Tag Archives: urbanization

Circular Migration and Localized Urbanization in Rural India

Soundarya Iyer

Environment and Urbanization Asia – 8(1) 105–119, 2017

Internal migration is a major driving force for urbanization all over the world and is of concern in Asia due to its rising magnitude. Most studies on internal migration focus on the migrant in the process of migration and a large majority of studies are interested in understanding the conditions of the migrant at the destination for policy concerns. This article makes a case for studying the source of migration and the role that circular migration plays in processes of urbanization at the source of migration. This is particularly important in the context of the growing urbanization away from cities in India. Using the case of a dry land village in northeastern Karnataka, this article attempts to understand the role that circular migration for construction work to cities has in the process of localized urbanization in the village.

Selected Readings on Small Town Dynamics in India

Bhuvaneswari Raman, Mythri Prasad-Aleyamma, Rémi De Bercegol, Eric Denis, Marie-Hélène Zerah.

USR 3330 “Savoirs et Mondes Indiens” Working papers series no. 7; SUBURBIN Working papers series no. 2. 114 pages. 2015

This literature review aims at summarizing the state of knowledge related to small urbanised settlements. The significance of researching these localities can be inferred from the fact that a growing share of urban population lives in such agglomerations with a population above 10,000 and below 50,000 to 100,000 inhabitants. This fact is not limited to India and a large share of the urban population worldwide lives in small and medium cities, which are understudied. The same dearth of research applies to the Indian context, as will be evident in this review, despite the importance of the resilience of an urban system comprising a large number of small towns and the diversity of these settlements in terms of their economic base and their social structure. This literature review is structured around five themes: A) the first section lays out issues related to estimating the magnitude and sources of demographic growth in order to infer the contribution of small towns to urban dynamics; B) the second section on Small Towns: Sources of Growth explores the economic processes supporting the expansion of small towns, and debates the dominant vision of the relationship between urbanization and growth, as explained by the New Economic Geography; C) the third section focuses on the transformation of small town economies and social structures while examining practices of entrepreneurship, circulation of labour, social mobility as well as caste and gender inequalities; D) the fourth section on Land and territorial transformations focuses on the relation between property and entrepreneurship; and E) the last section on Governance makes sense of the literature on decentralization, government schemes, governance and the political economy of small towns. This review constitutes one of the steps undertaken within the Subaltern Urbanization in India project (www.suburbin.hypotheses.org) to bring back to the fore the research on small towns.

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

The future of India’s urbanization

By Elfie Swerts, Denise Pumain & Eric Denis – Géographie-Cités, Paris

Futures, 2013

In 2050, urban India will be home to fourteen per cent of the world’s urban population. In less than thirty years, half of India’s population will have to cope with urban life and there will be tremendous transformation of landscape, economic structure and social life. In order to forecast India’s urban future, we assumed that secular and contemporary growth trajectories of all individual urban agglomerations are key drivers of future urbanization trends. We demonstrate that India’s city-system conforms to the distributed growth model and that its hierarchical distribution is evolving regularly. India’s plurisecular city-system fits well with the canonical model that describes universally the system dynamics. It shares common characteristics with several mature urban structures around the world. We show also that the location of the town has little influence on its growth trajectory. Nevertheless, individual trajectories can be classified, either by the secular trend of towns (1901-2011) or on the basis of the more recent genesis of the contemporary urban agglomerations landscape (1961 to 2011). These classifications are structured over time and space according to subsystems and regional specificities.

Urbanisation beyond municipal boundaries

World Bank. 2013. Urbanization beyond Municipal Boundaries : Nurturing Metropolitan Economies and Connecting Peri-Urban Areas in India.

The report is organized into three chapters: chapter two looks at the pace and patterns of India’s urbanization, providing a 100-year perspective on demographic shifts and a 20-year perspective on the spatial distribution of jobs across India’s portfolio of settlements. The review is based on a careful, spatially detailed analysis of data from economic and demographic censuses, annual surveys of industry, national sample surveys, and special surveys of freight transport. This chapter provides diagnostics on whether Indian industry is adequately exploiting agglomeration economies and whether there are hints of specific barriers to the natural tendency of standardized industry to reshuffle from large metropolitan areas to smaller urban areas. Chapter three examines specific policy issues and investment bottlenecks that are curbing the pace and benefits of urbanization in India. The policy issues relate to land markets and housing, connectivity (within and between cities), and access to basic services. The purpose of this analysis is to unravel the specific distortions that may be preventing India from reaping the entire range of benefits of urbanization. Chapter four provides some options for policy reform, distilling lessons from relevant international experience. It provides options for establishing the ‘rules of the game’ that can define the workings of land and property markets as well as coordination of land use and infrastructure in cities. This chapter also provides a framework for policy makers to identify the role of regulatory and price reform in expanding infrastructure services and to make investments that enhance capacity.

Subaltern Urbanization in India

by Eric Denis, Partha Mukhopadhyay, and Marie-Hélène Zérah:

The concept of subaltern urbanisation refers to the growth of settlement agglomerations, whether denoted urban by the Census of India or not, that are independent of the metropolis and autonomous in their interactions with other settlements, local and global. Analysing conventional and new data sources “against the grain”, this paper claims support for the existence of such economically vital small settlements, contrary to perceptions that India’s urbanisation is slow, that its smaller settlements are stagnant and its cities are not productive. It offers a classification scheme for settlements using the axes of spatial proximity to metropolises and degree of dministrative recognition, and looks at the potential factors for their transformation along economic, social and political dimensions. Instead of basing policy on illusions of control, understanding how agents make this world helps comprehend ongoing Indian transformations.

Economic & Political Weekly, 2012 July 28, vol XLVII, n°52

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

Urban India 2011: Evidence Report

A publication of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements

India’s urban transition, a once in history phenomenon, has the potential to shift the country’s social, environmental, political and economic trajectory – a transition to be reckoned with. IIHS originally produced this book for the India Urban Conference: Evidence and Experience (IUC 2011), a series of events designed to raise the salience of urban challenges and opportunities in the ongoing debate on India’s development. The Urban India 2011: Evidence also marks the initiation of a series of thematic Urban Atlases in collaboration with leading scholars and practitioners.


Emerging Pattern of Urbanisation in India

A Paper by R. B. Bhagat

Economic and Political Weekly                        August 20, 2011 vol XLVI no 34.

First published results of the 2011 Census show that the level of urbanisation increased faster during 2001-2011 than the previous decade.

This paper purposes a personal reading of the observed new trends in urbanisation, the components of urban growth and a state level analysis.


Toward a Better Appraisal of urbanization in India

This paper  from Eric Denis and Kamala Marius-Gnanou, has been published on Cybergeo: European Journal of Geography in 2011. Last version is available online or you can download here a previous version.


Up to now, studies of urbanization in India have been based only on official urban figures as provided by the Census Surveys. This approach has inevitably introduced several avoidable biases into the picture, distortions further compounded by numerous regional inter-Census adjustments.
A much sounder option is now available in the Geopolis approach [www.e-geopolis.eu], which follows the United Nations system of classifying as urban all physical agglomerates, no matter where, with at least 10,000 inhabitants.
Looked at from this standpoint, the Indian scenario exhibits all signs that, far from a major
demographic polarization led by mega-cities (as is commonly believed), what the country has been experiencing is a much-diffused process of urbanization. While 3,279 units were officiallycategorized as urban, the Geopolis criterion has identified 6,467 units—about twice as many—with at least 10,000 inhabitants. Again, in the matter of the rate of urbanization, the Geopolisyardstick places the figure at 37% for 2001, 10 points of percentage above the official estimate. In absolute terms, that difference accounts for 100 million inhabitants.
Apart from this fact, brought to light by both physical identification and gradation of the census units of all localities, and a study of the morphological profiles of individual agglomerates, a major finding relates to the greater spread of the country’s metro and secondary cities than had been believed up to now.
Yet another revelation thrown up by this study is that statistical and political considerations have obscured the emergence of small agglomerations of between 10,000 and 20,000 inhabitants. This omission can only be seen as a gap in the national policy on planning and urban development.
In other words, the country seems to be firmly headed toward an extended process of metropolitanization alongside diffused combinations of localized socio-economic opportunities, clusters, cottage industries, and market towns partially interlinked by developmental corridors.
It appears that, on the very wide and diverse Indian subcontinent, there have come into existence many sub-regional settings, which converge, overlap, and diverge, far indeed from adual model of modern versus traditional, urban versus rural, metro city versus small town.
This study of the distribution of today’s agglomerations and those emerging challenges the pertinence of the urban/rural divide as perceived through official eyes.