Editorials, GS-2, Uncategorized

Reaching the last village

Indian Express

As per the 2011 Census, there are 6,40,930 villages in India, of which around 6,00,000 can be regarded as inhabited.

Census’s definition of urban area:

  • If a settlement is under a municipality, corporation, cantonment board or a notified town area committee, it becomes a statutory town and is hence urban.
  • Another definition of urban is linked to demographic characteristics: If in a population size of 5,000, 75 per cent of the male working population is engaged in non-agricultural pursuits and the population density exceeds 400 people per sq km, this becomes a Census town, regardless of whether it is a statutory town or not.
  • This reclassification — a deviation from the traditional notions of urbanisation, which we link to the natural rate of growth in urban areas or rural-urban migration — also results in urbanisation.
  • In fact, between 2001 and 2011, a large chunk of increased urbanisation was because of Census towns and not statutory ones.

Urban outgrowth and village:

  • When a village (or hamlet) is physically contiguous to a town and possesses urban features; it is then treated as an urban agglomeration.
  • Therefore, anything other than a statutory town, Census town or urban agglomeration is a village.
  • In that sense, the village is residual, regardless of its population size.
  • The population can be 10,000 people or it can also be 100 people. ‘

National Capital Territory villages:

  • Only 222 villages according to 2011 census in the (National Capital Territory)
  • There is a process for transition to the “urban”, but that hasn’t yet occurred for these 222 villages.
  • There is a notification, land is acquired by the DDA and during the transition from a panchayat to municipality, there is understandable speculation on the land.
  • You can thus find one side of a road that is “urban” and an opposite side still “rural”, like the area near Masoodpur village.


  • At one level, there is a governance issue.
  • Use of the word “village” too loosely, across a very heterogeneous category.
  • For Census purposes, we have in mind a revenue village but there may be many clusters of habitations/hamlets within the same revenue village.
  • Inside forest areas, there may be non-surveyed villages. Just as we have habitations as sub-categories of villages, we have gram panchayats as categories higher than villages. Therefore, we have something like 2,50,000 gram panchayats.
  • Delivering public goods and services in a village with a population size of 10,000, where there is a gram panchayat, is relatively easy.
  • Delivering it in a village with a population size less than 200 is much more difficult.
  • Delivering it in every habitation within the village is even more difficult.
  • I forgot to mention that some villages with small population sizes are in difficult geographical terrain.
  • How has this changed? The only decent answer we have seems to be from the ICE (income and consumption expenditure) 2014, undertaken by PRICE (People Research of India’s Consumer Economy).
  • This tells us an expected story of greater integration of larger (population sizes more than 5,000) villages with the mainstream, primarily because of better transport connectivity.
  • The radius of development, so to speak, is getting larger, but there are still the smaller villages.

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