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 founder-editor of the People’s Archive of Rural India. He has been a rural reporter for decades and is the author of ‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought’You can contact the author here: @PSainath_org

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 24, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Reflections on DC: Promises and Pitfalls in the Anti-Trump Uprising
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Developer Welfare: Trump’s Infrastructure Plan
Melvin Goodman
Trump at the CIA: the Orwellian World of Alternative Facts
Sam Mitrani – Chad Pearson
A Short History of Liberal Myths and Anti-Labor Politics
Kristine Mattis
Democracy is Not a Team Sport
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Mexico, Neo-Nationalism and the Capitalist World-System
Ted Rall
The Women’s March Was a Dismal Failure and a Hopeful Sign
Norman Pollack
Women’s March: Halt at the Water’s Edge
Pepe Escobar
Will Trump Hop on an American Silk Road?
Franklin Lamb
Trump’s “Syria “Minus Iran” Overture to Putin and Assad May Restore Washington-Damascus Relations
Kenneth R. Culton
Violence By Any Other Name
David Swanson
Why Impeach Donald Trump
Christopher Brauchli
Trump’s Contempt
January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail