Politician finds $180 million for fountains and badminton courts while children starve and families drink poisoned water

16 June 2005. Mr Babu Lal Gaur, Chief Minister of the state of Madhya Pradesh, is reported to be planning a spend of $180 million (800 crores of rupees) on beautifying four major cities including the capital, Bhopal.

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Money for badminton but not for the hungry and thirsty
Meanwhile, writes The Statesman newspaper, almost half the state’s children are suffering from malnutrition.
The Gaur regime, it can hardly be described as “government”, has for more than a year also ignored an Indian Supreme Court ruling to provide safe drinking water for families in Bhopal whose wells and stand-pipes have been poisoned by chemicals leaking from the derelict Union Carbide factory.
Last month, women who went with their children to a government office to protest were beaten and kicked by police.
Gaur and his politicians have also sent barefoot women and children into the factory to begin a “clean-up” of the hazardous chemicals left there by Union Carbide.
On this website are plenty of pictures of workers with no protection whatsoever, breathing in clouds of lindane and ddt dust.
Indian politicians, both at state and central level, hold Dow Chemical, the present 100% owner of Union Carbide, liable for the pollution and the cost of the clean up.
After the intervention of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee, the MPPCB (Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board) has agreed to let community respresentatives into the factory to oversee a transfer of toxic waste from open areas to sheltered spaces within the site.
This is neither a containment, nor a clean-up, and is merely a prelude to the big affair.
So for now please hold off on phone calls or SMSs to PCB members or the Chief Secretary.
Please continue below for the The Statesman article.

Santosh Singh in Bhopal
June 15. — Four districts, by the state government’s own admission, are suffering from malnutrition. There is also an acute water crisis in several districts. The government has an outstanding loan of over Rs 33,360 crore.
But none of these seems to be the immediate headache of the Babulal Gaur government. The CM is more concerned about the beautification of Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior and Jabalpur. He wants broader roads, dazzling street lights, neon lampposts, grand roundabouts with fountains, parks, gyms and badminton courts. The project, to be carried out in two phases, will cost the state exchequer Rs 800 crore.
The CM does not seem to be much perturbed by the problem of malnutrition in the state. According to an estimate, almost 50 per cent of 1.6 crore children, mostly aged below five years, in the state are suffering from it. In last three months, over three dozen children died reportedly because of malnutrition but the government has no concerted plan to address the problem.
Though Mr Gaur has despatched a team to seek reports on malnutrition, he is more engrossed in his beautification programme. High levels of undernourishment reportedly exists among the women and children of Sidhi, Dhar, Ratlam and Ashok Nagar.
The government has done nothing in these affected districts beyond directing officials to organise camps and distributing vitamin capsules and ORS powder.
The Madhya Pardesh State Electricity Board is yet to pay off its due of over Rs 700 crore . Free distribution of electricity to farmers are only burning holes in its pockets yet the “populist” government is not bothered about it.
Mr Gaur, whose fascination for good roads and anti-encroachment drive is well-known did a three-hour inspection of Bhopal, a couple of days ago, to find out where beatification is necessary. It may be remembered that VIP road of the city was constructed under Mr Gaur’s previous dispensation as a minister under Mr Sunderlal Patwa.
Several private groups and contractors have found a brisk business in Mr Gaur’s beautification plan. They reportedly earn a huge profit margin by engaging in such projects.

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