FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Vidharbha: No rains and 116F

by P. SAINATH

Nagpur Rural (Maharashtra)

Even when it’s 47 degrees Celsius in the rest of the region, it’s cool here. A little away from us is a patch which clocks in at minus 13 degrees. This is “India’s first Snowdome” — in burning Vidharbha. Keeping its ice rink firm costs Rs. 4,000 a day in electricity charges alone.

Welcome to the Fun & Food Village Water & Amusement Park at Bazargaon in Nagpur (Rural) district. A portrait of Mahatma Gandhi greets visitors in the office of the huge complex. And you’re assured daily disco, ice skating, ice sliding and ‘a well stocked bar with cocktails.’ The 40-acre park itself offers 18 kinds of water slides and games. Also services for events ranging from conferences to kitty parties.

The village of Bazargaon (pop 3,000) itself faces a huge water crisis. “Having to make many daily trips for water, women walk up to 15 km in a day to fetch it,” says sarpanch (village government head) Yamunabai Uikey. “This whole village has just one sarkari (government) well. Sometimes, we have got water once in four or five days. Sometimes, once in ten days.”

Bazargaon falls in a region declared as scarcity-hit in 2004. It had never faced that fate before. The village also had its share of six hour — and worse — power cuts till about May. These affected every aspect of daily life, including health, and devastated children appearing for exams. The summer heat, touching 47, made things worse.

All these iron laws of rural life do not apply within Fun & Food Village. This private oasis has more water than Bazargaon can dream of. And never a moment’s break in power supply. “We pay on average,” says Jasjeet Singh, General Manager of the Park, “about 400,000 rupees [about $9,500] a month in electricity bills.”
The Park’s monthly power bill alone almost equals the yearly revenue of Yamunabai’s village government. Ironically, the village’s power crisis eased slightly because of the Park. Both share the same sub-station. The park’s peak period begins with May. And so things have been a little better since then. The Park’s contribution to the village government’s revenue is Rs. 50,000 [$1,190] a year. About half what Fun & Food Village collects at the gate in a day from its 700 daily visitors. Barely a dozen of the Park’s 110 workers are locals from Bazargaon.

Water-starved Vidharbha has a growing number of such water parks and amusement centres. In Shegaon, Buldhana, a religious trust runs a giant “Meditation Centre and Entertainment Park.” Efforts to maintain a 30-acre ‘artificial lake’ within it ran dry this summer. But not before untold amounts of water were wasted in the attempt. Here the entry tickets are called “donations.” In Yavatmal, a private company runs a public lake as a tourist joint. Amravati has two or more such spots (dry just now). And there are others in and around Nagpur — which lies in the centre of India
This, in a region where villages have sometimes got water once in 15 days. And where an ongoing farm crisis has seen the largest numbers of farmers’ suicides in the state of Maharashtra. “No major project for either drinking water or irrigation has been completed in Vidharbha in decades,” says Nagpur-based journalist Jaideep Hardikar. He has covered the region for years.

Mr. Singh insists the Fun & Food Village conserves water. “We use sophisticated filter plants to reuse the same water.” But evaporation levels are very high in this heat. And water is not just used for sports. All the parks use vast amounts of it for maintaining their gardens, on sanitation and for their clientele.

“It is a huge waste of water and money,” says Vinayak Gaikwad in Buldhana. He is a farmer and a Kisan Sabha leader in the district. That in the process, public resources are so often used to boost private profit, angers Mr. Gaikwad. “They should instead be meeting people’s basic water needs.”

Back in Bazargaon, village government chief Yamunabai Uikey isn’t impressed either. Not by the Fun & Food Village. Nor by other industries that have taken a lot but given very little. “What is there in all this for us?” she wants to know. To get a standard government water project for her village, we have to bear 10 per cent of its cost. That’s around Rs. 450,000 [c.$10,750] . “How can we afford the Rs. 45,000 [$1,075]? What is our condition?” So it’s simply been handed over to a contractor. This could see the project built. But it will mean more costs in the long run and less control for a village of so many poor and landless people.

In the Park, Gandhi’s portrait still smiles out of the office as we leave. Seemingly at the ‘Snowdome’ across the parking lot. An odd fate for the man who said: “Live simply, that others might simply live.”

P. SAINATH is the rural affairs editor of The Hindu and the author of Everybody Loves a Good Drought. He can be reached at:psainath@vsnl.com.

 

 

 

 

P. SAINATH is the rural affairs editor of The Hindu, and is the author of Everybody Loves a Good Drought. He can be reached at: psainath@mtnl.net.in

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail