India’s small towns – symbols of urban blight

By Kalpana Sharma in infochange, Urban India, October 2008

68% of India’s urban population lives not in the metros but in towns with population of less than 100,000, many of which get water for a few minutes once a week or every alternate day. No one even talks about the appalling absence of infrastructure in these towns Most of us have a stereotypical image of small-town India.  Pitted roads, piles of garbage, open drains, stagnant pools of water, overhead electric wires, long power-cuts, acute water shortage etc.

That image is now changing with the success stories from small towns that the media is celebrating.  So Bhiwani in Haryana is suddenly in the news for having produced Olympic medal winners and other towns are home to amazingly talented young people who win television reality shows.  Dozens of our cricket stars come from smaller towns and cities, bringing to them a touch of glamour that they have never seen before. Of late there is also a touch of notoriety attached to small towns with a place like Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh, once known for being the home of distinguished writers and poets like Kaifi Azmi, now being given the ‘terror’ tag and Bhatkal in Karnataka being mentioned as the home of the ‘mastermind’ of the Indian Mujahideen.