms of magnitude, we also document an increase in two-way commuting across rural and urban areas. Further, there are a large number of short term migrants and an increase in return migration rate is also observed.

Urbanization and Spatial Patterns of Internal Migration in India. Available from: [accessed Aug 16, 2015].

Territorial Legends Politics of Indigeneity, Migration, and Urban Citizenship in Pasighat

Mythri Prasad-Aleyamma – full text here

Review of Urban Affairs, Economic & Political Weekly, Vol – XLIX No. 22, May 31, 2014

Exploring how the policy of protection of indigenous people works on the ground in Pasighat, a town in Arunachal Pradesh, this paper brings out the interlinkages between urban politics and indigeneity as an entitlement regime. Once boundaries are operationalised on the basis of territorial belonging, politics revolves around who is from a particular place and who is not. This has created opportunities for accumulation for the indigenous people through rents. The state simultaneously installs and destabilises this politics of indigeneity. The paper shows how the state and capital are implicated in the structures of enfranchisement that have historically shaped the town.


The Politics of Classification and the Complexity of Governance in Census Towns

by Gopa Samanta – full text here

Review of Urban Affairs, Economic & Political Weekly, Vol – XLIX No. 22, May 31, 2014

Spontaneous urbanisation through the transfer of capital from the agricultural sector to the commercial sector has given rise to a large number of census towns in West Bengal. These settlements are cases of denied urbanisation, where the territory takes an urban shape but infrastructure and services remain poor under rural local governments that lack resources. Some of these towns retain their census town status for decades, and basic services are neglected until they achieve urban status. Based on empirical research carried out in Singur, a census town in West Bengal, this paper looks at the nature of urbanisation in these towns and tries to trace the role of politics in controlling access to urban status. It also explores the complexity of governance in census towns and surrounding urban areas.

Patterns and Practices of Spatial Transformation in Non-Metros: The Case of Tiruchengode

Bhuvaneswari Raman – full text here

Review of Urban Affairs, Economic & Political Weekly, Vol – XLIX No. 22, May 31, 2014

Urban transformation in Tiruchengode town in Tamil Nadu has been predominantly driven by processes internal to it. It has been driven by growth of the town’s economy and the practice of entrepreneurs investing in land for capital accumulation. The process described in this paper reinforces the theories of subaltern urbanisation and in situ urbanisation. While the role of the town’s entrepreneurs, local landowners, and politics have been significant factors in shaping the evolution and development of its economy, the transformation story has also been shaped by supra-local flows of capital and labour from the region.

Articulating Growth in the Urban Spectrum

Partha Mukhopadhyay and Anant Maringanti – full text here

Review of Urban Affairs, Economic & Political Weekly, Vol – XLIX No. 22, May 31, 2014

In the last 10 years, the share of large million-plus cities in India in the total population has increased and not because of the growth of existing large cities, but because new million-plus towns have emerged – indicating that “near million” cities are a source of growth. The share of the population in towns below 1,00,000 has also grown, and within these smaller towns, the share of the population of census towns has increased from 19% to 36%. Growth, in short, is occurring across the urban spectrum – a reminder of the need to move away from metro-centricity (Bunnell and Maringanti 2010). These small towns are not simple settlements – their economy is multifaceted, politics knotty and social relations complicated. The papers in this issue of the Review of Urban Affairs highlight different aspects of this complexity.

The future of India’s urbanization

By Elfie Swerts, Denise Pumain & Eric Denis – Géographie-Cités, Paris

Futures, 2013

In 2050, urban India will be home to fourteen per cent of the world’s urban population. In less than thirty years, half of India’s population will have to cope with urban life and there will be tremendous transformation of landscape, economic structure and social life. In order to forecast India’s urban future, we assumed that secular and contemporary growth trajectories of all individual urban agglomerations are key drivers of future urbanization trends. We demonstrate that India’s city-system conforms to the distributed growth model and that its hierarchical distribution is evolving regularly. India’s plurisecular city-system fits well with the canonical model that describes universally the system dynamics. It shares common characteristics with several mature urban structures around the world. We show also that the location of the town has little influence on its growth trajectory. Nevertheless, individual trajectories can be classified, either by the secular trend of towns (1901-2011) or on the basis of the more recent genesis of the contemporary urban agglomerations landscape (1961 to 2011). These classifications are structured over time and space according to subsystems and regional specificities.

Unacknowledged Urbanisation: New Census Towns of India

By Kanhu Charan Pradhan (CPR) in EPW

Full text: Economic & Political Weekly – September 7, 2013 vol XLVIII no 36

The unexpected increase in the number of census towns (CT) in the last census has thrust them into the spotlight. The new CTs account for almost 30% of the urban growth in the last decade. The estimated contribution of migration is similar to that in previous intercensal periods. Further, the data indicates a dispersed pattern of in situ urbanisation, with the reluctance of state policy to recognise new statutory towns partly responsible for the growth of new CTs. A growing share of India’s urban population, living in these CTs, is being governed under the rural administrative framework, despite very different demographic and economic characteristics, which may affect their future growth.

The Logics and Realms of Small Town Territories. The Story of Tiruchengode

A paper by Bhuvaneswari Raman

in a new issue of Sarai Reader

Sarai Reader 09: Projections

Urban studies view city territories in general and small town ones in particular as projections of either the master plan or the market; territories that do not fit these logics are read through the lens of informality and illegality. Such readings eventually pose urban territories as problems to be fixed through better plans and strict implementation. Small towns are further assumed to be inward-looking enclaves of locally bound economy and politics, their growth shaped by metro city market logic…

Subaltern Urbanization in India

by Eric Denis, Partha Mukhopadhyay, and Marie-Hélène Zérah:

The concept of subaltern urbanisation refers to the growth of settlement agglomerations, whether denoted urban by the Census of India or not, that are independent of the metropolis and autonomous in their interactions with other settlements, local and global. Analysing conventional and new data sources “against the grain”, this paper claims support for the existence of such economically vital small settlements, contrary to perceptions that India’s urbanisation is slow, that its smaller settlements are stagnant and its cities are not productive. It offers a classification scheme for settlements using the axes of spatial proximity to metropolises and degree of dministrative recognition, and looks at the potential factors for their transformation along economic, social and political dimensions. Instead of basing policy on illusions of control, understanding how agents make this world helps comprehend ongoing Indian transformations.

Economic & Political Weekly, 2012 July 28, vol XLVII, n°52

In Between Rural and Urban: Challenges for Governance of Non-recognized Urban Territories in West Bengal

By Gopa Samanta (Department of Geography, The University of Burdwan)


A 2012 publication of the Department of Geography – Burdwan University

The paper focuses on the spatial pattern of urbanization in West Bengal which is changing in this century to a large extent and is being more diversified in character to become independent of metropolitan dominance. The overall pattern of urbanization in twentieth century was very much concentrated in and around Kolkata and Durgapur-Asansol urban-industrial agglomerations of the state. This pattern has started to be altered from the beginning of this century with new urban growth coming up in areas away from metropolitan dominance, which can be defined as ‘subaltern’ in nature.

The census 2011 has come out with some data sets on urban West Bengal, the fourth most populous state in India, which together put a big challenge before the State Government in the context of managing ‘non-recognized’ urban territories. The term ‘non-recognized’ is being used to mean the territories which have been declared as ‘urban’ by the Census of India but have not been declared as ‘statutory urban’ (Urban Local Bodies, shortly called ULBs) by the State. The list of such census towns are increasing in number at a very fast rate in West Bengal. Full paper here


Urban mobilities and the cycle rickshaw

This is a paper written by Gopa Samanta for Seminar (August 2012) on the mobility within small and medium towns and the role of cycle rickshaw:

“It is difficult to imagine Indian streets without rickshaws. Three major types of rickshaws – hand-pulled, cycle and auto – remain an indispensable form of mobility in Indian cities. Yet, planners and policy makers continue to see rickshaws as a nuisance on city streets, seeking to either control their number or ban them altogether. Commonly, in the process of city planning, two major arguments are often advanced”.

The full article here

Toward a Better Appraisal of urbanization in India

This paper  from Eric Denis and Kamala Marius-Gnanou, has been published on Cybergeo: European Journal of Geography in 2011. Last version is available online or you can download here a previous version.


Up to now, studies of urbanization in India have been based only on official urban figures as provided by the Census Surveys. This approach has inevitably introduced several avoidable biases into the picture, distortions further compounded by numerous regional inter-Census adjustments.
A much sounder option is now available in the Geopolis approach [], which follows the United Nations system of classifying as urban all physical agglomerates, no matter where, with at least 10,000 inhabitants.
Looked at from this standpoint, the Indian scenario exhibits all signs that, far from a major
demographic polarization led by mega-cities (as is commonly believed), what the country has been experiencing is a much-diffused process of urbanization. While 3,279 units were officiallycategorized as urban, the Geopolis criterion has identified 6,467 units—about twice as many—with at least 10,000 inhabitants. Again, in the matter of the rate of urbanization, the Geopolisyardstick places the figure at 37% for 2001, 10 points of percentage above the official estimate. In absolute terms, that difference accounts for 100 million inhabitants.
Apart from this fact, brought to light by both physical identification and gradation of the census units of all localities, and a study of the morphological profiles of individual agglomerates, a major finding relates to the greater spread of the country’s metro and secondary cities than had been believed up to now.
Yet another revelation thrown up by this study is that statistical and political considerations have obscured the emergence of small agglomerations of between 10,000 and 20,000 inhabitants. This omission can only be seen as a gap in the national policy on planning and urban development.
In other words, the country seems to be firmly headed toward an extended process of metropolitanization alongside diffused combinations of localized socio-economic opportunities, clusters, cottage industries, and market towns partially interlinked by developmental corridors.
It appears that, on the very wide and diverse Indian subcontinent, there have come into existence many sub-regional settings, which converge, overlap, and diverge, far indeed from adual model of modern versus traditional, urban versus rural, metro city versus small town.
This study of the distribution of today’s agglomerations and those emerging challenges the pertinence of the urban/rural divide as perceived through official eyes.