Tag Archives: 2011 census

‘Census Towns’ in India and what it means to be ‘urban’: Competing epistemologies and potential new approaches

Sircar, Srilata


The classification of 2 532 new settlements in the Census of India 2011 as ‘urban’, and specifically as ‘Census Towns’, has brought small and emerging urban centres back into the purview of urban studies and urban development in India. Taking this to be a point of entry, this article seeks to explore how the urban has been framed and approached from different and competing epistemological standpoints in the Indian context. First, it attempts to outline the different epistemologies of the urban in India, which may be seen as competing traditions because of the unequal stakes they have claimed so far in public and policy discourse. Then, it presents two brief case studies of Census Towns from the state of West Bengal to put forth new questions in this regard. The case studies illustrate significant gaps and discrepancies between the lived experience of the urban and its representation in dominant epistemological frameworks such as the official census. I argue that the historical development of various settlement systems, which constitutes the core narrative of urbanization in India, cannot be understood in all its complexity through mere census extracts or aerial images, but requires engagement with rich, embedded epistemologies that have taken shape within these settlements.

Rurban Centres: The New Dimension of Urbanism

By Neha Pranav Kolh & Krishna Kumar Dhote

Procedia Technology, Volume 24, 2016, Pages 1699–1705

Abstract: In recent years urbanization has become synonym to development. Developing countries like India has experienced huge shift in the economy from agrarian base to service oriented employment. Indian cities unlike the western are not planned; they evolve in layers as a testimony to different period. The settlement may be organic, with heterogeneity yet very well reflects the interwoven social fabric. As a result of urbanization the urban sprawl is approaching the rural hinterlands. The line of distinction is fading away between urban and rural. A new type of settlement is emerging which once termed as conurbation by the Scottish planner Patrick Geddes. The area with diffusion of urban and rural activities is termed as RURBAN. These rurban centres are new emerging towns that are governed by rural local bodies, the activities possess in these areas are urban in nature. The paper attempts to develop a understanding of issues and challenges, possibilities and potential and development guidelines for this upcoming new centres of urban growth.


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: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/276431141_Urbanization_and_Spatial_Patterns_of_Internal_Migration_in_India [accessed Aug 16, 2015].

New Census Towns in West Bengal: ‘Census Activism’ or Sectoral Diversification?

Debarshi Guin, Dipendra Nath Das

Economic & Political Weekly, April 4, 2015 vol l no 14

West Bengal’s agrarian distress-driven increase of rural non-farm activities in the 1990s caused the unprecedented emergence of new census towns in the 2011 Census. However, because of the huge increase of agricultural labourers (in 2011), many new census towns might be reclassified as villages for the next census in 2021.

Farm to Non-Farm: Are India’s Villages “Rurbanising”?

Pranav Sidhwani, Centre for Policy Research, CPR URBAN WORKING PAPER, November 2014

he process of urbanization in terms of workforce patterns is largely considered to be unidirectional – increasing engagement of the workforce in non-agricultural occupational pursuits. Using a unique database matching Census data on rural settlements for 2001 and 2011, this paper shows that this process is not straightforward and is characterised by considerable variation and unpredictability. This poses several questions regarding policy implementation, and particularly, on where the focus of the government’s ‘RURBAN’ initiatives should be.

Census Towns in Kerala: Challenges of Urban Transformation

Yacoub Zachariah Kuruvilla, TISS, School of Habitat Studies, Graduate Student

Access to the paper

Abstract: This paper reviews the growth of urbanisation in Kerala with a special focus on census towns in Kerala using census data from 1961-2011 and State urbanisation report of the department of town planning. Kerala registered a massive increase in urbanisation from 25 per cent in 2001 to 47 percent in 2011. Major contribution of this increase was due to increase in number of census towns which are not governed by urban local governments. Census has defined census towns as ‘places that satisfy three fold criteria of population of 5000, 75 per cent of male main working population engaged in non-agricultural pursuits and density of  400 persons per sq.km. They can be easily defined as transitional urban areas at various levels of transition which is also known as urbanisation by implosion, where massive density of population, economic change and access to good level of public services leads to urban growth. In Kerala the growth of census towns can be attributed to improvement of transport facilities, massive decline of the male workforce in agriculture and related activities along with shift to tertiary sector. The paper highlights several challenges of planning and governance of census towns in Kerala such as spatial planning, waste management, traffic and transport management and use of centrally sponsored schemes. The paper concludes with the suggestion that institutional transition from village panchayats to town panchayats along with a proper legal framework may be reauired to deal with the challenges of this urban transformation.

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.

Exclusionary Urbanization and Changing Migration Pattern in India: Is commuting by workers a feasible alternative?

By Ajay Sharma, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research

Paper presented at the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population Conference, 2013, Busan (Korea)

paper: available here

For developing countries including India, United Nations projections of urban population have been on the higher side. Based on such estimates, it was conjectured that India would witness a large migration from rural areas. Yet, during 2001-11, nationally representative surveys did not record large increase in rural-urban migration. Hence, the share of urban population increased marginally from 27.8 to 31.1 percent over 2001-2011. This increase however masks important undercurrents.
Two predominantly urban states of India and few important urban agglomerations reported their lowest ever population growth rate over the period 2001-11 while Mumbai recorded an absolute decline in its population. Since lower total fertility rate cannot explain this phenomenon, two plausible explanations are out-migration from cities and reduced rate of in-migration to cities (Kundu 2012). With cities unwelcoming and anemic employment growth in rural India, an alternative, albeit effective livelihood strategy (where feasible) is commuting daily from rural to urban areas for work. Nearly 12.5 million workers cross the rural-urban boundary for work every day while 12.2 million workers report not having a fixed place of work. Such movement of workers is fast developing as an important and new channel of interaction between the rural and urban

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.

Exclusionary cities: The exodus that wasn’t

By Amitabh Kundu in infochange (full article here)

Yes, the urban population increased more in absolute terms during 2001-11 than rural population. But, no, this is not because distressed agricultural workers are pouring into cities. It’s because census activism has tripled the number of urban centres in Census 2011. In fact, exclusionary policies are discouraging the inflow of rural poor into the mega cities.

Trends In Growth of Urban Population

Highlights From Census Of India 2011

By Dr C Chandramouli, PPT Presentation
Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India
15th March 2013

Procedure for Identifying Urban Areas:

  1. Prior to Census an elaborate exercise is undertaken to identify Urban Areas
  2. Updated list of villages and towns prepared after incorporating the jurisdictional changes that have taken place after 2001 Census and up to 31st December 2009
  3. Identification of Census Towns carried out by applying the urban criteria to all villages including Census Towns and Out Growths of Census 2001
  4. The Census Towns are not declassified if they fail to meet the criteria on the basis of Census 2011.

Housing Stock, Amenities & Assets in Slums – Census 2011

by Dr C. Chandramouli, a PPT presentation

Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India

“In all 1.73 crore census houses have been reported in houselisting blocks, categorised as slums in India, comprising 1.37 crore slum households.

In 19 cities with million-plus population, 25 per cent of households live in slums.

A majority-71 per cent- of these are located in six states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

90 per cent of slum households use electricity, 70 per cent slum households have television, 72.7 per cent have telephone facility while 10.4 per cent households have computer or laptop in their house.

In 2001, there were 23.5 per cent of households in urban areas which were living in slums. It has now come down to 17.4 per cent. But there are still 17.35 million slum houses, 13.74 million slum households and we have 68 million people living in the slum areas as 2011 census.


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


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