In a country that successfully sent its seventh and final in the series of navigation satellites of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System lack of rainfall for a few years should be the least worrying bit. After all a country so advanced in technologies, must have had some precautions in place, right? For a country vastly dependent on agriculture one can only assume that the wellbeing of the farmers must be the number one priority. Much to everyone’s dismay, it seems that one fourth of the population in the country is facing drought or drought like condition. The lack of foresight and the unwillingness to learn from mistakes seems to be the reason if the general consensus is to be believed.
Maharashtra, which boasts of having India’s economic capital – Mumbai, is in dire straits because of drought. A state largely dependent on cultivation of crops that require high amounts of water is now left high and dry due to lack of proper rain in most parts for the successive four or five years. In the past few years, Maharashtra has been topping the list of states in the country when it comes to farmers committing suicide. In the first few years of low rainfall the government seems to have turned a blind eye and failed to take necessary steps to make sure that a drought- like situation does not arise. The mixture of man made errors and nature’s wrath over a period of four five years seems to have caused the drought. Incomplete irrigation projects, overutilization of water and lack of understanding of sustainable agriculture by the farmers can be sighted as the main reasons.
While the finger pointing continues in the government, Supreme Court has ordered the Center to consider and treat drought as a disaster and form a national response force along with a consolidated fund within six months to deal with drought situations. But it might be too late for some, who have decided to leave their houses and farms and move to camps in cities. The villages have lesser numbers of farmers and a greater number of tragic stories. With no water and very little support from the government a large chunk of farmers have migrated. Dams are lying un-used as rivers have dried up and the reservoirs are empty. Adjacent villages are surviving on water supplied by the government and the water tanker comes twice a week. Some villagers have to walk for miles and stand in a queue for hours in the melting heat to fetch water, causing heat stroke and even a few deaths. Washing clothes and taking baths seems like luxury. Feeding cattle has become an expensive affair sue to dearth of fodder. Cattle camps have been set up in places where local NGOs extend help whenever they are able to. The horn of the water tanker trucks have become sweet music to the villagers as they run out with earthen pots, buckets and what have you to fill and store water for the week. It is not just farmers who are affected. Other professions like blacksmiths are affected as well. Turhiram Narsingrao Ankushe, 40 year old blacksmith from Dabha village spoke about how it has affected the entire ecosystem.
Speaking to Chocoba Nimbaji Parde, 80 year old resident of Bavchi village is a government contracted farmer. His family lives in Mumbai and he has to fetch his own water in the immense heat. There are several such stories of hardships for a basic necessity like water, which is very hard to believe – given that a situation like this could’ve been easily avoided. The cracks in the soil stand witness to the cracks in our elected government and its lack of prudence towards a situation that everyone saw coming, every year hoping that the next year would be better, that the next year would see rains.