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Bengal set to tweak trishanku town list

New Delhi, Oct. 21: If nearly 4,000 settlement units in the country qualify for the township tag, 665 localities, including 59 in Bengal, fall in the most-deserving category.

The Bengal government today said it would examine the census towns, described by Union minister Jairam Ramesh as “trishanku towns”, and upgrade the most deserving ones to towns “gradually”.

Researcher Kanhu Charan Pradhan of the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), who recently published a paper “Unacknowledged Urbanisation, New Census Towns of India” in the Economic and Political Weekly, said that 665 settlements had population of more than 20,000 each.

The figure is far higher than the population criteria of 5,000 fixed by the Registrar General of India (RGI) for classifying a settlement as a town.

“The 665 settlements may be considered most deserving areas to be given the status of towns by the state governments,” Pradhan said.

According to the RGI’s norms, census towns refer to settlement units having more than 5,000 people each with a density of population of 400 per square km and at least 75 per cent of the male workforce not depending on the farm sector.

There are 3,894 such census towns in India, including 780 in Bengal, the researcher has said.

Pradhan said that the 665 most deserving towns include 59 in Bengal.

Bengal rural development and panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee told The Telegraph that the state government would examine the census towns and convert them to towns “gradually”.

“There are 3,000 gram panchayats in the state. Our government will examine these census towns and upgrade them to towns gradually. The most deserving ones will get priority,” Mukherjee said over phone from Calcutta.

Some of the “most deserving” localities are Dabgram and Kharia in Jalpaiguri, Aurangabad and Paschim Punropara in Murshidabad, Chittaranjan and Kajora in Burdwan, Jagadanandapur, Phulia and Ainshtala in Nadia, Pandua in Hooghly, Balarampur in Purulia, Nibira, Bally, Korala and Sankrail in Howrah, Banshra and Matla in South 24-Parganas and the Kharagpur Railway Settlement in West Midnapore.

Some places had very high population like Dabgram (71,812), and Kharia (52,399), Chittaranjan (45,957) and the Kharagpur Railway Settlement (84,104) in 2011, Pradhan said.

Kerala has 235 such most deserving towns, Pradhan said.

He attributed the growth in the number of census towns to structural changes in the economy and reduction in the role of agriculture in employment and peripheral development of existing large cities.

“The dependency of people on agriculture is as such going down as other sectors are booming. The localities on the outskirts of large cities are also growing,” Pradhan said.