Classification of Towns in India: M.K. Jain, Census

India is a very large country with more than a billion population and 31.3 percent of this population lives in 3784 Census Towns and 4041 Statutory Towns as per Census of India (2011). Therefore, a classification of towns in India is complicated and a humongous exercise. Hence, devising a simple method to classify Indian towns and cities is necessary. These classifications are as following.

Census Classification of Towns

Census of India provides the most basic classification of cities and towns based on population size.

Table 1: Census Classification of Cities in India

Additionally, the urban areas with population less than 100,000 are called towns while the urban areas with population more than 100,000 are termed as cities. There are some other names for cities of different sizes as follows.

  • Million Cities or Metropolis or Metropolitan: It is a city with population between 1 and 5 million.
  • Megacities: It is a city with population between 5 and 10 million.
  • Megalopolis: It is a very large city with more than 10 million of population.
  • There are two other popular nomenclatures for urban areas i.e. Conurbation and Urban Sprawl.

Apart from methods of Harris and Nelson, some Indian geographers also attempted to classify cities. These attempts were made by M.K. Jain and Ashok Mitra.

M.K. Jain’s Functional Classification of Towns

M.K. Jain was Deputy Registrar General of Census of India. His classification is based on the work participation data from census of India. He chose the nine industrial categories of workers and classified them into five broad groups as follows.

  1. Primary Activities: ICultivators, II- Agricultural Laborers, III- Livestock, fishing, forestry, hunting, plantation and allied activities, IV- Mining and Quarrying
  2. Industrial Activities: V- Manufacturing i.e. Household and Other than Household, VI- Construction
  3. Trade: VII- Trade and Commerce
  4. Transport: VIII- Transport, Storage and Communication
  5. Services: IX- Other Services

Afterwards, he calculated the percentage of workers in each of these five groups.

Major Functional Categories

Jain classified the towns into three major Functional Categories using the above five classes of workers. These categories are as follows.

  1. Mono-Functional Towns: One can classify a town as a monofunctional town when the proportion of workers in a single sector is greater than equal to 40 percent. For instance, if the proportion of manufacturing is more than or equal to 40 percent, we can classify it as manufacturing town.
  2. Bi-Function Towns: One can classify a town as a bifunctional town when the proportion of workers in any two sectors amounts to 60 percent or more. Additionally, the share of either of the two should not be more than 40 percent. For example, if the proportion of workers in trading is 35 percent and in transport is 26 percent, we can classify it as a bifunctional town. It is so because the total proportion of workers in these two sectors is about 61 percent.
  3. Multifunctional Towns: If workers in no two towns add up to 60 or more then the largest three industries’ percentages were added and the town was classified as multifunctional. For instance, if the proportion of trading and transport do not form 60 percent of the workers, we can include third largest sector to classify a town as a multifunctional town.

Functional Subgroups

  • Jain classified the three major functional groups into subgroups in those cases, where the proportion of workers in any of the selected four functions is at least 25 percent.
  • These four functions are 1) Mining and Quarrying 2) Forestry, Fishing and Livestock 3) Manufacturing in Household Industries or Artisans and 4) Construction.
  • Additionally, the selected function should be the first or second leading function.
  • Hence, a city can be a monofunctional town in manufacturing activities but may have more than 25 percent workers in construction. So, we can classify such a town as  mining subtype of a monofunctional group.
  • It is to note that Jain considered the rural nature of Indian cities, so he included primary activities for classification of towns whereas Ashok Mitra did not.

Click Here for Ashok Mitra’s Functional Classification of Towns.

Relevance and Conclusion

Jain’s classification is very objective. However, he does not explain the process of arriving at cut-points for classification of towns into monofunctional, bifunctional and multifunctional towns as explained in the second section of this article. Further, he chose four industries for division of major groups into subgroups without any rationale. Why were the other industries ignored? This classification offers very limited policy and practical solutions to urban problems. Simply labelling a town as multifunctional or bifunctional does not help. Therefore, the scope of economic characterization of towns in this classification is very narrow. Nonetheless, Jain recognizes the multifunctional character of a city through his effort. By any means, Ashok Mitra’s classification of towns in India remains the best till date.