Types of Urban Settlements

Like rural settlements, urban settlements are classified on various bases. However, classification based on size and function are most common.

Classification based on Population Size

According to population size, census of India classifies urban centres into six classes.

  1. Class I: 1,00,000 and above
  2. Class II: 50,000 - 99,999
  3. Class III: 20,000 - 49,999
  4. Class IV: 10,000 - 19,999
  5. Class V: 5,000 - 9,999
  6. Class VI: less than 5,000

There is another classification of urban settlements. The classification is as follows:

Town: Places which have less than one lakh population.

City: Urban centres having population between one lakh to one million.

Metropolitan Cities: Cities having population in between one million to five million.

Mega cities: Cities having more than 5 million population.

Functional Classification

This is the most popular and widely accepted classification of urban places in India as well as in other parts of the world. In India various scholars attempted to classify urban centres on the basis of functions. But the most popular and widely accepted functional classification was given by Ashok Mitra a noted demographer and the then Registrar General of India.

Ashok Mitra’s Functional classification of Indian cities

Ashok Mitra’s classification is based on a categories of workers classification available in the census of 1961 and 1971. Functional classification of towns and cities could not be used in 1981 census due to non-availability of town level data based on industrial classification of workers into nine industrial categories.

In 1991, an effort was made to classify all urban places in terms of their functional character with slight modification by adjusting the industrial categories into five broad economic sectors.

The procedure adopted for functional classification in 1991 census was as follows:

(i) For each Urban Agglomeration or town, the percentage of total main workers in each of the five sectors was worked out.

(ii) The functional category of the UA/town was then determined on the following basis:

  1. if workers in one sector constituted, 40% or more, the UA/town was classified in the relevant mono-functional category
  2. If the percentage in one sector was less than 40%, two sectors having the largest percentages were combined to see, if they together constituted 60% or more. If so, the UA/town was classified in the relevant bi-functional category.
  3. If no two sectors added up to 60% or more, three sectors having the largest percentage were combined and the UA/town was classified in the relevant multi-functional category.

(iii) To determine the functional category of each UA/town, in certain cases where at least 1/4th workers were engaged in one of the four activities, viz (a) forestry/fishing (including livestock, plantation, etc.), (b) mining and quarrying (c) manufacturing in household industry, and (d) construction, the respective UA/towns have been classified in the relevant sub-functional categories provided such activity happen to be the first or second leading function of those UA/town.

Using the above procedure, all the 3,697 UA/towns of India (excluding J&K) have been classified into different functional categories. Following results have been obtained.

(i) Almost half of the UA/towns (1756 to be precise) were classified in the first category i.e. primary activity, but they contain only 15.85% of the urban population of the country. Most of the towns belonging to this category were of small size. About 2/3rd of such places were having mono-functional character while about one-fifth were multi-functional. Uttar Pradesh had the largest number, i.e. 371 such UA/towns.

(ii) 723 UA/towns had industry as the predominant function. These places accounted for almost half of the urban population. More than one third of these places were having one lakh or more population each and these places accounted for more than four-fifth population of UA/towns classified under industrial category. Less than half of such places had mono-functional character and the number of bi-functional places was quite less. Tamil Nadu had the largest number of 101 industrial UA/towns followed by Uttar Pradesh (91) and Gujarat (87) under this category.

(iii) 460 UA/towns were classified in the category of trade but these places comprised 7% of the urban population. Most of these trading towns/UA had multi-functional in nature and most of the rest towns/UA are bi-functional in nature. Uttar Pradesh has the largest number of UA/towns i.e. 123 and the rest of the states have very less number of trading towns.

(iv) Only 23 UA/towns were classified as transport accomodating less than 1% of the urban population of the country. Most of them are small towns except a few like Kharagpur in West Bengal, Mughal Sarai in Uttar Pradesh. So far as their functional character is concerned, 10 had mono-functional and another 10 had multi-functional character.

(v) As many as 736 UA/towns had services as the leading function and these accounted for more than one fourth of the urban population. Most of the population (about 70%) lived in Class I towns. As far as functions are concerned majority of the towns/UA are either multi-functional or bi-functional. Uttar Pradesh had the largest number of such places (114) followed by Madhya Pradesh (82).