Category Archives: Press articles and quotations

Urban territories, rural governance

By Gopa Samanta in infochange (full text here)

West Bengal has the highest number of census towns among all the Indian states — with 528 villages reclassified as such in the last decade — but only 127 urban local bodies. The slow process of municipalisation means that most census towns, especially those with fast-growing industry, mining and commercial enterprises, are urban areas governed by gram panchayats. Such urban territories can become unregulated free-for-alls, with low taxes but haphazard development and poor infrastructure and services.

The ‘other’ urban India

By Partha Mukhopadhyay in infochange (full article here)

The most vibrant, people-driven process of urbanisation is occurring outside the large metropolises which dominate popular imagination. It is not directed by the state, as in Chandigarh and Bhubaneswar, nor developed by the private sector, as in Mundhra or Mithapur. It is the result of decisions about livelihood and residence made by thousands of individuals that coalesce to transform a ‘village’ into a census town.

Rethinking the rural

An article of The Indian Express (23 May 2013)

India is urbanising away from the big cities. This trend calls for policy changes, Say “rural India”, and the image that flashes in our minds is that of a buffalo tied outside a mud hut. After all, for most if not all of us, rural equals agriculture. Imagine the surprise, therefore, when told that while all agriculture by definition is rural, the converse is no longer true. Now only one-fourth of rural output comes from agriculture. Fifty-five per cent of India’s manufacturing output comes from rural India. Seventy-five per cent of all manufacturing plants that started in the last decade started in rural India.

K.C. Pradhan from the Centre for Policy Research estimates that in the last decade almost 30 per cent of the increase in urban population came from the reclassification of villages into new census towns. Add that to the natural population growth in cities/towns (that is, urban-dwellers having kids), and it would seem that the conventional view of urbanisation, that of a poor migrant worker sitting in a train moving to a city, is fast becoming outdated.

India’s census towns face a governance deficit

Governed by panchayats, it is impossible for them to get infrastructure, services a municipality would have provided

C. Chandramouli, who led Census 2011 as the Registrar General of India, compares the urbanizing census towns to early versions of the unplanned sprawl in Gurgaon, near Delhi, and other rapidly growing satellite cities. “You have these huge fancy buildings, but no sewerage or garbage systems, and you have not changed the characteristics of that local (administrative) body,” he said.
Most experts agree that the panchayat is not the ideal governing body for areas beyond a certain size, with a diverse labour market and a healthy consumer economy.
“The panchayat itself possesses no institution for getting any real development work done,” said Pronab Sen, principal adviser to the Planning Commission. “That resides with the state government. Villages have some funds from the state, which they can use for cleaning, desilting, fixing tube wells, but when we are talking about places that have all the characteristics of an urban area, like census towns, then you get into trouble. All of that stuff is simply not within the competence of panchayat.”

Cordelia Jenkins, Makarand Gadgil and Shamsheer Yousaf for live mint, 7th October 2012

Full article here

An ignored boom in India

It’s time to refashion policies keeping in mind India is urbanizing at a faster pace than estimates

Recently, Mint published a series on urbanization and small towns in India. It is also important to look at the analytic aspects of the process of urbanization and policies for it.
In the middle of the last decade we established what we called “large villages” which met the census criteria of towns that were not classified as urban areas by the government. This led to a pessimistic perception of urbanization by experts like Rakesh Mohan and Amitabh Kundu. We argued then that a part of this pessimistic perception might arise from settlements which are “urban” by census definitions but which are still not classified as “urban”. While the absolute differences on this account may be small, due to the nature of computational methods to arrive at population projections, in the end “small” absolute differences can lead to “large” end differences and may affect projections. These can lead to the wrong policy choices on urbanization.
Applying the census criteria of considering rural areas as non-statutory towns, to village-wise data of 2001 census, it was estimated that out of 18,539 populated villages of Gujarat, 122 villages were classified as non-statutory towns, which the Mint articles call census towns.

Yoginder K. Alagh for live mint, 7th October 2012

Full article here

Moving people and morphing places

New census towns have accounted for 30% of the reclassification from rural to urban in the last 10 years

Why do census towns matter? Their share of urban population has doubled in the last 10 years, but they still comprise only one-seventh of urban India. But they matter because their growth challenges many preconceptions and myths that equate urbanization to migration, municipalities to urban areas, villages to agriculture, and cities to manufacturing.

Census towns are not about moving people, they are about morphing places. In the last 10 years, the reclassification of population from rural to urban as a result of identification of new census towns is responsible for nearly 30% of the growth in the urban population, while migration appears to account for less, around 22%, with the rest being the normal natural increase in pre-existing cities.

By Partha Mukhopadhaya (CPR) for live mint, 7th October 2007

Full article here

Zero amenities, yet census towns hit the property jackpot

The land prices in Chandpur have risen 10-fold in the last decade

Census towns, with their low or non-existent rural property taxes and cheap land prices, are often attractive destinations for second home buyers, who are moving in and putting strain on land use and the village-level administration all over India.

Neral, in the Raigad district of Maharashtra, is another destination for second home buyers. The population of the hill station, which became a census town in 2001, has increased from 14,000 to more than 24,000 since then. Higher housing prices in Mumbai’s satellite towns of Kalyan, Ambernath and Panvel have pushed buyers further, according to Amita Bhide, associate professor of the urban planning centre at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Small- and medium-size industries, forced to move out of Mumbai due to stricter pollution controls, are swelling the population of sleepy villages on the periphery of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Bhide said.

Kishore Jain, a developer and builder in Neral, said that second home buyers and investors are not the only reason for this jump. “A few people are buying flats as second homes or for investment purposes, but the majority are buying with the intention to settle here, as property rates are within the budget of the common man,” Jain said.

However the population boom has put added strain on the water supply to the village, and the panchayat has had to ask for help from the state government to augment its resources.

Cordelia Jenkins, Anuja and Makarand Gadgil  for live mint – 04 Oct. 2012

The full article here

Led by census towns, migration mixes up urbanization

Census towns are largely the outcome of local populace forcing a change in their rural settings

“Kerala is a different story to the rest,” said Partha Mukhopadhyay, a senior research fellow at think tank Centre for Policy Research in Delhi. “There it’s desakota, the border between rural and urban is very hazy. The physical agglomeration was always there, but these were villages and so, from the census point of view, they were never part of an urban agglomeration. In the last 10 years, they have all reached that point and become urban.”

The term desakota (from the Indonesian words meaning village-city) describes a mix of agricultural and non-agricultural areas that sprawl in corridors between cities.

Boom in census towns

Population densities are high and labour is diverse—desakota are the perfect breeding grounds for census towns.

Census towns mimic statutory towns. While the latter are ordained by the state and hence acquires a governance mechanism through municipalities, census towns are largely an outcome of the local populace forcing a change in their rural settings.

In Kerala, with its pre-existing phenomenon of contiguity, this process has seen a natural acceleration in the last decade as people became more affluent, thanks to remittances from the Gulf, and the local economy prospered.

Not surprisingly then, Kerala saw the creation of 360 new census towns between 2001 and 2011, second only to West Bengal. According to Mukhopadhyay, the spurt of urbanization in the past decade in Kerala has been almost entirely powered by census towns. Their population is growing as migrants—from as far away as Assam, West Bengal and Orissa—move in.

Shamsheer Yousaf, Cordelia Jenkins and Anupama Chandrashekharan for live mint – 05 Oct. 2012

The full article here

New paths to urbanization, from farms to factories

Job creation in India’s census towns, though on a large scale, has not benefited everyone

The census towns that have emerged in the last decade, after experiencing rapid and often haphazard growth, are not evenly spread across India. In fact, two-thirds of them are concentrated in just six states: West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, in that order.

Partha Mukhopadhyay, a senior research fellow at think tank Centre for Policy Research in Delhi, differentiates between the types of growth.

“We are seeing two kinds of urbanization,” he said, “one is suburban sprawl, and the other is more organic growth of towns and villages.”

His colleague Kanhu Charan Pradhan agreed. “Census towns are a state-specific story,” said Pradhan, who is working on a draft paper on the subject.

As part of his research, Pradhan used Google Maps to plot the locations of the 2,500-odd census towns that emerged between 2001 and 2011 on a map of India. The visual effect is striking: dark clusters form around industrial towns such as Kolkata, Chennai and Ranchi; a dense impregnable line of “desakota” (high density, rural-urban agglomeration) runs down the Kerala coast, and smaller bursts appear around Hyderabad, Allahabad, Varanasi and western Uttar Pradesh.

“It’s in-fill development,” said Mukhopadhyay. “A lot of that is happening in Kancheepuram. Some areas just suddenly start to grow very rapidly; urbanization didn’t happen in Delhi, it happened in Gurgaon and Bangalore, and the villages nearby were swallowed. In Chennai, it’s the same.”

His theory is borne out by data. Of the 265 new census towns that have appeared in Tamil Nadu since 2001, 39 are in the northern district of Kancheepuram that borders Chennai and has the highest urban growth rate in the state—65.33% in 2001-2011.

Cordelia Jenkins, Anupama Chandrashekharan and Makarand Gadgil for live mint – 05 Oct. 2012

The full article here

Rurban India: The new consumer frontier

One consequence of the urbanization defined by the spurt in census towns has been changes in buying preferences

In a recent study, analytics company Nielsen charted the rise of the small-town consumer in India: “In a land of over 8,000 towns and 600,000 villages, where is demand the strongest?” the report asked. It found that value growth for packaged consumer goods was led by the smallest of small town consumers. “While middle India (100,000-1 million towns) leads the pack in same-store sales for the last three-year period, smaller towns with a population of 1 lakh and below have surged far ahead of the rest in 2011,” the report said. (…).

As a result, Bihar’s urbanization goes largely uncaptured by the census data, said Eric Denis, head of the social sciences department at the French Institute of Pondicherry, who worked on the e-Geopolis project (of which the Indian constituent, Indiapolis, attempts to map all settlements of over 10,000 people in the country using satellite imagery and census data). On Denis’s map, Bihar looks densely agglomerated, but, as the report notes, only 15% of the settlements shown on the map are officially designated as towns.

Cordelia Jenkins, Anupama Chandrashekharan and Anuja for live mint – 04 Oct. 2012

Full article here

A tale of many cities

The share of the urban population is less than a third of India’s population. But there are social scientists who seriously believe that the extent of urbanisation is much higher if conventional and new data sources are analysed “against the grain”. On the other hand, India is also considered to be “an extremely reluctant urbaniser”, according to the CEO and MD of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation. (…).

More importantly, while some census towns are, no doubt, concentrated around the big metropolises, more than four-fifths of these are situated outside the proximity of such cities. The process of spontaneous transformation of such settlements, thus, is widespread. “Subaltern urbanisation should result in vital smaller settlements outside the metropolitan shadow, indicating a pattern of urbanisation that is extensive, widespread, economically vital and autonomous,” states Mukhopadhyay in a joint paper with Eric Denis and Marie-Helene Zerah recently published in the Economic and Political Weekly.

By N Chandra Mohan: A tale of many cities for Business Standard 4th Oct. 2012

See the link

Decadal journeys: debt and despair spur urban growth

A Paper by P. Sainath from the Hindu, September 26, 2011. Some arguments, following his paper from the 25 September, which could explain the fact that urban population rise exceeds the rural rise: farming collapses and increase of footloose migration. These arguments are in contradiction with the main idea of Suburbin and don’t take into account the slow-down of the  metropolitan areas growth compared to the proliferation of small towns. See the link