India recorded an average growth rate of over 5% per annum during the last two decades of the 20th century. GDP grew at 7.7% per annum during 2001-11. However, most of the growth has been concentrated in a few regions and large cities. Also, only certain sections of the population benefited from it, resulting in accentuation of income and regional disparities over time.
Urban India saw a deceleration in the growth of population during the last three decades, dismissing the spectre of over-urbanisation or an urban explosion. This made policymakers at the national and state levels concerned about the slow pace of urban growth, particularly at a stage of rapid economic growth that accentuated rural-urban (RU) disparities in the economic and social spheres.
The annual exponential growth rate (AEGR) of urban population in the country during the 1950s was 3.5%. This was the highest the country had seen until that time, which led to the emergence of theories of ‘over-urbanisation’. The growth rate, however, came down to 3.1% in the 1980s. It went down further to 2.73% in the 1990s. Correspondingly, the percentage of population in urban areas has gone up from 17.3% in 1951 to 23.3% in 1981, and then to 27.78% in 2001. The level of urbanisation in the country increased to 31.16% in 2011 and the urban population recorded an annual growth rate of 2.76% during 2001-11, a slight increase in the second decimal point as compared to the previous decade.