Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Drought wreaks havoc on Indian farmers

A punishing drought in western India is hurting livestock farmers as the region experiences water shortages.

She is 11 years old and lives in Bonewadi, a small town in Maharashtra, with her mother, two sisters and one brother. She is in grade six and walks 3km to attend school. In the evening, she walks 7km to feed her cattle at a camp. Meet Asha, a young girl born in a farmer's family that owns 11 acres of land, which is usually sufficient to earn enough money to make a living under normal conditions.

Then there is Digambar Pandurang Atpadkar, a 70-year-old farmer who owns 60 acres of land and four wells in Vartuke Malwade, a small village, also in Maharashtra, India's second most populous state. He and his wife have walked 10km to reach the cattle camp, which offers emergency food and shelter, to save their eight animals.
Asha and Atpadkar are just two among the many who have been hit by drought in India. And surprisingly, majority of the farmers and cattle taking refuge in the cattle camp are from Mann taluk in Satara district - that has 21 cattle camps this year - which is under the parliamentary constituency of Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who recently claimed to have spent millions of rupees supporting irrigation facilities in Maharashtra.
Moreover, Mann taluk is also adjacent to the sugar belt - sugarcane is an infamously water-intensive crop - which politicians consider their stronghold, having poured in a lion's share of Maharashtra's development funds here. Yet, the region, popularly known as Manndesh in local folklore, continues to remain at the mercy of whimsical rains.

Triggering concerns of poor farm output and higher inflation, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted less rain from June to September. "We expect 15 per cent shortfall in the seasonal rains," LS Rathore, the director general of the IMD, told reporters.

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