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When we talk of densely populated cities in India, we usually think of the megapolises of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. But few would consider Kota—that supposedly small town in Rajasthan famous for its coaching classes, but also an industrial hub—which has made a surprise entry on the World Economic Forum’s list of most crowded cities in the world, based on data from UN Habitat. At the top of that list is Dhaka, followed by Mumbai, while Kota is at the seventh spot, above Singapore and Jakarta.
Kota stands out on the list which is otherwise populated by political or economic hubs. This points to an interesting phenomenon in the Indian urbanization story of “subaltern urbanization”. Defined by scholars Eric Denis, Partha Mukhopadhyay and Marie-Hélène Zérah as the “growth of settlements that are independent of the metropolis and autonomous in their interactions with other settlements, local and global”, these settlements are a reminder that, overall, India is a lot more urbanized than official data suggests.