Drought Forces Farm­ers into Ben­galuru Slums

Land own­ers used to cen­turies’ of poverty are un­able to bear any longer now

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics -

PARCHED LAND Kal­aburagi: Just a few hours be­fore Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s Sun­daytalkon­ra­dioabout­wa­ter­scarcity, some 2,500 vil­lagers from the parched De­vadurga, Ling­sugur and Sur­pur taluks of Raichur and Yad­gir dis­tricts jumped into a con­voy of 200 mini buses, to be packed like sar­dines, en­dur­ing a 14-hour road jour­ney to Ben­galu­ruon­ly­tolandu­pat­some­con­struc­tion site beg­ging for un­skilled work. Ev­ery week, the mini buses do this trip on Wed­nes­day and Satur­day nights, bring­ing over 5,000 ex­hausted peo­ple, des­per­ate for work and wa­ter to Kar­nataka’s cap­i­tal.

“There is no wa­ter. For three years, we have had no crop. We have no op­tion but leave our home and farm and go to Ben­galuru. What­ever we earn, it will be more than what we have,” said Gud­damma Matlu a farm labourer of Gon­ja­nur vil­lage in Yad­gir district.

Her fel­low pas­sen­ger Bha­ga­vanta Kodag­i­na­halli of De­vadurga in Raichur district, has six acres of land on which he grew jowar and sajje (pearl mil­let). “All gone. I was a landowner, now I will be a con­struc­tion labourer,” he said with grim hu­mour. They have left be­hind the aged to look af­ter the school-go­ing chil­dren,who sur­vive on mid-day meals at the school. All the other age groups, in­clud­ing ba­bies, are on their way to slums in Ben­galuru.

The sto­ries em­a­nat­ing out of the six dis­tricts of north-east Kar­nataka or Hy­der­abad-Kar­nataka — Bal­lari, Raichur, Kop­pal, Yad­gir, Kal­aburagi (for­merly Gul­barga) and Bi­dar — are of de­spair that even those used to cen­turies of back­ward­ness and poverty are un­able to bear any longer.

The state ad­min­is­tra­tion is sup­ply­ing­dai­ly­over76lakhlitre­sof drink­ing wa­ter — twice the amount brought by theJal­dooth­wa­ter­train­fromSan­glito Latur in Ma­ha­rash­tra — through tankers in Kal­aburagi district alone, an­other 24 lakh litres to Bi­dar. Fod­der is be­ing fer­ried from Bal­lari and Raichur to the vil­lages all over the re­gion, while 12 gosha­las have been opened in Kal­aburagi alone.

None of this is mak­ing much of a dif­fer­encea­s­peo­ple­walk5-6kilo­me­tre­sat a blaz­ing 45 de­gree Cel­sius, search­ing for wa­ter and fill­ing their plas­tic pots, beg­ging and buy­ing what­ever they get at what­ever cost.

Any­one sell­ing wa­ter is do­ing a roar­ing busi­ness. Petty shops in vil­lages, towns and road­sides are sell­ing 150 ml wa­ter sa­chets or a sin­gle tum­bler of wa­ter at ₹ 2 each. At Am­bal­aga vil­lage in Aland taluk, in Kal­aburagi district, the worst-hit in the state, peo­ple are buy­ing bar­rels of wa­ter at ₹ 40 each from own­ers of borewells. Pri­vate tankers are sell­ing wa­ter from vil­lage to vil­lage at costs rang­ing from ₹ 800 to ₹ 1,500for1,000litres.At theDal­it­ward, Him­mat­na­gar, in Ka­mal­na­gar vil­lage of Bi­dar district that borders Latur dis­trict­inMa­ha­rash­tra,vil­lager­shave locked up the only borewell that has some wa­ter in it and put a night guard to en­sure no one breaks the lock.

What is rub­bing the salt fur­ther into the wounds of the vil­lagers on the bor­der is that just 5 kms away, at To­gri vil­lage in Latur district of Ma­ha­rash­tra, three tankers are sup­ply­ing wa­ter ev­ery­day.

“We could also do with a wa­ter train like the one that went to Latur. Our sit­u­a­tion is the same,” said shop­keeper Sud­hakar Sang­shetty Gurn­jate at Ka­mal­na­gar.

—Sowmya Aji

Kere­bosga,the 100 acre lake that sup­plies drink­ing wa­ter to Kal­aburagi town, run com­pletely dry.

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