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Villagers binge on alcohol, SUVs with F1 compensation

Until a year or so ago, Narangpura was a small village like thousands of others in northern India.

india Updated: Aug 21, 2011 23:58 IST
Hindustan Times

Until a year or so ago, Narangpura was a small village like thousands of others in northern India. There were no toilets, no sanitation, electricity for a couple of hours of day, no clinic and only a basic primary school. Most of its few thousand inhabitants were barely literate and many of the children were malnourished.

Then came change, in the shape of India’s first Formula One track.

The £270m, three-mile circuit is part of a vast, multibillion-pound project to develop a huge swath of land around New Delhi and kick-start development in the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh, where poverty levels are on a par with sub-Saharan Africa.

The track - one of the fastest in the world with state of the art stands and a 1,50,000 capacity - is part of a 2,500-acre “Sports City” along with a hockey stadium, a cricket ground and a tennis academy.

The development has certainly changed life in Narangpura and the surrounding villages. With huge sums of cash paid by the construction company in compensation for their land, many villagers have built themselves large and gaudy homes or bought expensive car.

“My family earned R 7 crores and it was split between five brothers,” said Mahahi Nagar, 40. “I spent all my share on my house.” Nagar’s new home is a five-bedroom, two-storey white and green cement edifice which he admits is “a bit big”. Standing outside is a four-wheel drive SUV which was a dowry gift from the family of his 20-year-old son’s new bride.

Though proud of his house, Nagar is worried about the future. He has no skills and no job and is “eating money”.

Women in the village say alcoholism - long a problem in such communities - has reached new levels. So too has domestic violence. “It’s really bad now,” said Kishan, 36. “They have nothing to do and lots of money so the men spend all their time drinking. And they treat their wives badly. Why should they care? They have enough money to get themselves another wife in a single day only.”

Others talk of drunk teenagers brawling in the streets. Though few of the villagers have heard of motor racing, the men do like their new cars. Nagar’s son recently drove his new SUV from the village to the beaches and bars of Goa and back to “have fun with friends”.

Experts say that the tidal wave of cash has meant social change that normally takes decades has occurred overnight.

“There is a natural process by which rural communities become part of a city and its economy,” said Dr Rajiv Kumar, an eminent Indian economist.

“But when it is accelerated there is more risk of social disruption.”

First Published: Aug 21, 2011 23:57 IST