For 52-year-old Yarlagadda Rajarao, the day starts before dawn as he has to climb more than ten date-palm trees to tap toddy to earn his livelihood. With no other skills and opportunities on hand, what lies before him is the traditional profession that involves a great risk to life, as a single slip could spell death. “I can manage to climb an average of ten date-palm trees twice a day, each 15-20 feet high. The risky climb and tapping toddy is barely ensuring an income of less than Rs. 400 a day,” Mr. Raja Rao of Tapasapudi village in Krishna district told The Hindu.
However, the complete support of his wife is mandatory to operate a makeshift toddy sales point. In Krishna district thousands of toddy tappers still do not own even a single tree or have control over it, except tapping the toddy in summer. Young tappers manage to climb at least 15 trees twice a day and collect a maximum of 60 litres of toddy which is being sold at Rs. 15 a litre. Attending to 15 trees a day could mean climbing of up to 1,200 feet, shinnying up with bare legs and hands. “Working without a single day break continuously for three months is tough, and part of our trade. As the flow of toddy begins to drop towards the end of the season, which is May, the income too starts to come down,” said another 34-year-old M. Raja Rao of Guduru mandal. The toddy tappers complain that they are subjected to severe muscular pain following the season.