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The North-South Urban Paradox

The northern towns and cities are growing faster but so are the villages!



Why is northern India experiencing faster urban growth but slower urbanisation relative to the South? This column addresses this question by highlighting the interconnection between the demographic transition and urban processes in India.

The Economic Survey of 2016-17 begins its chapter on ‘The Other Indias’ with a quote from Arvind Adiga’s novel: “India is two countries…Every place on the map of India near the ocean is well-off. But the river brings darkness to India.”

This quote echoes what social scientists have known for at least two decades – the economic and demographic divide between peninsular India extending southwards, and the northern hinterland states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh.

In the South, per capita incomes and fertility rates are higher and lower respectively, than in the North. There is, however, an additional aspect of this regional difference that manifests itself in the pace of urban growth and urbanisation.

The population of towns and cities in northern India is growing faster than in the South. Yet the pace of urbanisation, or the rise in the share of the population living in urban areas, has been extremely slow in the North relative to the South.

My recent IGC (International Growth Centre) study on urban dynamics in India since 1870 till date, using Census and other data sources, provides some clues towards addressing this paradox (Tumbe 2016).

Urbanisation Dynamics:

India’s urbanisation rate gradually rose from less than 9% in the 1870s to 17% in the 1950s and 31% in 2011. The urbanisation rates in the southern states are now inching towards the 50% mark while many of the northern states are still stuck at rates below 25%. My study shows a robust relationship between urbanisation and per capita income levels, and more importantly, growth rates over the past four decades at the sub-national level.

However, India’s urbanisation rate is observed to be more than 10 percentage points lower than the rate predicted for its level of per capita income at the cross-country level. Further, the pace of urbanisation has been slower in India than in many other countries with similar or lower growth rates. India thus poses two challenges to urban trends: Why is the level of urbanisation low relative to its per capita income level, and why has the pace of urbanisation been slow in the last four decades despite relatively high economic growth rates?

Two explanations often discussed pertain to urban definitions and migration restrictions.

India uses a conservative urban definition that assigns many settlements to be ‘rural’ when they would have been classified as ‘urban’ in other countries. A more liberal definition would raise the urbanisation rate and explain part of the difference between the actual urbanisation rate and the rate predicted at the corresponding per capita income level.

The urbanisation rate in India in 2011 could vary between 31% based on the official definition and 47% if rural settlements with the population exceeding 5,000 were classified as urban areas – a practice followed in many countries.

However, my analysis reveals that irrespective of the definition used, the change in urbanisation rate between 2001 and 2011 remains constant at 3 percentage points. That is, a definition-based explanation addresses the issue of low urbanisation but not slow urbanisation.

Another explanation on the slow pace of Indian urbanisation focusses on low levels of spatial mobility. Census statistics on in-migration show low rates of mobility especially for non-marriage related reasons. However, as documented in Chapter 12 of the Economic Survey 2016-17, alternative estimates of migration reveal magnitudes of a much higher order such that at least 20% of the workforce can be considered to be migrant in nature.

Definition and migration-based explanations have overlooked another potential reason for India’s relatively slow pace of urbanisation. This is related to the fact that urbanisation also depends on rural-urban differences in natural growth rates which correspond to their respective demographic transitions.

The Demographic Divergence:

Figure 1 shows the remarkable demographic divergence between rural and urban natural growth rates over the past four decades. In the 1970s, birth and death rates were lower in urban areas but natural growth rates were identical in both rural and urban areas. Since then, rural and urban natural growth rates have diverged such that rural natural growth rates are now substantially higher than urban natural growth rates. This is a significant phenomenon as it indicates that in the absence of migration and reclassification effects, India has been de-urbanising for four decades. In other words, the demographic divergence has dragged down the pace of India’s urbanisation and needs careful scrutiny.

Figure 1. The rural-urban demographic divergence of natural growth rates, 1975-2011

 Source: Sample Registration System (SRS) statistics.

A clearer picture emerges in the state-level analysis. The southern states did not undergo the demographic divergence observed at the all-India level. In these states, the decline of rural and urban natural growth rates occurred at the same pace. This trend is also observed in the relatively richer states of Maharashtra and Gujarat in the West and Punjab in the North.

The states that did undergo the demographic divergence are Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. As these states have a large demographic weight in India’s population, the divergence within these states translates into the overall divergence noted at the all-India level. Assam, a relatively poor north-eastern state also exhibits the demographic divergence.

A district-level analysis reveals that low rural literacy levels, and more importantly, low levels of agricultural productivity, are strongly associated with larger rural-urban fertility differentials and consequently larger rural-urban natural growth rate differentials. Agricultural productivity is negatively related to rural-urban fertility differentials even in a sub-sample of nearly 100 districts within the southern states, giving additional validity to the empirical results.

I interpret these results as an income effect on fertility reduction whereby regions with stagnant agricultural productivity witness lower fertility reduction in rural areas relative to urban areas. Simulation analysis reveals that closing the rural-urban divide between natural growth rates would lead to an increase in urbanisation rates by over 4 percentage points, without any change in urban definition. This would explain nearly 50% of the observed gap between India’s official rate of urbanisation and that predicted at its level of income.

The rural-urban demographic divergence explains not only India’s slow pace of urbanisation but also why northern states have been urbanising slowly compared to the South. Yet, as Figure 2 shows, the levels of urban natural growth rates are substantially higher in the northern hinterland states than elsewhere. Since natural growth rates account for nearly 50% of overall urban growth rates, towns and cities in northern states are growing faster than those in the south, even as overall city-level population growth rates are falling on account of fertility reduction (Figure 3).

The North-South urban paradox occurs because northern states have higher fertility rates in urban areas than in the South and also because they exhibit higher fertility rates in rural areas relative to urban areas. In simple words, northern towns and cities are growing faster but so are the villages!

Figure 2. State-level natural growth rates in rural and urban areas, 2011

 Source: SRS statistics.

Figure 3. City population growth rate distributions across time periods, 1881-2011

 Source: Census 1881-2011. N=350+ agglomerations. Time Period I: 1881-1921, II: 1921-1951, III: 1951-1991, IV: 1991-2011.

Implications of the North-South Urban Paradox:

The North-South urban paradox has three important implications.

First, unless agricultural productivity is boosted substantially in the northern hinterland states, the rural-urban demographic divergence will continue to stall the pace of urbanisation in India, especially in the northern hinterland states. Rural prosperity is thus demographically linked to the process of urbanisation.

Second, in the next two decades, the bulk of urban population growth will occur in the northern states on account of higher fertility rates. Urban planning and infrastructure development projects and allocation of central government funds will need to take this demographic reality into account.

Finally, fertility reduction is occurring at a rapid pace along the distribution of cities whereas migration tends to be disproportionately channelled towards the larger cities. As a result, city population growth rates will fall substantially for most towns and cities with important implications for city-level labour and housing markets and public finances.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from Ideas For India (, an economics and policy portal.

Chinmay Tumbe

Chinmay Tumbe is with the Department of Economics at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A). He holds a Masters from the London School of Economics & Political Science and a doctorate from the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore. He has worked in academic, corporate and government institutions in India, UK and Italy, served on an Inter-Ministerial Working Group on migration.

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Thunderstorm Report of the Last 24 Hrs and Forecast for the Next Two Day



Realised Weather during past 24 hrs ending of 0830 IST of Today (14 May 2018)

    • Rain/thundershowers accompanied with gusty/squally wind occurred at most places over Uttarakhand, East Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal & Sikkim and Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram & Tripura; at many places over Himachal Pradesh, Coastal & South Interior Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Kerala; at a few places Jammu & Kashmir, West Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Chandigarh & Delhi, East Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, North Interior Karnataka and Rayalaseema and at isolated places over Punjab, West Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Coastal Andhra Pradesh, Assam & Meghalaya, Madhya Maharashtra, Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Following maximum wind has been recorded during past 24 hours:

Station                        Wind speed (Kmph)                   Time

Delhi (Safdarjung)                 107 1644-1646 hrs
Delhi (Palam)                 96 1633-1634 hrs


  • Current Weather systems and its forecast
    The Western Disturbance as a trough lies over Pakistan & adjoining Afghanistan in middle tropospheric levels. It is likely to move eastwards during next 48 hours.
    • A cyclonic circulation lies over central Pakistan and adjoining northwest Rajasthan and Punjab in lower levels. It is likely to weaken after 24 hours.
    • The north-south trough runs from the above cyclonic circulation to north Madhya Maharashtra across southeast Rajasthan and West Madhya Pradesh at lower levels. It is likely to weaken gradually during next 48 hours.
    • A cyclonic circulation lies over northern parts of West Bengal & neighbourhood in lower levels. It is likely to persist over the same region during next 24 hours and weaken thereafter gradually.
    • The north-south trough runs along Long. 88°E to the north of 24°N at 3.1 km above mean sea level. It is likely to move eastwards gradually.
    • There is a north-south wind discontinuity from Rayalaseema to south Tamilnadu in lower levels.
  • Weather Forecast

    Rain/thundershowers very likely at most places over Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal & Sikkim; at many places over Assam & Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram & Tripura, Kerala, South Interior Karnataka and at isolated to a few places over rest of the country outside Rajasthan, Gujarat, north Konkan and north Madhya Maharashtra where weather likely to be dry during next 2-3 days.

  • Weather warnings for next 2 days (14-15 May 2018):

    Thunderstorm accompanied with squall and hail
    (wind speed reaching 50-70 kmph) very likely at isolated places over Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and squall at isolated places over Gangetic West Bengal and Odisha.
    Thunderstorm accompanied with gusty winds (wind speed reaching 50-60 kmph) very likely at isolated places over Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh & Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Assam & Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram & Tripura and wind speed reaching 40-50 kmph over Coastal Andhra Pradesh, Rayalaseema, South Interior Karnataka, Tamilnadu & Puducherry.
    Heavy rain very likely at isolated places over Sub-Himalayan West Bengal & Sikkim, Kerala, South Interior Karnataka, interior Tamilnadu and Assam & Meghalaya.
    Duststorm very likely at isolated places over Rajasthan.


The verification of thunderstorm warning issued on 13th May 2018 based on realized weather during past 24 hours ending at 0830 hrs. IST of 14th May is given in the enclosed table:

S.No. Sub-Division Forecast


Realized weather (highest rain in cm)

recorded at 0830 hrs of 14 May 2018

4 NAGA.MANI.MIZO.& TRIPURA TS+ GW TS+GW (Kohima & Kailashahar-1)
7 ODISHA TS + Squall TS+GW (Chandbali-6)
8 JHARKHAND TS+ GW TS+GW (Daltonganj-2)
9 BIHAR    
10 EAST UTTAR PRADESH TS+ GW TS+Squall (Gorakhpur-3)
11 WEST UTTAR PRADESH TS+ GW TS+Squall (Bareilly-2)
12 UTTARAKHAND TS + Squall TS+Squall
13 HARYANA CHD. & DELHI TS+ GW TS + GW+Squall (Ambala-2)
14 PUNJAB TS+ GW TS+GW (Patiala-1)
15 HIMACHAL PRADESH TS + Squall TS+GW (Solan-3)


23 KONKAN & GOA    


32 COASTAL KARNATAKA   TS+GW (Mangalore-5)
35 KERALA TS+ GW+HR TS+GW (Thiruvananathapuram-6)

Legends: TS=Thunderstorm; GW=Gusty winds and HR= Heavy Rain

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Heat Wave in MP, GJ and MH; Storms in North India this Week

India braces for a week of extreme weather of varying nature.



NEW DELHI: Temperatures are soaring and touching skies in most parts of Central and West India. In fact, parts of Madhya Pradesh and Vidarbha region in Maharashtra were battling with heatwave conditions for the last couple of days wherein the mercury levels in most parts remained above the 45-degree mark.

On the other hand, severe thunderstorms are expected to threaten parts of northern India early this week.

Further endangering people in the area will be another round of thunderstorms that could turn gusty on Monday and Tuesday.

“The setup for these storms looks similar to that of the deadly thunderstorms of Wednesday and Wednesday night,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Houk.

“These storms again will be potent; dangerous lightning is likely with potentially damaging winds that can sweep up dust clouds and significantly reduce visibility,” Houk added.

The potential for severe weather will extend into Tuesday and Tuesday night farther east. It is during this time that the hardest-hit areas from Wednesday’s storms, and the city of New Delhi, will be at risk.

Meanwhile, an intense summer heat has gripped parts of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Madhya Maharashtra, and Marathwada in Maharashtra. Here, the temperatures soared near or beyond the 40-degree mark.

However, the last 24 hours brought a sigh of relief from the rising mercury levels as heatwave abated parts of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Though the temperatures dropped significantly over these areas, they continue to remain above normal.

While, a slight drop in the mercury levels in parts of Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Chhattisgarh were also observed.

As per Skymet Weather, the reason for the sky-kissing temperatures over most parts of West and Central India can be associated with the westerly and northwesterly winds blowing over the region. These winds are blowing from the hotter areas of Pakistan and its adjoining desert region in Rajasthan wherein the temperatures are already high.

However, due to thundercloud build up in the adjoining regions, the temperatures dropped significantly. This weather was due to the trough which was extending from East India to South Karnataka across Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh.

According to Skymet Weather, now, this trough has become less marked. Thus, now the temperatures are likely to increase over most parts of Central Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. Additionally, mostly dry winds would also continue to prevail over the region.

On the other hand, humidity levels are anticipated to increase over Gujarat and West Madhya Pradesh. Hence, isolated pre-Monsoon activities may occur at a few parts of South Madhya Maharashtra and adjoining Marathwada and South Chhattisgarh.

Mainly thundercloud development along with light rain and strong winds are possible over the region today.

Courtesy: and

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Raman Singh Inaugurates Durg-Ferozpur Antyodaya Express

This train and all other Antyodaya Express trains running from different parts of the country have multiple facilities at affordable rates.



RAIPUR (Chhattisgarh): A new weekly train no 22895/22896 Durg-Ferozpur-Durg Antyodaya Express was inaugurated by Rajen Gohain, Minister of State for Railways and Dr Raman Singh, Chief Minister, Chattisgarh.

Speaking on the occasion, Rajen Gohain said that the Antyodaya Express has been launched to ensure facilities equipped journey to all the sections of the society as envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

This train and all other Antyodaya Express trains running from different parts of the country have multiple facilities at affordable rates. He also expressed satisfaction that the Indian Railways has been working on several projects that will take care of all the sections of the society.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Raman Singh said that the people of Chattisgarh will be immensely benefitted by this new Antyodaya train. Indian Railways and State Government have been fast-tracking development of Infrastructure creation project through PPP mode.

Passenger amenities in Chattisgarh major stations have been increased significantly.

Details of New Train: 22895/22896 Durg- Ferozpur Antoyodaya Express

Composition: 16 General Coaches + 2 Power Car

Days of Run: 22895 Dep: 7:10 Durg (Sunday) Arr: 13:00 Ferozpur (Mon)

22896 Dep: 00.20 Ferozpur (Tues)  Arr: 6.30 Durg (Wed)

Features of Antyodaya Express:

1. Rake consists of LHB coaches which have better interior aesthetics and more safer.

2. Vinyl coating on the exterior for a better look

3. Berths are more comfortable

4. Provision of LED lights, mobile charging points

5. Water purifier also provided for drinking water

6. The modular design of lavatories fitted with bio-toilets Antyodaya trains has been envisioned to provide superfast unreserved service to the common man on high dense routes.

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