Little is known or written about the 2,000 small and medium towns of India. The one characteristic that defines them all, says this report from towns such as Madhubani, Jhunjhunu and Sehore, is the absence of planning. Many of these towns do not even possess an accurate town map. And up to a quarter of their population lives in slums.
In Madhubani town in North Bihar, the longest lines are outside one of the four ATM machines dispensing instant cash. In Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan, many people keep their own cows or buffaloes for milk because they do not trust the local milk supply. In Narnaul, Haryana, there are dozens of beauty parlours and one of the women nominated to the municipal council is a trained beautician. In all three, the most popular advertisement is for mobile phones.