Human Settlement: Types of Urban Settlements, Classification of Urban Settlement

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Types of Urban Settlements

Like rural settlements, urban settlements are classified on various bases. However, classification based on size and function are most common.

Classification Based on Population Size

According to the population size, Census of India classifies urban centres into six classes. Class wise urban settlements and their population are given below in a tabular form.

Classification of Urban Settlement

Other Classification of Urban Settlement
Title: Other Classification of Urban Settlement



Class I

1,00,000 and above

Class II

50,000 – 99,999

Class III

20,000 – 49,999

Class IV

10,000 – 19,999

Class V

5,000 – 9,999

Class VI

less than 5,000

There is another classification of urban settlements. The classification is as follows:

Classification of Cities
Classification of cities


Places which have less than one lakh population.


Urban centres having population between one lakh to one million.

Metropolitan Cities

Cities having population in between one million to five million.

Mega Cities

Cities having more than 5 million population.

Functional Classification

This is the most popular and widely accepted classification of urban places in India as well as in other parts of the world. In India various scholars attempted to classify urban centres on the basis of functions. But the most popular and widely accepted functional classification was given by Ashok Mitra, a noted demographer and the then Registrar General of India.

Ashok Mitra’S Functional Classification of Indian Cities

Ashok Mitra’s classification is based on the categories of workers classification available in the Census of 1961 and 1971. Functional classification of towns and cities could not be used in 1981 Census due to non-availability of town level data based on industrial classification of workers into nine industrial categories. In 1991, an effort was made to classify all urban places in terms of their functional character with slight modification by adjusting the industrial categories into five broad economic sectors. The classification is as follows:

Functional Classification of Urban Places

Functional Classification of Urban Places
Title: Functional Classification of Urban Places


Industrial Category

1. Primary Activity

I. Cultivations

II. Agricultural labourers

III. Livestock, forestry, fishing, hunting, plantations, orchards and allied activities

IV. Mining and quarrying

2. Industry

V. Manufacturing, processing, servicing and repairs.

  1. household industry

  2. other than household industry

VI. Construction workers

3. Trade

VII. Trade and commerce

4. Transport

VIII. Transport, storage and communication

5. Services

IX. Other services

The procedure adopted for functional classification in 1991 Census was as follows:

  • For each Urban Agglomeration/town, the percentage of total main workers in each of the five sectors was worked out.

  • The functional category of the UA/town was then determined on the following basis:

    • If workers in one sector constituted 40% or more, the UA/town was classified in the relevant mono-functional category.

    • If the percentage in one sector was less than 40%, two sectors having the largest percentages were combined to see, if they together constituted 60% or more. If so, the UA/town was classified in the relevant bi-functional category.

    • If no two sectors added up to 60% or more, three sectors having the largest percentage were combined and the UA/town was classified in the relevant multi-functional category.

  • To determine the functional category of each UA/town, in certain cases where at least 1/4th workers were engaged in one of the four activities, viz (a) forestry/fishing (including livestock, plantation, etc.), (b) mining and quarrying (c) manufacturing in household industry, and (d) construction, the respective UA/towns have been classified in the relevant sub-functional categories provided such activity happen to be the first or second leading function of those UA/town.

  • Using the above-mentioned procedure, all the 3,697 UA/towns of India (excluding Jammu and Kashmir) have been classified into different functional categories. Following results have been obtained by applying the above scheme.

    • Almost half of the UA/towns (1756 to be precise) were classified in the first category i.e. primary activity, but they contain only 15.85% of the urban population of the country. Most of the towns belonging to this category were of small size. About 2/3rd of such places were having mono-functional character while about 1/5th were multifunctional. Uttar Pradesh had the largest number, i.e. 371 such UA/towns.

    • 723 UA/towns had industry as the predominant function. These places accounted for almost half of the urban population. More than 1/3rd of these places were having one lakh or more population each and these places accounted for more than 4/5th population of UA/towns classified under industrial category. Less than half of such places had mono-functional character and the number of bi-functional places was quite less. Tamil Nadu had the largest number of 101 industrial UA/towns followed by Uttar Pradesh (91) and Gujarat (87) under this category.

    • 460 UA/towns were classified in the category of trade, but these places comprised 7% of the urban population. Most of these trading towns/UA had multi-functional in nature and most of the rest towns/UA are bi-functional in nature. Uttar Pradesh has the largest number of UA/towns i.e. 123 and the rest of the states have a smaller number of trading towns.

    • Only 23 UA/towns were classified as transport accommodating less than 1% of the urban population of the country. Most of them are small towns except a few like Kharagpur in West Bengal, Mughal Sarai in Uttar Pradesh. So far as their functional character is concerned, 10 had mono-functional and another 10 had multi-functional character.

    • As many as 736 UA/towns had services as the leading function and these accounted for more than one fourth of the urban population. Most of the population, about 70% lived in Class I towns. As far as functions are concerned majority of the towns/UA are either multi-functional or bi-functional. Uttar Pradesh had the largest number of such places (114) followed by Madhya Pradesh (82).

  • After a detailed discussion on the functional classification of cities, the given table shows functions and few names of the cities in India that belong to that particular function.

India: Cities According to Functions

India: Cities According to Functions
Title: India: Cities According to Functions


Name of the Cities

1. Administrative

New Delhi, Chandigarh, Bhubaneshwar, Gandhi Nagar, Thiruvananthapuram, Imphal, etc.

2. Industrial

Jamshedpur, Bhilai, Salem, Coimbatore, Modinagar, Surat, etc.

3. Transport

Port cities like Kandla, Kochi, Vishakhapatnam, etc. Road and Railway Junctions like Mughal Sarai, Itarsi, Katni, Kharagpur, Agra etc.

4. Commercial Towns

Kolkata, Mumbai, Saharanpur, Indore, Chennai, etc.

5. Mining Towns

Raniganj, Jharia, Dhanbad, Digboi, Ankaleswar, Singrauli, etc.

6. Cantonment

Meerut, Ambala, Jalandhar, Mhow, Pathankot, etc.

7. Educational

Roorkee, Pilani, Manipal, Aligarh, Varanasi, etc.

8. Religious

Puri, Mathura, Madurai, Tirupati, Katra, Amritsar, Allahabad, Varanasi, etc.

9. Tourist

Nainital, Mussorie, Shimla, Pachmarhi, Udagamandalam (ooty), Mount Abu, Gangtok etc.

In brief, it can be said that

  • Settlement can be defined as any form of human habitation which ranges from a single dwelling to a large city. Settlements can be broadly divided into two types– rural and urban. The basic difference between rural and urban is on the basis of function. In India rural settlements are broadly grouped under four categories. These are compact, semi-compact, hamlet and dispersed. Compact settlements have closely built up area and dwellings are concentrated in one central site. Maximum settlements of our country come under this category and geographically it spreads almost every part of the country. There are as much as eleven patterns are found within the compact settlement. Semi-compact settlements are characterised by a small but compact nuclear around which hamlets are dispersed. Some of the important patterns bound in semi-compact settlements are checkerboard, elongated, and fan shaped. Such settlements are found in tribal areas of Chota Nagpur region and Nagaland in north-eastern states of India.

  • Hamlet settlements are those settlements where central or main settlements is either absent or has less influence on the other units whereas dispersed settlement is a unit of small size which may consists of a single house to a small group of houses. Physical ethnic or cultural and historical or defence are some of the important factors which influence the type of rural settlements in India. There are variations in house types also. The variations are determined by topography, climate, availability of building materials, etc. As far as building materials are concerned, these can be grouped under two categories– building material used for walls and building material used for roofs. Building materials used for walls are mainly mud, stone, brick, timber and wattle whereas building materials used for roofs are thatch, mud, tiles, stone, wood, brick, etc.

  • According to the Census of India, urban settlements are all places with municipality, corporation, cantonment board, or notified town area committee etc. and all other places which satisfy the following criteria: a minimum population of 5000, at least 75% of male working population engaged in non-agricultural pursuits, and a density of population of at least 4,000 persons per square kilometre. The places which satisfy the conditions mentioned in former category are known as statutory towns. The towns which satisfy conditions mentioned in the latter category are known as census towns. Like rural settlements, urban settlements are classified on various bases. However, classification based on size and function are most common. On the basis of population size all urban settlements can be town, city, metropolitan city and mega city. On the basis of functions, cities can be grouped as administrative, industrial, transportation, commercial, mining, cantonment, educational, religious, tourist, etc.

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