Towns in urban development: a case study of their demographic, socioeconomic and structural importance

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Purva Sharma (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Corey Johnson

Abstract: The purpose of this dissertation was to present a methodological analysis of the demographic, socioeconomic and structural components of small and medium towns to highlight their significance and integration into the urban policy framework. This dissertation was based on descriptive-analytical study on the demographic growth, social and economic characteristics, provision of urban infrastructure and services, municipal finance, urban governance and policy framework of the towns. The main premise of this study was to shift the focus of urban studies researchers from the epistemologies of the developmental discourse of large cities, urban agglomerations, metropolitan regions and megacities towards ordinary towns which have the potential to develop and grow but are considered as provincial and weak. Therefore, this study attempted to search for an advanced agenda on the research on small and medium towns by focusing on four critical areas; (i) small and medium towns’ economic and service functions, (ii) coverage of infrastructure and municipal service performance levels, (iii) municipal finances and functions performed, and (iv) measuring the capacities of small and medium towns to stimulate urban development. The study was conducted in the eight towns (Sihora, Panagar, Katangi, Patan, Shahpura, Majholi, Barela and Bhedaghat) of Jabalpur district in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India. The data for the study was collected by way of semi-structured interviews and secondary sources. The semi-structured interviews included the information related to the governance pattern of the urban local bodies of the towns. The information on demographic and socioeconomic indicators was extracted from the Primary Census Abstract and District Census Handbook, Jabalpur district, Madhya Pradesh (2011) which was available at Census of India office based in New Delhi. The collected datasets were analyzed by applying the quantitative techniques such as rank-size rule, centrality indexes based on the area and population served by a settlement, location quotient for occupational pattern, functional or activity mapping versus financial structure of the urban local bodies and SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunities and threats) analysis. The findings from the study indicated that the towns are transitional areas between the urban and rural and holds significance in terms of highlighting bottom – up planning by taking the rurban clusters and agropolitan development approaches to develop and strengthen the socioeconomic and urban functions basis of towns. It can also be argued from the findings on governance, functional responsibilities and the status of the finances of the urban local bodies that the decentralization mandate of the Government of India was introduced to fulfill the gaps in urban governance that existed previously under a centralized management with little autonomy of the urban local bodies. However, the towns are still possessed with political, institutional, technical and economic challenges and there is a need to build everything from scratch which means taking on new administrations processes. Lastly, it was found that the strengths and weaknesses of the towns could be prioritized based upon short – term action plans for the development towns. This might be also useful in fulfilling the purpose to provide a general direction for the integration of towns in the present urban development discourse of India as well as the state of Madhya Pradesh. Based upon the empirical evidences of this study, it can be said that this dissertation makes a significant contribution in understanding the complex relationship between urbanization, development and economic growth. This study also indirectly implies that there is a need to reexamine the classification of urban areas in India. The urbanization pattern in India is mainly characterized by a few highly populated large cities and a large number of small and medium towns. At present, 70 percent of the urban population resides in 468 Class I cities and the remaining 30 percent is distributed in 5,705 towns in India. The definition of urban areas in India has been rigid since 1961. The oversimplification of the classification of urban areas can be seen as a major criticism in the definition of urban area in India. As such, the designation of a settlement as “urban” upon acquiring a minimum threshold of 5,000 people is only a statistical measure that is simply adding the number of towns in the overall urban growth. The lower order urban settlements remained classified as urban with little attention paid on their jurisdictional, organizational and administrative components. Although, this study presents an array of issues associated with the social and economic development of towns still, an impetus for subsequent rigorous, social scientific investigation into the emerging towns and their relevant issues is required in India.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Decentralized governance, Multi-level planning, Municipal finance, Settlement system, Towns, Urban Development Index
Urbanization $x Economic aspects $z India $z Madhya Pradesh
Urbanization $x Social aspects $z India $z Madhya Pradesh
Small cities $z India $z Madhya Pradesh

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