That a considerable section of West Bengal's population is increasingly opting for the non-agricultural way of life resulting in rapid urbanisation in each of the 19 districts of the State is substantiated by provisional data of Census 2011 released by the State's Directorate of Census Operations here.

The data shows that since 2001 there has been a huge increase in urban centres across the State against a decline in the number of villages.

The decadal growth of urban population in West Bengal has been found to be a shade higher than the national average. While the national average is 31.16 per cent, the decadal growth rate in the State is 31.89 per cent.

“A sharp rise of the number of ‘census towns' since 2001 is a clear indication that people from rural backgrounds are increasingly discarding agriculture as a livelihood option and opting for more urban alternatives. A census town is defined as a semi-urban centre with a minimum population of 5,000 people, a population density of 400 persons per sq km and where over 75 per cent of the male population is engaged in non-agricultural activities,” said the Director of the State Directorate of Census Operations, Dipak Ghosh.

The number of such ‘census towns' has gone up from 255 in 2001 to 780 now and the number of towns has increased from 378 to 909. Meanwhile, the number of villages has come down from 40,782 in 2001 to 40,203 in 2011.

Interestingly, the number of ‘census towns' had come down from 266 in 1991 to 255 in 2001.

While the provisional data of the State's total population (91,347,736) was already made public in April, the directorate has announced the rural and urban break-up of the figure now. According to it, 62,213,676 (68.11 per cent) of the State's population resides in rural areas and 29,134,060 (31.89 per cent) lives in urban areas. While the rural population has grown by only 7.73 per cent since 2001, the urban population has leapt up by 29.90 per cent in 10 years with each of the 19 districts showing a higher population growth in urban areas.

Malda district has recorded the highest decadal growth rate in urban areas at 129.07 per cent and Howrah district has shown the lowest decadal growth rate in rural areas at (-)16.22 – both indicating cases of rapid urbanisation.

However, in spite of the burgeoning trend of urbanisation, 91.64 per cent of Bankura district's population, 89.75 per cent of Cooch Behar district's population and 88.35 per cent of Purba Medinipur district's population still live in rural areas though the percentages have come down considerably.