Urbanisation and Migration Trends in India
Kamlesh Kr. Shukla,
Institute of Management Studies, Lal Quan, Ghaziabad-201009
India., Email: email@example.com,
Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division, University of
KwaZulu- Natal, South Africa
3 Department of Statistics, M.M.V., B.H.U., Varanasi-221005
4Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division, University of
KwaZulu- Natal, South Africa
Urbanisation and Migration Trends in India
The study presents a concurrent scenario of migration that is ongoing in India. Post
independent India witnessed several transformations in various sectors. Due to unequal
development and the indifferent attitude of development agencies and the Government,
a considerable proportion of the rural population has immigrated to the urban places
in search of better opportunities resulting in many problems such as unidentifiable
population groups and slum formation. Migration from rural to urban has changed the
nature and proportion of population and its supportive systems.
The paper is based on Indian Census data from 1901-2001. It has been found that there
is a strong association between industrialization and in-migration. Haryana state has
emerged as a new and popular choice for the immigration, and Maharashtra state is
the second most favourite destination by the out- migrants. By looking at the trend of
the population growth it can be projected that the future population of Mumbai will be
about 20 million in year 2011, while Delhi will have approximately more than 15
million inhabitants in the same year. Apart from these, many other newly emerged
cities, because of industries and other comparatively better human sustainable facilities
are witnessing rapid population growth.
Unequal infrastructural growth all across the country has divided modern India into
mainly urban and rural. The differences are blatantly apparent with regards to the
electric supply, quality of education and health facilities, transportation, drinking water
and other basic facilities. During the last decades though, with cooperation from the
state and central governments, efforts have been made to up-link villages with roads.
But1merely road up- linking is not enough for the population living in the villages.
Ensuring the quality of services is more necessary than facilitating local development.
For example: The quality of education has deteriorated in the village primary schools
despite government’s efforts to upgrade the schools by recruiting teachers with higher
qualifications. Meal distributions during the school hours have scarcely been able to
raise the quality of learning as well as the number of learners. Few deprived or
marginalized (either below poverty-line, education-ignoring households or no option
other than primary schools) families are sending their children1 to the government run
primary schools. Education is one of example. However, most of the mechanisms set by
public sector have been proved to be ineffective in the rural areas.
Villages have been left with few options2, no other than opening grocery stores, medical
stores and health facility providers or other public need based outlets along the
roadsides. Villages are shrinking due to lack of community supportive facilities. Even
there is no extra land for playgrounds or other community needs in most of the villages.
Potential lack of infrastructure and employment opportunities may be the determining
factors favouring rural population to immigrate to the urban areas.
The problem of infrastructural deficiency cannot be tackled without proper solutions.
Urban areas have their own problems. Due to unplanned structure of cities, it is a
complex process to identify completely the migrants and also detect the problems that
arise on a daily basis. Greater research as well as significant restructuring of the system
of governance, legal and administrative framework is required in a manner that standard
reform measures can be implemented.
Urbanization refers to a change of residence (places) from traditional rural economies to
a modern industrial one. It is a progressive concentration (Davis, 1965) of a population
in an urban unit. Quantification of urbanization is exceedingly difficult. It is a long-term
process. Davis has explained urbanization as a process (Davis, 1962) of switch from
spread out pattern of human settlements to one of concentration in urban centers.
It is a finite process- a cycle through which a nation passes as they evolve from agrarian
to industrial society (Davis and Golden, 1954). Accordingly, three stages in the process
of urbanization are mentioned. Stage one is the initial stage characterized by rural
traditional society with predominance in agriculture and dispersed pattern of
settlements. Stage two refers to an acceleration stage where basic restructuring of the
economy and investments in social overhead capitals including transportation,
communication (Pranati, 2006).
Proportions of urban population gradually increase from 25% to 40%, 50%, 60% and so
on. Dependence on primary sector gradually dwindles. The third stage is known as
terminal stage where urban population exceeds 70% or more. At this stage level of
urbanization (Davis, 1965) remains more or less same or constant. Rate of growth of
urban population and total population becomes same at this terminal stage. A change in
the usual place of residence can take place either permanent or semi permanent or
temporary basis or seasonal. However, there is no standard source of data either for
internal or international migration (Bell, 2003; United Nations, 2002). Some social
scientists have surveyed particular districts, area and states and have also reported about
migration scenarios. A recent survey shows that census is the largest source of
information on internal migration at the cross-country level. A study shows that 138
countries collected information on internal migration in their censuses compared to 35
through registers and 22 from surveys (Bell, 2003).
Migration can be measured in a number of ways with two most common forms
of data being events and transitions. The former are normally associated with
population registers, which record individual moves while the latter is generally derived
from censuses comparing place of residence at two points in time. Population registers
in fact count the migrations, while the census counts the migrants (Boden et al. 1992).
In India, it is very complex to accurately identify migrants because they are not
required to be registered in India either at their place of origin or their destination. This
exacerbates problems including illegal settlements and other terrorist activities such as
bomb explosions at public places. This is in contrast to the practice in China where
migrants are required to register themselves with the local authority (Zhu 2003). In lack
of registration of migrants, Census and National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO)
are the two main sources of migration data in India. Census provides data on migrants
based on place of birth and place of last residence. If the place of birth or place of last
residence is different from the place of enumeration, a person is defined as a migrant
(Bagat; 2005) On the other hand, if the place of birth and place of numeration is the
same, the person is a non-migrant. Migrants defined on the basis of place of birth or
place of last residence are called lifetime migrants because the time of their move is
unknown (Visaria 1980). It has also been observed that the migrants from rural areas
retain attachment to their native place. They continue to maintain links with their
families and villages through regular visits and sending remittances (Singh et al 1980).
However, the lifetime migration based on census definition does not provide
information on the number of moves made by a migrant.
Indian census provides information on place of birth for each person right from
1881 census. The name of district was recorded if the person was born in the district
other than the district of enumeration. Similarly, the name of the province was recorded
if the person was born in the province other than province of enumeration. Until 1951
census, the district was the lowest administrative unit of defining the place of birth.
Based on this information it was possible to identify inter-district and inter-state
migration, but was not possible to identify intra-district migration. However, since 1961
census, it was possible to measure intra-district migration as village or town was
considered the unit of defining the place of birth (Srivastava 1972). It was possible for
the first time to study the rural urban origin of migrants defined in relation to place of
birth and four streams of migration viz. (i) rural to urban, (ii) urban to urban (iii) urban
to rural and (iv) rural to rural (Bose 1976; Skeldon 1986). The duration of residence
was also ascertained in 1961 census. Place of last residence was added in since 1971
census and the reasons of migration related to place of last residence were also asked
since 1981 census.
Currently developed countries are characterized by high levels of urbanization and
some of them are in the final stage of the urbanization process and subsequently are
experiencing a slowing down of urbanization due to a host of factors (Brockerhoff,
1999; Brockerhoff and Brennam 1998). A majority of the developing countries, on the
other hand, started experiencing urbanization only since the middle of the 20th century.
The main objective of this study is to identify the process of urbanisation in
India with emphasis on level, ratio of urban and rural, rate of migration using the Indian
Census data 1901-2001. It makes an effort to trace the pattern of urbanization, urban
problems and future projection of population of urban and cities and related policy
issues as well.
Data and Methodology
In the present paper, data has been taken from census India 1991 to 2001 and NSSO.
Univariate and bivariate table have been used for presentation of the data. In light of the
present scenario of migration from 1901 to 2001 census as discussed above, also the
paper efforts to overview the recent trends of mobilisation for infrastructural investment
and analyses their impact on the structure of settlements and a future projection of
Result and Discussion
In this section, data has been widely analyzed to ascertain and illustrate the fluctuation
and expansion of the urban population.
Urbanization in India
The table1 indicates the percentage of the urban population to the total population and
the difference over the previous decades. It shows that the urban population of India
increased more than eight times from 25.8 in 1901 to 285.4 million in 2001. The
increment is more in the past four decades in comparison to the beginning four decades.
The reason behind this might be the development of better infra -structure and other life
supportive facilities including education, hospital services and massive growth in
employment opportunities. Industrialization is attracting greater numbers of rural
people to the urban areas, other than unequal infra-structural growth in the villages,
comparative deterioration in agriculture based livelihood (as due to growth of
population, population burden on land is constantly increasing and land holding size is
shrinking) also are compelling them to move out from the village. Decreasing land
holding size is compelling the rural population to open shops and other grocery stores,
which is contributing in increasing the number of towns. The table also shows that
percentage wise highest urban population growth was recorded during 1971-1981.
Trend and future estimation
Table 2 shows the trend and future estimation of urban-rural ratio to rural population.
The trend of urbanization is calculated through time series analyses and urban-rural
ratio (U/R*100) is used to measure urban ratio to rural ratio. From above table it is clear
that the percentage of the rural population gradually decreases from 89% to 72% over a
century, whereas, the percentage of the urban population has increased from 11% in
1901 to 28 % in 2001. By the year 2051, it is projected that more than 36% of the total
population will be residing in urban area, while urban-rural ratio may increase by more
than 56% by 2051.Trend of urabnisation can be seen from the Graph-A. If, according to
the projections, the Urban-rural ratio for India in 2051 will turn out to be 56, it means
that against every 100 ruralities there will be 56 urbanites in India. However, according
to literature (Mathur 2004), the process of urbanization in India is likely to persist until
2030 A.D. at least, unless, it is estimated to achieve a level of 50 % urbanization.
Stream and Volume of Internal migration
Table 3 shows that stream and volume of internal migration by place of last residence
1991 and 2001 in (duration 0-9). It is clear from the table that follows, that most of the
female migrants migrating from rural to rural through marriage migration in intra state
(68.6%) and interstate (32.7%) as well as international migration, While, the total
percentage of migrant rural to rural in inter state migrants (38%) is greater in
comparison to rural to rural in intra-state migrants. Past studies have also been reported
that a number of migrants have been migrating within the district, within the state as
well as within the nation. This is the reason for the larger number of migrants being
categorized as intrastate migrants.
Reasons for migration
Table 4 shows the reasons for migration, and the percentage of migrants at their last
residence with duration (0-9 years). Most of male migrants (37.6%) cited Work/
Employment as the main reason. 43.8% migrants, who cited ‘Marriage’ follows this,
and finally, ‘Moved with households’ was cited as the third highest indicator. The
rationale behind this is that a greater number of educated, skilled and also unskilled
people move to other states for better opportunities, to earn larger incomes, and in
search of job respectively. The percentages of male and female migrants that ‘Moved
with households’ were found to second highest 25.1% and 19% respectively. It may be
due to fact that most migrants want to move with their families from their native places.
In the year 2001 the migration scenario has changed. While past studies (Singh and
Yadav, 1991) reported that higher single male migrants in comparison to those who
‘Moved with households’, they maintained a connection to their place of origin by
sending remittances. A study reveals that more educated, skilled and larger income
holders are likely to migrate (2001 census report).
Migrants and their educational level
Table 5 shows the percentage distribution of migrants and their educational level. The
table indicates that the percentages of all educational levels, beside illiterate females,
were found to be approximately the same for both: migrants and non-migrants
households. The percentage of females were found to be higher for migrant households
in comparison to non-migrant households, While the percentage of males in non-
migrant households is approximately two times (17.3%) that of the males in migrant
households. This may be due to fact that illiterate migrants were not required at
destination places because skilled persons or comparatively educated persons are only
required at destination places. Whereas, female migrants have been working in houses
doing domestic chores, the other reason reflected in the study, was migration due to
Variation in migration profile (1991-2001)
Table 6 indicates the variation in migration profile between the years 1991 and 2001 for
some important states based on migrants by last residence (0-9years). Rate of out
migration was found to be high (3.4) for Bihar and it is followed closely by Delhi (3.3).
The reason is that Bihar’s migrants have marginal land or no land to sustain a livelihood
and Delhi’s migrants are economically strong and they wanted to migrate for a better
opportunity to earn a larger income. Shukla (2002) has reported earlier in the study of
U.P. state that two types of migration trends were found to be more prevalent, those
who has marginal land or no land and other who are economically strong. In the case of
Bihar, the rate of migration was exceedingly high (3.4%) in the 2001 census whereas it
was found to be 1.9% in 1991 census. Growth rate of the net migration in 2001 was
found to be very high (343%) for Hariyana. From the table, the percentage growth rate
of in-migration was found to be substantially higher (76%) in comparison to out
migration (4.7%). This is an eye-opening concern to the government body and the
Punjab, Hariyana and Maharastra, which are on top of the list in (SDP) State domestic
product per capita and where the poverty percentage is low, attract migrants from other
states. Whereas Bihar which has high population growth rate, high levels of poverty and
poor SDP, has out migration exceeding in-migration by 31 for every 1000 persons.
States-wise change in growth and migration
Table 7 shows that states-wise change in growth and migration. From the table it is
evident that Punjab, Hariyana and Maharashtraa which top the list in SDP per capita
and where the poverty percentage is low, attract migrants from other states, whereas
Bihar which has high population growth rate has high levels of poverty and poor (SDP)
State domestic product. West Bengal is another state, which receives more migrants
from other states. The reason behind this is that there are number of migrants from
Bangladesh as Bangladesh sharanarthi (refugee). In the case of Gujarat, the rate of in-
migration is also high. This may be due to its industrial area, which draws people to
move from other states. Mahrashra and Hariyana have been received a greater number
of migrants in comparison to other states. In the case of Hariyana, net-migration was
found to be very high (79 per 1000 population), approximately twice that of
Maharashtra. Hariyana state has been attracting migrations from other districts, states as
well as other countries. This may be due to fact that this area is comparatively a highly
developed area with a number of industries, shopping malls, call centres and so forth.
There are different districts which are responsible for these, namely: Gurgaon,
Faridabad, Rewari, Hishar, Panipat, and Sonipat. The Gurgaon district, especially have
been attracting a large number of people from other areas because of a good
environment, the standard of living, as well as a greater availability of jobs for skilled,
semi-skilled and unskilled workers.
Another reason attributed to high in-migrations from nearby states may be the close
proximity to Delhi, the capital of India. The table below indicates the states of origin of
the people drawn to Hariyana.
Future Projection of cities
Table 8 reveals that about 37% of the total population lives in these million plus/ urban
area cities. As per 2001 census there are 12, newly added million plus cities. These are
Agra, Meerut, Nashik, Jabalpur, Jamshedpur, Asansol, Dhanbad, Faridabad, Allahabad,
Amritsar, Vijaywada, Rajkot. By looking at the trend it can be projected that the future
population in of Mumbai will be about 20 million in year 2011, while Delhi will have
approximately more than 15 million inhabitants in the same year. In the future, the
growth rate of the population of Delhi may be increase at a slower rate due to
development of the NCR. Like National Capital Region regions such as, Gurgaon,
Noida, Ghaziabad and Faridabad and so forth the growth rate of some urban places
have such as, Banglore, Hyderabad,, Surat , Delhi and Pune, been very high.
Due to unequal development throughout the country, migration trends and patterns are
unequal. This is indicative of a distressing level, because imbalanced migration is
detrimental to a variety of services. It was found that highest percentage of migration to
Maharashtra occurred from Bihar followed by Uttar Pradesh. It was also found that
most developed states like Hrayana and Maharashtra are the best destination for the
migrants. Planned urbanization of rural areas are necessary to pace with modernization
and industrialization otherwise unequal migration trends and patterns pose a major
challenge in times to come. On the basis of the present study the basic feature of
urbanization in India can be highlighted as:
1 Lopsided urbanisation induces growth of class I cities.
2 Urbanisation may occur without industrialization and strong economic base.
3 Urbanisation is mainly a product of demographic explosion and poverty induced rural
4 Rapid urbanization leads to massive growth of slum followed by misery, poverty,
unemployment, exploitation, inequalities, degradation in the quality of urban life.
5. Urbanisation occurs not only because of urban pull but also mainly due to rural push.
6. Poor quality of rural-urban migration leads to poor quality of urbanization.
Authors are thankful to the anonymous referee for given valuable suggestion to improve
the quality of the research paper.
Urbanisation in India by census report
% of Urban
No of towns
1901 10.85 25.8 1827
1911 10.29 25.9 0.1 1815
1921 11.18 28.1 2.2 1949
1931 11.99 33.5 5.4 2072
1941 13.86 44.1 10.6 2250
1951 17.29 62.4 18.3 2843
1961 17.97 78.9 16.5 2365
1971 19.91 109.1 30.2 2590
1981 23.34 159.4 50.3 3378
1991 25.71 217.6 58.2 3768
2001 27.78 285.4 67.8
Sources: various census reports (give a very specific report- not various)
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Trend of Urbanisation
Percentage of Urban
to total popn
urban popn to
1901 10.85 8.07 89.15 12.17
1911 10.29 9.92 89.71 11.47
1921 11.18 11.76 88.82 12.59
1931 11.99 13.60 88.01 13.62
1941 13.86 15.44 86.14 16.09
1951 17.29 17.29 82.71 20.90
1961 17.97 19.13 82.03 21.91
1971 19.91 20.97 80.09 24.86
1981 23.34 22.82 76.66 30.45
1991 25.71 24.66 74.29 34.61
2001 27.78 26.50 72.22 38.47
2011 28.16 39.20
2021 30.19 43.25
2031 32.03 47.13
2041 33.88 51.23