Andhra Pradesh

A VILLAGE WITH 1,000 BOREWELLS

A borewell rig being operated at the Kutalapalli village of Nallamada mandal of Anantapur district. ( Below) An abandoned dried up borewell at Kutalapalli.

A borewell rig being operated at the Kutalapalli village of Nallamada mandal of Anantapur district. ( Below) An abandoned dried up borewell at Kutalapalli.  

elcome to Kutalapalli village in Nallamada mandal, once famous for its quality raw silk. Once upon a time, this village amidst two hills had ample water for mulberry cultivation.

Cut to the situation today. Mulberry cultivation and raw silk production have become virtually non-existent. And the village has progressively gone from being water-sufficient to being completely dependent on rains and well irrigation. Then, all in living memory, the rains became scarcer and the wells dried up. The villagers then dug borewells. Hundreds of them.

What could be worse? Well, the situation became even worse with the borewell too drying up. Today, the village has less than three functioning borewells, none of them useful for drinking water.

During that progression from water sufficiency to complete water scarcity, villagers have dug over 1000 borewells in just 16 years. That translates to more than one borewell per male in the village.

The village has 1400 voters, 850 of them male.

Bodugundlapalli Venkat Reddy, a septuagenarian, has seen it all: the riches brought by silk worm rearing as well as today’s borewell forest. He once had 25 borewells in the 12 acres of land that he used to own. He’s left with four acres now. And six borewells. All dry. “It's as if the entire village has become poor by just drilling borewells," he says.

Adding to Mr Venkat Reddy’s narrative, his relative, Mr Obi Reddy, in his forties, says he has drilled in six borewells in his young life. Last year, he says, during one stretch of one month, three huge rigs stayed put in the village to dig borewells. The villagers paid out one crore rupees to the contractors.

Mr. Obi Reddy remembers that frenetic month: "Three rigs came to our village. One from Kadiri (in Anantapur district), one from Tamil Nadu and another from Hyderabad. A deal was struck for one crore rupees. A total of 90 bores were drilled. Seventy of them turned out to be dry. The remaining dried out within six months. Not a single one is operational today."

It’s no surprise then that there has been a decimation of agriculture in Kutalapalli. Mr. A. Rajasekhara Reddy, the owner of the lone fertiliser store 10 km away at Nallamanda mandal headquarters, says his business from Kutalapalli has come down over the years from around Rs 15 lakh to less than Rs 1.5 lakh today.

This has been the story of agriculture in Anantapur district over the last century, when farmers began to turn to commercial crops around 1905. Their crop of choice was groundnut. They initially rose to prominence, becoming the largest producers of groundnut in the country. But it’s all been downhill since then. The rains have all but vanished here, and the last two decades have been a ceaseless, seamless drought, which has left every social economic system in the village crippled.

If there are no borewells yielding any water, where do they get any water from? As in 70 per cent of the villages in Anantapur district, water comes by tankers these days. Kuttalapalli gets three tankers each from the Duddukunta Foundation and the Rural Water Supply, serving the 3000 residents of the village. Kutalapalli falls in Puttaparthy Assembly constituency, represented by the current Information Technology Minister Palle Raghunatha Reddy, but it seems to make little difference.





It's as if the entire village has become poor by just drilling borewells.

-B. Venkat Reddy, farmer



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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 12:15:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/a-village-with-1000-borewells/article7699890.ece

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