Urban Systems in India: Definitions

Urban areas have been recognized as “engines of inclusive economic growth”. Of the 121 crore Indians, 83.3 crore live in rural areas while 37.7 crore stay in urban areas, i.e approx 32 % of the population. The census of India, 2011 defines urban settlement as :-

All the places which have municipality, corporation, cantonment board or notified town area committee

All the other places which satisfy following criteria:

  1. A minimum population of 5000 persons ;
  2. At least 75 % of male main working population engaged in non-agricultural pursuits ; and
  3. A density of population of at least 400 persons per square kilometer

The first category of urban units is known as Statutory town. These town are notified under law by respective State/UT government and have local bodies like municipal corporation, municipality, etc, irrespective of demographic characteristics. For example- Vadodara (Municipal corporation), Shimla (Municipal corporation).

The second category of towns is known as Census Town. These were identified on the basis of census 2001 data. Cities are urban areas with more than 100,000 population. Urban areas below 100,000 are called towns in India.

Similarly Census of India defines:-
Urban Agglomeration (UA): An urban agglomeration is a continuous urban spread constituting a town and its adjoining outgrowths (OGs), or two or more physically contiguous towns together with or without outgrowths of such towns. An Urban Agglomeration must consist of at least a statutory town and its total population (i.e. all the constituents put together) should not be less than 20,000 as per the 2001 Census. In varying local conditions, there were similar other combinations which have been treated as urban agglomerations satisfying the basic condition of contiguity. Examples: Greater Mumbai UA, Delhi UA, etc.

Urban Out Growths (UOG): An Urban Out Growth (UOG) is a viable unit such as a village or a hamlet or an enumeration block made up of such village or hamlet and clearly identifiable in terms of its boundaries and location. Some of the examples are railway colony, university campus, port area, military camps, etc., which have come up near a statutory town outside its statutory limits but within the revenue limits of a village or villages contiguous to the town.

Standard Urban Area(SUA)
A new concept that had been developed for the 1971 Census for the tabulation of certain urban data was the Standard Urban Area. The essential of a Standard Urban Area are :

(i) it should have a core town of a minimum population size of 50,000,
(ii) the contiguous areas made up of other urban as well as rural administrative units should have close utual socio- economic links with the core town and
(iii) the probabilities are that this entire area will get fully urbanised in a period of two to three decades.

The idea is that it should be possible to provide comparable data for a definite area of urbanisation continuously for three decades which would give a meaningful picture. This replaced the concepts of Town Group that was in vogue at the 1961 Census. The town group was made up of independent urban units not necessarily contiguous to one another but were to some extent inter-dependent. The data for such town groups became incomparable from census to census as the boundaries of the towns themselves changed and the intermediate areas were left out of account; this concept came for criticism at one of the symposium of the International Geographic Union in Nov.-Dec.1968 and the concept of Standard Urban Area came to be developed for adoption at the 1971 Census. If data for this Standard Area were to be made available in the next two or three successive censuses it is likely to yield much more meaningful picture to study urbanisation around large urban nuclei.

While determining the outgrowth of a town, it has been ensured that it possesses the urban features in terms of infrastructure and amenities such as pucca roads, electricity, taps, drainage system for disposal of waste water etc. educational institutions, post offices, medical facilities, banks etc. and physically contiguous with the core town of the UA. Examples: Central Railway Colony (OG), Triveni Nagar (N.E.C.S.W.) (OG), etc.

Each such town together with its outgrowth(s) is treated as an integrated urban area and is designated as an ‘urban agglomeration’. Number of towns/UA/OG 2011, according to Census 2011 Census are :-

1 Statutory Towns — 4,041
2 Census Towns — 3,894
3 Urban Agglomerations — 475
4 Out Growths — 981
At the central level, nodal agencies which look after program and policies for urban development are Ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation (MoHUPA) and Ministry of Urban development. Urban development is a state subject. At state level there are respective ministries, but according to 74th Constitutional Amendment act,1992, it is mandatory for every state to form ULBs and devolve power, conduct regular election, etc. Under 12 schedule of Indian constitution , 18 such functions have been defined which are to be performed by ULBs and for that states should support the ULBs through finances and decentralization of power, for more autonomy. But this is not uniform throughout all the states and still more is need to be done to empower ULBs in India.

Urban areas are managed by urban local bodies(ULBs), who look after the service delivery and grievance redressal of citizens. There are eight type of urban local government in India- municipal corporation municipality, notified area committee, town area committee, cantonment board, township, port trust and special purpose agencies.


The Constitution (seventy-fourth Amendment) Act, 1992 defines a metropolitan area in India as, an area having a population of ten lakhs or more, comprised in one or more districts and consisting of two or more Municipalities or Panchayats or other contiguous areas, specified by the Governor by public notification to be a Metropolitan area.


A megacity is usually defined as a metropolitan area with a total population in excess of ten million people.A megacity can be a single metropolitan area or two or more metropolitan areas that converge. The terms conurbation, metropolis and metroplex are also applied to the latter.


Conurbation refers to a specific kind of geographical region. Due to rapid increase in population and industrial and technological development, the city boundary expands and one urban centre coalesces with another in a slow but continuous process of urbanisation and regional development. It is thus that conurbations are formed.

The word ‘conurbation’ has emerged from the words ‘continuous’ and ‘urban area’. The word was used by Patrick Geddes in 1915 with reference to a continuous urban area of more than two urban centres which may have separate territorial units. C.B. Fawcett defines a conurbation as “an area occupied by a continuous series of dwellings, factories and other buildings including harbours, docks, urban parks and playing fields, etc. which are not separated from each other by the rural land…” J.C. Saoyne defines conurbation as “an area of urban development where a number of separate towns have grown into each other and become linked by such factors as common industrial or business interest or a common centre of shopping and education”. R.E. Dickinson calls it an “urban tract” while Jean Gottamman refers to it as “extended city” or “Super Metropolitan Region”.

Urban Field

The urban field is a form of urban habitat of relatively high density involving a good transportation system and a broad array of economic, social and recreational opportunities. Even though the sections of the urban field may still be in agricultural use, the area is nonetheless urbanized because anywhere within it a person is able to connect his/her home to telephones, radio and television facilities, electricity, gas, water supply systems and a network of freeway and primary roads.


An ethnoburb is a suburban residential as well as business area with a notable cluster of a particular ethnic minority population. Although the group may not constitute the majority within the region, it is a significant amount of the population.That can greatly influence the social geography within the area .

Link(s), Source(s) and Inspiration(s):

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Counter Urbanisation

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About Rashid Faridi

I am Rashid Aziz Faridi ,Writer, Teacher and a Voracious Reader.
This entry was posted in Class Notes, earth, Urban Studies. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Urban Systems in India: Definitions

  1. Aamir khan says:

    Plz define sir, Mega cities and its growth in India.
    and describe definition of urban places in the world.


  2. Pingback: Ethnoburbs: New Faces of Changing Settlement Dynamics | Rashid's Blog: An Educational Portal

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