Narayan (60) of village Tindauli in Kabrai block of Mahoba district — 230 km south of Lucknow — is a distraught man these days. With the monsoon failing the Bundelkhand region and the state offering little help, he has kept all options open. He’s thinking of selling of his agricultural land and property, moving to another place for a job and, as the last resort — committing suicide.
“What can I do? I tried mixed cropping — oilseeds, pulses, jowar, etc. — but everything dried up. I don’t know how I’m going to pay back the loans,” he told HT while on his way to Mahoba to sell off his two oxen. “I had kept them (oxen) with so much care for so long. But there’s no money, no water.”
Narayan (who goes by one name only) is not alone. There is despair all around. Hundreds of farmers in Bundelkhand are going through what he is facing.
There’s a mass exodus from Hamirpur, Orai, Jhansi, Lalitpur Banda and Chitrakoot. People are leaving in hordes for Agra, Delhi and other cities in search of survival.
Government statistics show that in Banda, 90 per cent of the farmers are in debt due to successive droughts. Scores of farmers have committed suicide between 2006 and 2008.
In Chirakoot, 90 per cent of the fields haven’t been cultivated weeks after onset of monsoon in other parts of the state.
Last year, Bundelkhand received 400 mm of rainfall — less than half the normal 900 mm. But it was the highest in the last eight years. Seventy-five per cent sowing of Rabi crops, mainly gram, wheat and pulses could be done.
But this year, there’s hardly any rain and only 10 per cent of sowing has been done. Not much of it is expected to survive under present conditions.
Parsu (he also goes by one name), another farmer in Mahoba, is set to leave for Delhi. “There’s no other option. Most families are going without food. It’s a hopeless situation,” he said, adding, “Hunger deaths and suicides are just round the corner. I’m sure you will come again soon for more coverage.”
G.C. Katiyar, deputy director (agriculture) of Mahoba, admitted to the grim scenario: “The region’s agriculture is rain-fed. If there’s no further rain, all crops will be destroyed.”