Urbanization in India after Independence – Notes


There has been a steady growth in the size and proportion of the urban population as well as the number of urban centers in India since independence.

The process of urbanization in India since the beginning of this century also reveals a steady increase in the size of urban population, the number of urban centers and the level of urbanization, and a rapid rise since 1951. From 1951 to 2001, India’s urban population has more than tripled from 62.4 million to 285 million.

The number of urban centers (towns and urban agglomerations) increased from 2,843 in 1951 to 3,768 in 1991—an increase of 32.5 per cent. Similarly, the proportion of the population living in urban areas (level of urbanization) increased from 17.3 per cent in 1951 to 27.8 per cent in 2001.

Urbanization in India

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The annual growth rate of the urban population during 1991-2001 was 3.12 per cent, slightly more than that of the previous decade 1981-1991 (3.09%). Thus, it appears that the pace of urbanization has increased slightly in the recent years.

Trends in the growth of population in the six categories of urban areas reveal that the main increase in population since 1981 has been in Class I towns. The proportion of the Indian urban population living in Class I towns is steadily growing towards two-thirds of the total. Classes V and VI (below 10,000 population) have actually experienced a net loss of population during the decades 1981-1991 and 1991-2001.

In 2001, India had 35 million-plus cities with a total population of 107.8 million, accounting for 10.5 per cent of the country’s population. Thus, the urbanization process in India has essentially been the growth of large towns and metropolitan cities, at the cost of smaller towns and urban centers.