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 process 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 urbanization has a regional as well as world-wide impact. India's urban population constitutes a sizeable proportion 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+500,000) as in Australia, France and Brazil combined.
India has a long tradition 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 population 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 activities 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 population, 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 41.42 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 was 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 46.02 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 of growth has been slightly slowed down during 1981-91 (39.32 per cent) and 1991-2001 (31.48 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 livelihood 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 urbanization ratio by 133,6 per cent. Industrialization concomitant with economic development and rural to 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.
On the basis of the above description three distinct phases may be identified in the trends of Indian urbanization during the 20th century:
This includes the early part of the 20th century (1901-31) in which famines, epidemics and high mortality in population restricted the decadal urban growth to less than 1 per cent (sometimes even negative growth). During these three decades the urban population grew at an average annual rate of 0.98 per cent and percentage share of urbanisation at a rate of 0.36 per cent per annum.
This includes the period between 1931 and 1961. The year 1931 marks a significant demographic divide in the history of urban growth in the country. during this period urban population of the country grew by 45.46 million (135.86 per cent) and urbanization ratio from 12.2 per cent to 18.3 per cent (50 per cent). This was the beginning of the era of planned development in the country through Five Year Plans which led to the establishment of a number of big industries on modern lines. This provided sound base for urban development.
After 1961 due to the stabilization of the economic development the urban development got momentum. Consequently the urban population of the country increased from 78.93 million in 1961 to 217.2 million in 1991 showing a percentage growth of 175.2 per cent. The number of urban centers increased by 1990 (73.7 percent), and urbanization ratio by 7.4 per cent (40.43 per cent) during the same period.
This growth is significant from the point of view that it is much higher than the rate of natural increase; annual growth rate being 3.93 and 2.38 per cent respectively. Infect the country is passing through the phase of urban explosion as a result of which urban centers have become the hub of economic activities and are generating great pull over the rural population.
At state-level Manipur has recorded highest increase in urbanization ratio (19.01 per cent) during 1961 -91 followed by Nagaland (12.09), Kerala (11.33) and Maharashtra (10.51 per cent). On the other hand Himachal Pradesh (2.36 per cent), West Bengal (2.94), Assam (3.71), Bihar (4.75) and Sikkim (4.90 per cent) have observed much lower increase than the national average (7.42 per cent).
Census of India 1971, Part II-A, General Population Tables.
Bose, A., 1991: Demographic Diversity of India, 1991 Census, B.R. Pub. Corp., Delhi Census of India 2001.
Although, the average size of an urban center was in the neighborhood of 65,000, yet over 65 per cent of the country's urban population lived in Class
I towns, each housing more than 100, 000 inhabit- having a population of more than 50,000. The real Ants (cf. 22.93 per cent in 1901). There were 300 3,052 remaining urban centers with population such urban centers in India housing 6 out of every 10 smaller than the average size of an urban centre urban dwellers of the country.
Class II and III towns the country which together contribute less than] numbering 345 and 944 respectively only contribute per cent of the country's urban population. Among 10.95 and 13.19percentofthecountry'stotal urban these class V and VI towns numbering 938 ski population. Thus over 76 per cent of the country's only 2.89 per cent of the countries total urban population lives in 645 urban centers each population