Category Archives: Team Members Publications

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

La mesure de l’urbanisation au prisme de la question des petites villes

Une illustration de la méconnaissance de la diversité du monde urbain à travers l’exemple de l’Inde.

Rémi de Bercegol


Paris, 1er au 3 février 2012

A travers l’exemple de l’Inde, on propose une réflexion sur la difficulté à pouvoir appréhender le processus d’urbanisation : comment ce dernier est-il mesuré ? Que traduisent les chiffres officiels à propos de la réalité de ce processus ? Ne sont-ils pas aussi les produits d’une représentation imparfaite de la diversité du monde urbain ? Alors, quelles en sont les conséquences sur la planification urbaine et la gestion de la ville? Finalement, comment sciences et politiques se conjuguent dans la mesure et la production de la ville ?

Link to the paper

Unacknowledged Urbanisation: The New Census Towns of India

This is a CPR working paper written by Kanhu Charan Pradhan that you can download here.

Abstract: The unexpected increase in the number of census towns (CTs) in the last census has thrust them into the spotlight. Using a hitherto unexploited dataset, it is found that many of the new CTs satisfied the requisite criteria in 2001 itself; mitigating concerns of inflated urbanisation. The new CTs account for almost 30% of the urban growth in last decade, with large inter-state variations. They are responsible for almost the entire growth in urbanisation in Kerala and almost none in Chhattisgarh. Consequently, the estimated contribution of migration is similar to that in previous intercensal periods. Further, while some new CTs are concentrated around million-plus cities, more than four-fifths are situated outside the proximity of such cities, with a large majority not even near Class I towns,  though they form part of local agglomerations. This indicates a dispersed pattern of in-situ urbanisation. A growing share of urban population in these CTs is thus being governed under the rural administrative framework, despite very different demographic and economic characteristics, which may affect their future growth.

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

P. Sainath’s Articles in The Hindu -25 and 26 September 2011- on the 2011 Provisional Census Results: A Critical Comment

This is a Suburbin working paper written by Julien Bordagi from French Institute of Pondicherry. It is a critical comment of some of the conclusions from Sainath Hindu articles. It shows the significant role of the small towns in the urban growth during the last decade and the growth decline of the main metropolitan areas .

Download here.

Small towns, urban studies and India: literature review

These two working papers, have been written by Rémi de Bercegol.

The first one, highlights how the studies of small towns can help to the global understanding of urban area. The second focuses on the Indian literature and raises the question of the adequacy of urban policies in the case of small towns. See the link below (French Version only).

Small town and urban studies

Small Indian towns in the shadow of the greatest one

Estimates of Workers Commuting from Rural to Urban and Urban to Rural India: A Note

This is a IGIDR Working Paper written by S Chandrasekhar that you can download here.


This paper provides estimates of workers residing in rural (urban) India and commuting to urban (rural) areas for work. The estimates are based on National Sample Survey Organisation’s survey of Employment and Unemployment (2009-10). In 2009-10, a total number of 8.05 million workers not engaged in agriculture commuted from rural to urban areas for work while 4.37 million workers not engaged in agriculture commuted from urban to rural areas for work. It argues that the size of the rural and urban labour force should be adjusted to account for the workers who commute to a location different from their usual place of residence.

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