City and Urbanization

Urbanization is a socio-economic process by which an increasing proportion of the population of an area becomes concentrated into the towns and cities. The term is also defined as the level of population concentration in urban areas. The proc ess of urbanization increases both the number and size of towns and cities. Urbanization is the most significant phenomenon of the 20th century which has almost affected all aspects of the national life in India. Being the second most populous country in the world after China India’s fast growing urbaniza tion has a regional as well as world- ide impact.

India’s urban population constitutes a sizeable pro portion of the world’s urban population. This can be well corroborated from the fact that every 12th city dweller of the world and every 7th of the developing countries is the Indian. India has as many small towns (population 20,000-49,999) as in the United States as many as medium towns (population 50,000 – 99,999) as in the former Soviet Union; as many cities (population 100,000-499,999) as in the United States; and as many metropolises (population+500,OOO) as in Australia, France and Brazil combined.

India has a long radition of urbanization which has continued since the days of the Indus Valley civilization. According to an estimate the percentage share of urban population to total popu lation was higher in the last part of the 17th century in comparison to the last part of the 19th century. The development of cottage industries and tertiary ac tivities during the medieval period helped in the evolution of about 3,200 towns and 120 cities in the country around 1586 A. D. (Raza, M, 1985, p. 60).

The damage to this indigenous industrial structure during the colonialism gave a serious blow to the process of urbanization. The roots of the existing process of urbanization lie in Western model of factory industries which started developing in the country during the early part of the 20th century. Urbanization, in India, can be studied through Census data provided at a regular interval of 10 years since 1881 onwards. These data help us in analyzing the trends of growth in the urban popula tion, decennial increase, and urbanization and number towns during the 20th century.

At the time of the reliable Census taken in 1881 the urban population contributed 9. 3 per cent of the total population of the country. The growth-trend was sluggish and even negative in some decades (1911-21) due to outbreak of epidemic (plague) and natural calamities, trend of slow growth in urbanization continued unto 1931. The decade 1931-41 observed about 32 cent growth in the urban population which increase’ its share in total population to 14. 1 percent. The growth trend was further accelerated during the following decade which witnessed a decennial growth of 41. 2 per cent (Table 28. II) Raising the percentage share to 14. 1 . Here rehabilitation of refugees from Pakistan into cities played a significant role. During 1951-61 the growth trend as slowed down (26. 4 per cent) which contributed marginal increase (percent) in the urbanization ratio. It was due to change in the definition of urban places and declassification of 803 towns in 1961 Census. Since 1961 onward there has been steep rise in the urban population and urbanization ratio so as to reach its highest point during 1971-81 (decadal growth being 46. 2 percent and addition of record number of 900 new towns). This was the peak point in the urban growth of the country during the 20th century. The trend ot growth nas been slightly slowed down during 1981-91 (39. 32 per cent) and 1991-2001 (31. 8 per cent) which is a matter of serious study by urban geographers and urban sociologists. Causes may be many folds including increasing pollution, decreasing opportunities of employment and liveli hood in urban areas and development of new sources of livelihood in rural areas to reduce the flow of rural migrants.

Above description leads us to conclude that during the last 90 years of the 20th century the number of towns has increased by 144. 6 per cent? urban population by 140,23 per cent, and urbaniza tion ratio by 133,6 per cent. Industrialization con comitant with economic development and rural o urban migration has made significant contribution towards this phenomenal growth. But compared with developed countries this rate of urbanisation is still slower. Wulker has rightly observed that while in Western countries urbanization is expanding towards rural areas but in India rural life is influencing the urban areas.

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