How are urban areas defined in India according to the census of India

The term 'urban' is related to town or cities. Unlike in rural areas here majority of the employed inhabitants are engaged in non agricultural activities and it is endowed with large nucleated settlements and industries. Urban areas may be defined by national governments based on their own criteria for example size, population density, occupation of people and type of local government. The multidimensional character of urban areas posed hindrance in giving a precise definition for them. The census of India until 1951 defined an urban settlement based on municipalities and the population of area. The 1961 census adopted a strict definition which is modified in 1971 census to treat all places satisfying the following conditions as towns:-

  1. All municipal corporations, municipal boards, cantonments and notified areas.
  2. All localities though not in themselves local bodies but forming part of a city or town agglomeration.
  3. Other places satisfying all three following conditions.Population exceeds 5,000

  • At least 75 per cent of the male working population engages in non agricultural pursuits
  • The density of population exceeds 400 persons per square km.
  • In 1981 census some minor changes were incorporated whereby livestock, forestry, fishing, hunting, plantations, orchard etc. were treated as agricultural activity and places having distinct urban characteristics and physical amenities like industrial area, special project area, large housing colonies, places of tourist interest, railway colonies, etc could be regarded as towns at the discretion of the Director of Census operations in consultation with the concerned state governments.

All towns and urban agglomerations, so identified, are grouped into following six classes according to population size:

Class I: population of 100,000 and above
Class II: population of 50,000 to 99,999
Class III: population of 20,000 to 49,999
Class IV: population of 10,000 to 19,999
Class V: population of 5,000 to 9,999
Class VI: population less than 5,000

Any urban area with population exceeding 1,00,000 is called a city.
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