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Urbanisation in West Bengal
Twenty-first century is regarded as the Century of urbanisation. More so for the developing countries. According to most conservative demographic analysis, sixty percent of the world population will live in cities by another quarter of a century. It is a paradigm shift in comparison to the last century when similar percentage of people actually lived in the rural habitats throughout the world. It is estimated that by 2025 developing countries will have 135 cities of at least 4 million population strength. It is argued that this population growth will include natural increase, migration and reclassification of former rural areas.

Like other developing countries, urbanisation is also fast increasing in India. Urban residents are expected to account for nearly 40 per cent of the total population by'2021 and much of the urban population reside in the large cities- West Bengal also provides quite similar picture. It is regarded as one of the most urbanised states in India with 28 per cent of the population lives in the urban areas and it has shown a growth to the extent of 20.2 per cent during the last decade.

Since independence, the state of West Bengal has witnessed a steady rate of urbanisation. The following table reveals that since independence, the percentage of urban population in West Bengal has always been higher than the national average. The growth rate in the state was conspicuous during the decade 1951 to 1961, due to historical reason but the same has settled down in the recent years as a fallout of agricultural prosperity, which had significantly stemmed the process of village to city migration.

Total Population (Million)
Urban Population (Million)
% Urban Population
India W. B. India W. B. India W. B.
1951 361.09 26.30 62.44 6.28 17.30 23.90
1961 439.23 34.93 78.94 8.54 18.00 24.40
1971 548.16 44.31 109.11 10.97 19.90 24.70
1981 683.33 54.58 159.46 14.45 23.30 26.50
1991 844.32 67.98 217.18 18.62 25.70 27.48
2001(P) 1027.02 80.22 285.35 22.49 27.78 28.03

West Bengal now ranks fourth amongst the Indian states in terms of the absolute size of urban population though the average density of the urban population in West Bengal, 6798 per sq. km, is highest in the country. According to Census 2001 (Provisional), urban population in West Bengal was 22.5 million out of the total population of 80.2 million, a whopping 28.03%. This enormous population is spread over 127 Urban Local Bodies and 252 census towns. As a matter of fact, the number of class-1 towns in the state has gone up almost 12 times during the last three decades.

28.03% of the state total population live in urban areas, which is hardly 2.93% of the entire land of the state.

More interestingly if one analyses the trend of growth during the period, it will be amply clear that the growth is more pronounced in the small to medium sized ULBs rather than in the mega city like Kolkata. As a matter of fact the Kolkata Urban Agglomeration (KUA) now holds about 59% of the state's entire population, while the same was 70% in the 1970s.
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