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Farm labourers migrating in search of work

T.V. Sivanandan
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Majority of water bodies in Yadgir district go dry owing to failure of rain

All lost:Basavaraj of Gundapur village in Yadgir district in his cotton field.
All lost:Basavaraj of Gundapur village in Yadgir district in his cotton field.

Despite 40 per cent of the agriculture land in Yadgir district being irrigated by the Upper Krishna Project and numerous minor irrigation tanks, the district is experiencing one of the worst-ever droughts this year and severe drinking water shortage.

This tiny district with three taluks provides a picture of contrast of rich and contended agriculturists — whose lands do not face the rigours of the drought owing to assured water from the Narayanpur Left Bank Canal and Shahapur Branch Canal of the Upper Krishna Project (UKP) — on the one hand, and poverty stricken areas with more than 60 per cent land entirely dependent on rain on the other.

The failure of rain last year had left most of the water bodies dry and majority of the borewells and open wells in the district, particularly in the rainfed areas, have either gone dry or the yield had come down drastically due to fall the ground water-level. The drinking water shortage even in the irrigation rich villages is more telling this time. Added to this is the frequent and unscheduled power cuts in rural areas, which has hit the drinking water supply schemes badly.

“Seldom the water is supplied in the taps... I have to walk up to 2 km everyday to get one pot of drinking water from a private borewell in an agriculture field,” said 10-year-old Lakshmi Savur, who helps her mother in the household work in Gundapur in Yadgir taluk.

Gundapur, like many other villages which is dependent on the groundwater, is facing a peculiar problem with almost all borewells going dry. The village had a record 340 borewells, with practically every farmer having one in his agriculture field, to provide irrigation to around 800 acres of land. Of the 340 borewells, 260 have gone dry and the yield has come down sharply in the remaining ones.

Basavaraj, a small farmer owning around 3 acres of land, said that his borewell had gone dry a month back and standing vegetable crop of cucumber and cabbage was lost.

Although many villages are facing severe shortage of drinking water, the officials have taken up transportation of water only in Alahal village in Yaktapur Gram Panchayat in Surpur taluk. The district administration and the zilla panchayat admit that nearly 250 villages are facing severe drinking water shortage and the figure may go up as the severity of summer increases. The district is also facing severe shortage of fodder, particularly in the rainfed areas and so far no goshalas or fodder banks have been opened.

Another feature of Yadgir district is the large-scale migration of agriculture labourers in the lean season to bigger cities such as Bangalore in search of employment. The State government had failed to arrest the migration ofagricultural labourers who work as construction workers in Bangalore and other cities. This year the migration had been reported on a large scale in the drought-hit areas since most of the people did not get employment in the agriculture fields and the government failed to provide them work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

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