Marathwada Diary: As drought threat looms large, farmers and labourers begin migrating to cities

A little over a month of this year's monsoon season remains but small farmers and labourers from Marathwada have already begun migrating to metro cities or industrial areas in search of livelihood. Farmers feel they won't reap a good harvest even if it rains in the remainder of the season, forcing them to migrate. Though the exact figures of the migration are unavailable, the number must be in thousands from the eight districts in Marathwada.

Prakash Pofle, Head of agriculture department, Yashavant Mahavidyalaya, Nanded, said, “Marathwada till now has received only 38 percent rainfall in the two and half months of monsoon. Due to the long dry spell, seeds or crops like soybean, oilseeds, sugarcane, jowar, which were sowed at the beginning of monsoon, have already been destroyed. In some parts, crops grew for a while due to better rainfall but later they too wilted. Even if it rains now, Kharif season cannot be revived. Farmers have already lost their investment. They will have to wait for the Rabi season starting October to begin cultivation.”

Although the India Meteorological Department predicted rainfall across Marathwada in August and September, farmers are in no mood to believe the predictions. One of the farmers said, "IMD predicted good rains. So, we invested in Kharif crops but we have already lost our money. Hence, we don’t think trust IMD’s prediction."

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

With crops failing, labourers and small farmers — who cultivate farms of over one hectare — are migrating to nearby industrial areas or construction sites. Sripal Rathod, sarapanch, Khadgoan, Parabhani, said, “Generally, labourers and small-time farmers prefer to work with farmers owning farmlands. But now it is clear that they will not get work in villages. Though government promises to help distressed farmers, not much work is available under schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA). They don’t have option but to migrate to survive.” He added, “More than 2500 people from Paithan Taluka alone have migrated to industrial areas near Pune, Mumbai and other cities in the last one month.”

Bala Sawant, a farmer from Vasamat in Hingoli district, said, “I own one-two acres of land and cultivate soybean. Besides I also work as a daily wager at other farms. Due to lack of water, there is no work available in the village. So, I have shifted to Alandi near Pune to work at construction sites. It is futile waiting for rains. At least, I have started to earn and save money now.”

Kishor Dhange, sarpanch of Shendra village in Parbhani taluka, said, “Over 20 families from my village have already shifted to Pune to work at construction sites, hotels or at homes as maids. More than 300 labourers go to the industrial estate in Parabhani to work on daily wages. If it does not rain for the next one month, more families will be migrating to cities to get work.”

Arun Kulkarni, head of the Latur branch of Swabhimani Shetakari Sanghatana (SSS), said, “At least 10 percent of labourers across the district have already migrated in the middle of this year's monsoon. The number is going to swell in coming months. Government needs to declare the region drought affected as soon as possible and help labourers get work locally. The state government also needs to begin fodder camps for animals. Many families are unable to migrate as they keep cattle at home. It was only in 2016 that the rainfall was good enough for farmers. Students studying in other cities are also dropping out as their families cannot afford to pay for their education.”

Officials in the revenue department are not ready to talk on the topic openly. However, they do accept that people have begun to move out of villages in search of an alternative livelihood. One of the officials told Firstpost, on the condition of anonymity, “At least 3-5 thousands labourers and small farmers have already shifted to cities like Aurangabad, Pune, Mumbai and Nashik. While some are working at construction sites, others are looking for work at farms in areas where there has been good rains. One of the reasons for the migration is that farmers are yet benefit from the loan waiver announced by the state government in June. Insurance cover for crop too will not be given soon. People don’t have money to feed themselves.”

Updated Date: Aug 20, 2017 11:08 AM

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