ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Predicting the Future of Census Towns

Shamindra Nath Roy, Kanhu Charan Pradhan

The 2011 Census highlighted the enormous growth of census towns, which contributed more than one-third of the urban growth during 2001–11. Since the rural–urban identification process in India is ex ante, using past census data, the number of CTs that will be identified in 2019 for the 2021 Census are estimated. The present study finds that the importance of CTs will be maintained in the urban structure, and a significant share of urban population will continue to grow beyond municipal limits. The influence of large towns on the growth of CTs will be persistent in the future, but a more localised form of urbanisation is also evident where the effect of agglomeration is less. Such a pattern may be stable because these places are relatively more prosperous than their rural counterparts.

This paper has been written as a part of the India–Urban Rural Boundaries and Basic Services (IND–URBBS) Project and is a revised and abridged version of a Centre for Policy Research working paper. The authors thank Partha Mukhopadhyay for his invaluable inputs while writing this paper. The authors also thank the anonymous referee for detailed comments that they have tried to incorporate.

The surge in the number of census towns (CTs) in the 2011 Census has drawn a lot of attention to the dynamics of this in situ pattern of urbanisation in India. The number of CTs grew from 1,362 in 2001 to 3,892 in 2011, along with a higher growth of urban population than the previous decades.1 The contribution of the new CTs to overall urban growth rose from a mere 6% in 1991–2001 to 35% in 2001–11. It was also the second largest component of urban growth after the natural increase in population.2 Other than their contribution to urban growth, the share of CTs to urban population rose to 14.4% in 2011 from 7.4% in 2001. The new CTs also contributed significantly to the spatial structure of large urban agglomerations (UAs), as 70% of the peripheral growth in the million-plus UAs was attributed to them. Hence, the broader picture of urbanisation in the recent decade was much influenced by the dynamics of CTs, and there was a greater emphasis on understanding and acknowledging the diversity of urban systems in the country (Denis et al 2012; Pradhan 2013, 2017; Samanta 2014). However, a lot of the recent work on CTs—which constitutes quantitative as well as field-based evidence—does not expect this structure to persist in the long run, owing to the instability of male non-farm workforce in these areas (Guin and Das 2015; Chakraborty et al 2017).

The present study is placed in the context of this broader debate on the future of CTs in India. As the rural–urban classification process in the census is ex ante and the urban frame for the upcoming census is likely to be prepared during 2019–20, this is a suitable time to identify the villages of the 2011 Census that can be classified as CTs in the upcoming Census of 2021. This exercise is important to check whether the large increase in the number of CTs from the 2001 to the 2011 Census is restricted only to that time period, or whether it is part of a temporally consistent process of rural–urban transformation. There are three main focus areas of this study. First, it discusses the difficulties and methodological inconsistencies associated with defining and classifying urban in India. It highlights how each of these issues affect the estimation of urban population. The second part discusses the prediction methodology of the upcoming CTs and attempts to see how the urban structure will be in the upcoming census. It also discusses briefly the regional distribution of the upcoming CTs. The third section studies the spatial nature of urbanisation, based on the spatial characteristics of existing and upcoming CTs in relation to large urban areas.

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Updated On : 15th Dec, 2018
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