Sunday, October 01, 2006

Islands of despair

Islands of despair


IN every State in India, no matter how prosperous, there are islands of deprivation. Maharashtra is no exception. It stands almost at the top of the list in terms of prosperity. It fails miserably when it comes to equity.

Rural misery has been written about and noted, exemplified by the continuing suicides of farmers in Vidarbha and Marathwada. The Bombay High Court has also, once again, warned the Maharashtra Government that it must do something about the high incidence of malnutrition among children between the ages of one and six. In the last three years, over 24,000 children have died of malnutrition.

Economic neglect

What is not so well known is the pathetic state of some of the smaller towns of Maharashtra. This became evident when three bombs exploded in the powerloom centre of Malegaon in North Maharashtra on September 8. Not only did the bombs shatter the uneasy peace in this town of around 8,00,000 people, of whom the majority is Muslim, but they exposed the pathetic absence of civic infrastructure and economic neglect.

Thirty-one people were killed and over 200 injured on that Friday afternoon when the devout were almost through with their prayers. It was a big day, the Shab-e-barat, when prayers would be said at the Bada Kabristan through the night to remember the loved ones who had moved on. Instead, it became a night for multiple burials, as some of the dead were interred in the same graveyard.

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