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Jalna’s fields of sorrow

With drought looming large and crops failing, Marathwada farmers see migration as the only option.

india Updated: Aug 15, 2012 22:52 IST
Kunal Purohit

Lakshman Anna Kanule crouches in his fields that barely show sprouts of green here and there. He’s been a farmer for more than 20 years now and a proud owner of nearly 8 acres of land and never once did he ever think of leaving his fields and village. But now, with his crops set to fail and a Rs. 2 lakh loan on his mind, Kanule is contemplating migrating to find work as a labourer.

Kanule, a farmer in Parner village in Jalna’s Ambad taluka, finished sowing in June. However, scanty rainfall forced him to start drilling a well, for which he borrowed Rs. 2 lakh from private moneylenders and banks.

“After digging nine paras (nearly 64ft), I got some water. But the contractor said if I wanted him to dig further, I’d have to pay more,” says Kanule. Unable to shell out more money, Kanule abandoned the well. The only option for him, Kanule says, is to look for work outside his village. He doesn’t know where, yet.

Kanule is among many farmers from some of the drought-hit areas in Marathwada region, who see migration as the only viable option.

Depreciating rainfall, decreased production and loans from private moneylenders — the vicious cycle has meant that farmers have to depend on options outside agriculture. Add to that the region’s industrial backwardness that means the farmer has to look beyond the region for livelihood.

Ambad taluka in Jalna district, from where Kanule hails, has got only 96.1mm rainfall this year as against the annual average rainfall of 688mm. Similarly, Paithan in Aurangabad has received just 96mm rainfall.

For Narayan Waghmare, 20, migrating has become a way of life. Living in Karkin village of Paithan, he first migrated to nearby Waluj in 2009 when rainfall failed the region and his crops. He plans to go to Waluj this year as well.

In Bori village of Ambad, Santosh Namde, 38, and wife Sunita look at their uncultivated fields while they prepare to migrate to Jalgaon. Namde has 3 acres of land, a debt of Rs. 25,000 and no hope of being able to repay it.

“I have a debt with 5-shekda interest on it. If I had to sow, I would have had to obtain some more loans. I’d rather live with no hope for a crop than to take more loan and see my crops fail,” says Namde.

The business of moneylenders
Private moneylenders here often loan money on ‘Shekda’ basis. For a loan taken on 5-shekda basis, the farmer has to pay the moneylender Rs. 5 for every Rs. 100 borrowed on a monthly basis. Hence, if a farmer takes a loan of Rs. 100 on a 5-shekda basis, he would end up paying an interest of Rs. 60 per year on the loan. This means he owes RS. 160 for every Rs. 100 borrowed. The average offtake of loan per farmer ranges from Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 2 lakh. So, even if the farmer has enough grain stock from the previous year to last a year, the enormous interest rate ensures that he has to work to repay the loan; when crop fails the pressure to find work outside his village increases. HTC