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.
By Neha Pranav Kolh & Krishna Kumar Dhote
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.
Debarshi Guin, Dipendra Nath Das
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.
Yacoub Zachariah Kuruvilla, TISS, School of Habitat Studies, Graduate Student
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.
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.
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.
By Kanhu Charan Pradhan (CPR) in EPW
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By KC Sivaramakrishnan (CPR)
Why we need to revisit the 74th Amendment
The National Panchayati Raj Day to mark the enactment of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment was observed on April 24 with due ceremony but little hype. Whatever the reasons for the celebration, even those are not available for the 74th Amendment dealing with municipalities.
From October 01 to 08 2012
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