Settlements in India are grouped into three broad categories, namely villages, statutory towns (STs) and census towns (CTs), the latter two being the two main types of urban areas in India. CTs are administratively rural settlements which nevertheless satisfy the criteria of urban areas. This project will investigate the nature, history, as well as economic and political structures of Census Towns.

Census Towns raise a number of questions regarding their characteristics and classification which the project seeks to address: In what respects is a Census Town different from a village or a statutory town? Why is one settlement rural and another one urban? What are the trade-offs between the rural and urban status and the associated government structures? In order to consider these issues, the study analyses national survey data, such as the Indian Census data, along with in-depth field studies in Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand and West Bengal, which will include surveys and interviews.

The data will help shed light on the governance and economic structures of Census Towns. The project will analyse the variation in the structures of governance and public services and seeks to get a deeper understanding of the role of the government in driving spatial and social changes. Questions regarding the economic activities and the economic growth, employment, and land use patterns will also be addressed. This will help get a deeper understanding of the factors driving the expansion of settlement and the economic interactions with other settlements and cities.