Drought Forces Farmers into Bengaluru Slums
Land owners used to centuries’ of poverty are unable to bear any longer now
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.
Kerebosga,the 100 acre lake that supplies drinking water to Kalaburagi town, run completely dry.