The word urban underlies a basic theme. One that its population size is larger than its rural counterpart, two that its size is definitely larger and three that its functions are varied. Function is probably the most important criterion to define a town. The other criteria are population size and population density. Different countries have different parameters to explain an urban space. India has one too.

In India, the criteria for identifying urban places kept changing with time. The frequent changes in the criteria reflected the basic problem of identifying urban places and the issue could not be settled till 1981.

In India, urban areas are given different administrative status by different state governments. The conferring of this status depends on the state-level Municipal and Local Bodies Acts. A place has to satisfy all the three Census criteria in order to be designated as an urban place even if the requirements are criticised by some to be vague, rigid and conservative.

The 1981 Census defined an urban place as:
(A) a place with a municipality, corporation, or cantonment, or notified town area
(B) any other place which satisfied all the following criteria:(i) a minimum population of 5,000;
(ii) at least 75 per cent of the male working population engaged in non-agricultural; and,
(iii) a density of population of at least 400 per square kilometre or 1,000 persons per square mile.

At present, we have 35 million cities (2001 census) in India and 27.8 percent of our people live in the towns and cities.

Many eminent scholars have studied the intricacies of a city and have proposed some unique findings. It was J. Gottman who first coined the term Megalopolis. This city was envisaged to have a population size over 35 million people. G. Sjoberg in his book ‘The Pre-Industrial City’ examined the structure of urban settlements both in Europe and elsewhere in the world, prior to the impact of large-scale industrialization. Then there were many more like Harvey, Peet, Pred etc. who went to make our understanding of cities more lucid.

The Eminent Titles
J. Gottman, Megalopolis: The Urbanized North-eastern Seaboard of the United States, M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, Mass, 1961.
G. Sjoberg, The Pre-Industrial City, Past and Present, The Free Press, New York, 1960.

Building a city isn’t an easy job. The site factors have to be taken into account so that the city is provided with its basic amenities. Then comes several others factors that depend upon what the city’s basic function is to be.

Administrative Towns
These towns include, capital cities of nations, provinces, district and other administrative units.
Example: Delhi, Chandigarh.

Defence Towns
Most countries maintain Armies, Navies and Air forces for the defence. Such towns generally have barracks and training facilities for the armed forces.
Example: Jalandhar, Jodhpur and Jammu.

Cultural Centres
Many towns have cultural functions such as the provisions for education, art galleries or religious buildings, pilgrimage centre, and more.

  • Shantiniketan, Pantnagar etc. are educational towns.
  • Bombay and Pune etc. film centers.
  • Lhasa, once the seat of the Dalai Lama of Tibet.
  • Banaras, Hardwar, Ajmer etc. pilgrimage centers.

Collection Centres
Mining Towns, fishing Ports and Lumbering Centres are included in collection centres:

  • Mining Towns— Raniganj and Jharia.
  • Fishing Ports — Calicut, Cochin and Pondicherry.
  • Lumbering Towns: Papernagar, Kathgodam, Haldwani.

Commercial Town
Business houses, Banks, Insurance Companies and other financial organisations are included in it. It mainly includes those related to trading, retailing and commercial services.
Examples: Muzaffarpur (in Bihar), Nagpur, Bhopal, Kanpur etc.

Market Towns
These are places where exchanges of goods take place i.e collection and distribution. They mainly include large business markets or mandis besides, a wide range of shops,stores,warehouses and godowns, supported by a well knit network of transport facilities.
Examples: Ludhiana, Tirupur.

Resort Towns
These are located in favourable geographical surroundings basically recreational pleasant places to live in. It has hotels, guest houses, film theatres, night clubs, amusement parks, shopping centres etc.

  • Coastal Resorts with sea-side recreational facilities for water sports such as Goa, Kanya kumari, Allepey;
  • Hill Resorts provide scenic beauty, cool climate and adventurous and thrilling sports i.e. trekking, skiing etc. such as Darjeeling, Auli, Shimla etc.; and,
  • Health Resorts mainly based on health-giving waters somewhat like health spa such as Manikaran, and favourable climate in Ranikhet, Kasauni etc.

Residential Towns
These are mainly modern towns with all facilities for healthy, good and comfortable life away from congested and polluted cities. These are often well planned and located in a neat and healthy milieu.
Example: Chandigarh, Salt Lake City (Kolkata)

Last but not the least; a mention must be made of the shanty town and slums, a product of the accelerating urbanization process. It is a district of temporary, generally overcrowded, lacking in amenities and characterized by a high incidence of disease, extreme poverty and more.


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