Drought triggers distress sale of cattle in Andhra Pradesh, herders turn labourers

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Hyderabad
  • Updated: Apr 23, 2016 09:57 IST
A farmer sits on a dried-up bed of a water body on the outskirts of Hyderabad, India. (AP Photo)

With water levels in most of the major reservoirs across Krishna and Godavari rivers reaching dead storage and ground water plummeting further, almost entire Telangana and parts of Andhra Pradesh are in the grip of water scarcity.

The heat wave has further added to people’s miseries. Maximum day temperatures continue to be between 40 and 43 degree Celsius in Telangana and Rayalaseema region of Andhra. The heat wave has already claimed more than 100 lives in the two states.

The scarcity of fodder has dealt a blow to the crisis-ridden agriculture. Farmers in the worst-hit Mahabubnagar, Nizamabad and Nalgonda districts of Telangana and in perennially drought-prone Anantapur district of Rayalaseema are selling away their cattle to slaughterhouses.

With no fodder and water, small farmers are unable to maintain the cattle, the mainstay for the farming. The farmers, who have milch animals for additional income, are also selling them off at half the price.

For instance, cattle from various villages in Nalgonda district are brought to the weekly market at Kondamadugu near Bibinagar for sale.

“I couldn’t have seen it dying of hunger and thirst. So I sold it away,” said G. Narsaiah, a farmer from Nalgonda district who sold the only bullock he had.

The animals are dying because of heat wave. Shepherds were badly hit by the severe drought. The families dependent on cattle breeding are also forced to resort to distress sale.

There are also reports of farmers and agriculture labourers migrating to cities abandoning their pets.

Hundreds of people from Mahabubnagar, Nizamabad and other districts of Telangana and from various parts of Rayalaseema have migrated to cities like Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Bengaluru and Mumbai to work as construction labourers. While migration is an annual phenomenon, the numbers this year have gone up due to the severity of drought.

National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGP) has also taken a hit because of the scorching summer and also non-payment of wage dues to the labourers.

Telangana has declared holidays for schools a week in advance due to the heat wave. The government has announced that midday meal scheme for school children will continue even during holidays. However, there are not many takers for this as the children have to cover a distance of two to three km to reach the schools. The intense heat is forcing them to remain indoors.

Targetting the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government for failing to take tackle the situation, the opposition parties and NGOs are demanding relief measures on war footing. They want the government to arrange food for children, handicapped and aged near their homes.

Telangana government declared 231 mandals (revenue units comprising a varying number of villages) out of total 443 rural mandals in the state, drought-affected.

In Andhra Pradesh, 359 mandals out of 670 have been declared drought-hit.

The water levels in 14 major reservoirs serving both the states have fallen alarmingly. The water available in all of these reservoirs was 224 TMC as on April 21. The availability was 233 TMC the same day last year.

The levels in most of these reservoirs have reached dead storage. Two of them have completely dried.

In Telangana, which is largely dependent on ground water, the level has plummeted further. According to latest report by ground water department, the average level for the state in March was 14.88 metres. The same in March last year was 12.27 metres.

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