Mumbai: Maharashtra has the highest number of people living in urban areas, but it ranks below states including Tamil Nadu and Kerala in terms of urban population as a percentage of total population, according to the latest census.
There are 5.08 crore people living in urban areas in Maharashtra, or 45.23% of the state’s population, a statement from the government’s Press Information Bureau said.
In Tamil Nadu, 48.45% people live in urban areas, while in Kerala, the urban population is 47.72%.
Maharashtra’s urban population has grown at 23.7% and rural population at 10.3%, compared with national growth rates of 31.8% and 12.2%, respectively.
Raigad district, neighbouring capital Mumbai, has seen the highest growth in urbanization at 81.89%.
The district has a population of 2,635,394, of which 36.63% people live in urban areas.
Two districts in eastern Vidarbha that are affected by Naxalite violence, Gadchiroli and Gondia, saw the second and third highest growth rates in urban population—75.34% and 57.36%, respectively.
“Raigad’s growth can be easily explained due to its proximity to Mumbai,” said Amita Bhide, associate professor at Tata Institute on Social Science and an expert on urbanization. “Parts of Navi Mumbai, like Kharghar, Panvel, etc, are part of Raigad district and in the last few years Navi Mumbai has seen phenomenal growth.”
Raigad district is also home to many large chemical, petrochemical, steel and other industrial projects, contributing to its urban growth, she said.
Shrinivas Khandewale, a former dean of Nagpur University’s department of business administration, said Gondia and Gadchiroli are newly-created districts where government offices are still being set up. Recently, a new university was also created in Gadchiroli, called Gondwana University. The district headquarters are thus witnessing population growth.
Gondia is a major commercial town in the eastern Vidarbha region, with a large number of rice mills and beedi factories that attract labourers from neighbouring states, including Chhattisgarh. It is former civil aviation minister Praful Patel’s hometown, and during his tenure an aviation training academy was set up here.
A power plant and steel mill are also coming up in the district, with the beginning of mining in Tumsar, Tiroda and Amgaon areas, said Yogesh Dudhpasare, a professor of economics at a college in Chandrapur district who is pursing doctoral research on issues related to urbanization.
“One can explain growth in Gondia, but one really needs to examine data about Gadchiroli thrown up (by) the census before drawing any conclusions,” Dudhpasare said.