There are 2,231 villages that are likely to be declared new census towns for the upcoming census, says a recent study by the Centre for Policy Research (CPR).
Census towns are an anomaly that burst into the limelight during the last census in 2011. They are settlements which are larger (at least 5,000 people) and denser (at least 400 people per sq. km) than most villages, with at least three-fourths of their male population not working in agriculture. They are still governed like villages by rural panchayats, unlike statutory towns which are governed by urban local bodies (ULBs).
The census has been tracking this phenomenon since 1961. But their growth was relatively low, touching 1,362 census towns by 2001. However, in the 2011 census, there were 2,600 new census towns, taking the total to almost 4,000. West Bengal has the most, with Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh also having large numbers.
In a working paper published by the CPR earlier this month, Shamindra Nath Roy and Kanhu Charan Pradhan have used the past census data to predict that this growth will continue, with 2,231 new census towns likely to be declared before the next census.
“They [government] are likely to make an official determination of census towns by 2020,” said Kanhu Charan Pradhan, one of the authors of the paper published by CPR earlier this month.
In May 2016, the Union Ministry of Urban Development had written to the States, recommending that they convert all identified census towns into statutory ULBs in order to promote planned urban develop- ment. However, the CPR researchers warn that across-the-board conversion into ULBs could hurt more than it helps. “Often, census towns are actually better governed than smaller statutory towns,” said Mr. Pradhan.
Will census towns continue their growth trend in future decades, or will the phenomenon dwindle as India comes to terms with its blurring rural-urban divide? Hard to predict since, “There is no stability of employment,” he says, pointing out that rural jobs generation is not steady enough in many areas to permanently move populations away from agriculture.