What is happening beyond large cities? Understanding census towns in India

Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi,  1 December 2017

By Kanhu Charan Pradhan from CPR, who was among the first scholars to highlight the specific role of Census Towns in the 2001-2011 period, draws on his earlier research to explain the role of census towns in understanding the pattern of urbanisation in India.

Beyond large cities, understanding census towns


By  Kanhu Charan Pradhan
Small towns, those with less than 100,000 population, account for 90 per cent of Indian cities and over 40 per cent of the urban Indian population. Understanding India is necessary to understanding global urbanisation, and this goes beyond the overwhelming attention given to metropolitan and large cities. Scholars at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi, have initiated a series of studies to understand the changing dynamics of small towns in India and their contribution to the process of urbanisation.

Impact of subaltern urbanisation


Coining the term ‘Subaltern Urba­nisation’ can be seen as polemical but it seeks to embody two important strands that shape a common thinking around the potential role of small towns.

First, it attempts to make small places intelligible in contrast to their current level of invisibility in India and at the international level. Second, it tries to think of small towns as sites endowed with some level of autonomy and agency while the dominant paradigm, in particular in the New Economic Geography school of thought, sees small urban spaces as dependent on large metropolitan economies.