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.



 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalences on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Off-Shore Drilling
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises