The salient features of the Indian urbanization may be summarized as under:
(1) The history of urbanization in India is quite old as towns and urban places flourished in the Indus Valley around 2500 B.C.
(2) Urbanization in India during the ancient and medieval periods was associated with the seats of administrations, capitals and trading centers.
(3) After the arrival of the Europeans in India, urbanization rate was accelerated mainly because of the location and establishment of modern factories and industries.
(4) Urbanization in India during the present century was associated with a particular theme in each decade: 1901-1911 famine and plague; 1911-1921 influenza epidemic; 1921-1931 agricultural depression; 1931-1941 war; 1941-1951 partition of the subcontinent; 1951-1961 planned development; 1961-1971 emergence of new urban centers in backward areas and concentrated urban development near the big cities; 1981-1991 relatively much faster growth of the mega and Class I cities, in 1991-2000 faster increase in the number of million cities which went up to 35 in 2001; and in 2011 more immigration and steady urbanization.
(5) The Indian urbanization is of subsistence nature. It implies that the migrants from rural areas are attracted to the urban centers not for urban environment but for employment. They may be eating worse food or may be living in worse houses but they stick to the cities for jobs. This affects badly the quality of life in the urban places, especially in the mega, Class I and metropolitan cities.
(6) The Indian urbanization has poly-metropolitan apex in which the million cities dominate the entire urban scheme accounting for more than one-third of India’s total urban population. There are as many as 3 million cities, including three mega cities, i.e., Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi.
(7) The big cities of India are exploding in their population while the small towns are stagnating. In 1901, about 48 per cent of the country’s urban population was living in towns, having a population of less than 20,000 each, while in 2001 about 12 per cent of the country’s urban population lived in such towns.
(8) The Indian urban system is not integrated both functionally and spatially as a consequence of which there are breaks and imbalances in urban hierarchy as well as in the rural-urban profile. The apex of the urban system in India is lopsided, the urban base in rural areas is sub-standard and the intermediary link through the market towns is weak.
(9) The Indian towns are growing more on the basis of tertiary rather than the secondary sector. However, the growth of district headquarters in the recent decades has built up an infrastructure of large-scale urbanization based on higher degree of industrialization.
The multi-functionary of a large number of districts headquarters of India is an index of the kind of decentralized urban/industrial development taking place in the country. These district headquarters are becoming more and more diversified in their functions.
This, of course, is a healthy trend, particularly when the industry is emerging as one of the vital functions in such district headquarters.
(10) Southern India is more urbanized than Northern and Eastern India. This is because of the historical, socio-cultural and resource factors.
The process of urbanization has gained momentum and more people are migrating from the rural to the urban areas, but the quality of life in most of the urban places, especially in the metropolitan and mega cities is declining.
In fact, Delhi at present is considered as the second-most polluted city after Mexico City in the world. By 2015, Delhi’s population would be around 18 million.
Looking at the present pace of development of social amenities, it may be said that life in Delhi will be miserable and the high degree of air, water and noise pollution will lead to numerous epidemics and incurable diseases.
In case adequate steps are not taken to prevent pollution and to improve the quality of life by providing more social amenities, the life of the urban dwellers of India may become even more difficult which may be the cause of health hazards and catastrophes.