Home / Politics / Policy /  How census towns drive India’s urbanization

Across India, villages are getting urbanized. One measure of this comes from the census. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of census towns increased from 1,362 to 3,894. Census towns are areas that are not defined as a town by state governments but have urban characteristics (a minimum population of 5,000, at least 75% of the male main working population in the town engaged in non-agricultural activities, and a population density of at least 400 persons per square kilometre)

In a new paper published in the Economic and Political Weekly, Prem Kumar explores the factors driving this urbanization by focusing on the emergence of census towns across India and especially in Uttar Pradesh. Between 1981-2001, the number of census towns in Uttar Pradesh increased from 26 to 267.

Kumar suggests that the emergence of census towns is a result of people in rural areas shifting from agriculture to non-agricultural sectors such as construction, trade and manufacturing. In Uttar Pradesh, around half of the census towns are small (less than 5 square kilometres), located at the outskirts of major cities and do not specialize in any commodity. These towns have emerged as a result of increased rural demand and acts as marketplaces for the neighboring villages. In contrast, the other half of census towns have are centred around the manufacturing of a single good.

Kumar argues that India’s rural-urban transformation cannot be generalized since different settlements display differences in terms of employment, agricultural status and proximity to cities. He suggests that these areas need to be treated as urban centres and come under the ambit of urban governance.

Also read: Census Towns in Uttar Pradesh: Understanding the Transformation of Rural Economy into Urban Economy

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