Part of population living in the villages, i.e., rural areas is known as rural population and that living in towns and cities, i.e., urban areas is known as urban population. The rural and urban people differ from each other in their way of life, occupational structure and attitudes. Rural folks are simple and their social relations are quite close and deep. They derive their livelihood largely from primary activities such as agriculture, forestry and livestock. On the other hand, urban population gets adjusted to urban way of living where the pace of life is fast and social relations are formal. They derive their livelihood from secondary or tertiary activities such as industry, trade, transport and services.
India is primarily a country of villages. More than two-thirds of our population lives in villages. According to 2011 census, 833.08 million out of a total population of 1210.19 million i.e., 68.84% of our total population lives in villages and only 377.11 million or 31.16% of our total population lives in urban areas. The national average of rural and urban population presents only the overall picture. There are great regional variations in the percentage of rural population to total population.
According to 2011 censuses, Himachal Pradesh has the highest percentage of rural population where 89.96 percent population lives in rural areas. Bihar, Sikkim, Nagaland, Tripura, Meghalaya, Assam and Odisha come next where over 80 per cent of the population lives in rural areas. In Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Dadra & Nagar Haveli over three-fourths of the total population is rural. Uttrakhand, Madhya Pradesh. Andhra Pradesh and Kerala also have percentage of rural population higher than the national average of 68.84%. Haryana and West Bengal also have over 65 per cent of their population as rural. In Mizoram, Maharashtra, Goa, Tamil Nadu and Lakshadweep, 50 to 60 per cent of the total population lives in rural areas. The capital city of Delhi has the minimum of 2.5 per cent as the rural population. The union territory Chandigarh also has about 2.75 per cent as the rural population.
According to 2011 Census, India has 640867 villages of which 93 per cent are inhabited in villages. Average size of villages in terms of population ranges from 207 persons per village in Arunachal Pradesh to 15,476 persons in Kerala. Each village consists of many hamlets. Rural population, therefore, is highly scattered. The growth rate of rural population in general is declining for the last several decades, even if slowly. This is largely because of higher mortality rates and increasing rural to urban migration of people.
According to census 2011 these, about 377.11 million people or 31.16 per cent of the total population of India live in urban areas. Contrary to rural population, the proportion of urban population has been increasing since 1901. But the rate of addition was slow up to 1941 when it reached 13.86 per cent of total population from 10.85 per cent in 1901. It jumped to 17.29 per cent in 1951 and 31.16 per cent in 2011. e urban population of India increased from 25.85 million in 1901 to 377.11 million in 2011, recording about 15 times increase during the last 110 years. Average growth rate of urban population, thus, was 100.37 per cent per decade, while average growth rate of rural population was only 24.89 per cent per decade during the same period. Such a rapid growth was due to the migration of people from rural to urban areas.
The process of society’s transformation from a predominantly rural to a predominantly urban population is known as ‘urbanisation’. It includes two things’an increase in the number of people living in urban settlements, and an increase in the percentage of the population engaged in non-agricultural activities, living in such places.
The level of urbanisation varies widely among the states. Goa is the most urbanised state where 62.17 per cent of the population lives in urban areas. Among the larger stages, Tamil Nadu with 48.45% of its total population is the most urbanised stage. This is followed by Kerala (47.72), Maharashtra (45.23 per cent), Gujarat (42.58 per cent), Karnataka (38.57 per cent) and Punjab (37.49 per cent) where over one-third of the total population is urban. Himachal Pradesh has the lowest level of urbanisation where about ten per cent of the total population lives in urban areas. e percentage of urban population to total population is below the national average in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttrakhand, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Meghalaya, Assam, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh,
The Union Territories of Delhi and Chandigarh are the most urbanised areas in the country. These territories have 97.50% and 97.25% of their population as urban respectively. On the other end of the scale, Andaman & Nicobar is the least urbanised among the union territories where only 35.67 per cent of the population lives in urban areas. In fact all the union territories except Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Andaman & Nicobar Islands are highly urbanised areas.
Of the total urban population of India, more than one- half lives in just five states. These states are Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. The other five states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Bihar and Rajasthan, account for one-fourth of India’s total urban population. Thus, the total for these two sets of states comes very high-over three-fourths of the total urban population of India. It is interesting to note that U.P. these in this list, although it is one of the least urbanised states of India with only 22.28 of its population living in urban areas. This happens because its size of urban population is very large (44.47 million) even though its urban percentage is low. One may compare Uttar Pradesh with Maharashtra where the degree of urbanisation is one of the highest in the country but its absolute urban population (50.82 million) is slightly more than that of Uttar Pradesh.