While the Planning Commission flatly classifies the country into rural and urban categories, India is witnessing a rapid rise in the number of a relatively new kind of settlement – census towns – which figure in neither the rural nor the urban categories. The population count in 2011 showed that census towns have nearly tripled over the last decade, from 1,362 in 2001 to 3,894 in 2011.
Census towns, by definition, are settlements that possess a population over 5,000 and have lost the characteristics of a village – primarily agriculture as the principal occupation. However, they have not reached the ‘municipality level’ to deserve categorisation as statutory towns.
Census towns have now become a challenge to planners. “Our policies have been either for rural or urban areas. We lack an approach to such trishanku (middle world) areas,” Jairam Ramesh, union minister for rural development, said.
Ramesh’s ministry, which is responsible for developing rural areas, is attempting to reach out to such settlements – providing urban amenities through the Provision of Urban amenities in Rural Areas.
“The Planning Commission has, in principle, agreed to provide Rs. 1,500 crore in the 12th Plan, through which we can develop around 50 such areas,” he said.
Pilot projects are currently being implemented in Thrissur and Malappuram of Kerala, officials said, adding that half-a-dozen projects of the kind would also take off soon. The ministry is now inviting private players for the second batch of 10-15 pilot projects.
West Bengal tops the list of states with census towns, adding 528 such towns in 10 years, followed by Kerala with 362 towns. While the number of such settlements rose from 66 to 267 in Uttar Pradesh, it has gone up from 127 to 279 in Maharashtra. Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu added 135 and 265 census towns respectively.