Tamil Nadu is the most Urbanized State

Tamil Nadu will officially add one more city to its expanding list today. With the inauguration of Vellore corporation, perhaps the biggest in the state with an area of 392.62 sq km, the number of municipal corporations will go up to nine in the most urbanized state in the country.For long, Tamil Nadu had only six municipal corporations - Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Tiruchi, Salem and Tirunelveli. The knitwear town of Tirupur and the textile cluster of Erode were upgraded as corporations in December 2007 to give a fillip to infrastructure and other civic amenities. Now, Vellore and soon afterwards (August 5) the coastal town of Tuticorin, will be designated as municipal corporations, a status which is usually reserved for urban centres with a population of 3 lakh.Local administration minister M K Stalin told TOI that the “upgradation” had been pending for some time. “Residents of adjacent towns and village panchayats that are being merged with the new corporations will stand to benefit more in terms of getting better roads, water supply and sanitation,” he said.The Vellore corporation, which has grown from a 11.92 sq km municipality, will be bigger than Chennai (172 sq km) and Coimbatore (105.6), but smaller than Greater Hyderabad (650), Bangalore (800) and Mumbai (437.71). The proposed Vellore corporation will comprise five assembly segments.According to the 2001 census, TN is the most urbanized state in India with 43.9% (2.72 crore out of the total 6.21 crore) of the population living in urban areas followed by Maharashtra (42.4%) and Gujarat (37.4%). Given the rapid pace of industrialisation in the state, the gap is expected to have widened in the last five years.The main reason for newly-emerging industrial clusters such as Tirupur and Vellore to recast themselves as corporation-run towns is to seek more funding from government as well as multi-lateral sources in order to improve infrastructure. “These urban local bodies will get enhanced funding from governments and that creates scope for holistic planning,” said Stalin. The size of population, revenue of the local body and growth potential had been taken into account before according city status of municipal corporation to Vellore and Tuticorin, sources said.The biggest sources for funds for the newly upgraded corporations could be Centrally-aided schemes for urban regeneration such as the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.In the case of Vellore, population, revenue and growth potential has been taken into account before according city status.The corporation of Vellore, a town of historic importance, will comprise nearby municipal towns of Arcot, Walajah, Ranipet, Sathuvachari, Dharapadavedu, and Melvisharam besides eight town panchayats and 61 village panchayats. All these local bodies have passed resolutions favouring merger with Vellore corporation, sources said. Local administration minister M K Stalin said that they have been getting requests from some other municipalities including Kancheepuram to upgrade them into corporations. He said their plea would be considered favourably if they satisfy the norms laid down by the government.“The striking feature of urbanization in Tamil Nadu is its spread of small, medium and big towns all over the state," said Prof K Nagaraj of the Chennai-based Madras Institute of Development Studies. Though urbanization has been rising steadily, there has been a spurt in growth in the last 10 years causing Tamil Nadu’s level of urbanization to exceed that of the country by more than 12%. With industrial growth accelerating in the last couple of years, the migration level too would have gone up.“It’s partly because of industries and also due to fallout of distress in agriculture. The spread of small and medium towns in different parts of TN also means the spread of urban problems. It’s not the big cities alone that face challenges in civic amenities, the problem is acute in smaller towns too,” added Nagaraj, who worked on urbanization of the state. Sanitation and water supply have always been poor in smaller towns. The authorities should address the problem of housing for the urban poor.

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