A Census town is a settlement that fulfils the criteria of being considered a town for the purposes of census, but has not been classified as an “Urban Area” by the state government. The criteria for being classified a census town are:
1. Population greater than 5000.
2. Population density greater than 400 persons per sq. Km.
3. At least 75% of the working population should be employed in non-agricultural sectors.
The number of census towns trebled from 1,362 to 3,894 during 2001-2011, accounting for 30% of the total rise in urban population of the country.
Census towns can boost India’s urbanization process as:
- They are “self-evolving”, meaning that the urbanization here can take place without migration and the associated ills of urbanization such as sprawls, slums etc.
- These towns are “marketplace towns”, having emerged as a result of better connectivity and rising incomes. Proper attention towards them can make them flourish as proper urban centres.
- These towns are internal-consumption driven, which means that they are not dependent on external factors and are thus resilient. They have private schools, hospitals etc which help in improving social indicators.
- Infrastructure demands in these towns arise not from government schemes such as Gram Sadak Yojana or Awas Yojana, but from private demand such as the aspiration for better houses and clubs and places of relaxation. This can boost private investment within India’s economy and pump up growth.
- Census towns can decongest the metropolis and help alleviate urban problems such as vehicular congestion, pollution, sub-standard sanitation, water woes etc. Governments have recognized this and initiated schemes such as RURal to urBAN Mission (RURBAN), Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) etc.
- Classification as urban centres can lead to establishment of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs), which can tax the residents and lead to revenue generation which will lead to further developmental works.
However, there are concerns regarding “Denied urbanization” wherein the state government denies urban status to these towns in order to avail central funding provided to village panchayats.
This also leads to unplanned, haphazard, and sometimes skewed development.
Governments must pay proper attention to these census towns if they want an inclusive, developed, and urbanized society as well as to mitigate the ills of present-day urbanization in the metros.