Sarika Munde, a mother of two and resident of village Chikalbid who has been staying at a cattle camp for the past four months, is now eager to return to her village which is about 40km away from the cattle shelter. She has been staying in a makeshift home with her husband and two children after she found that shuttling between the village and cattle camp daily was difficult.
Like hundreds of other villagers, the Mundes too had to put their 14 buffaloes and cows in the cattle camps at Palvan in Beed district for the past eight months.
Cattle camps were set up in drought-hit areas so that farmers can keep their cattle there with fodder and water taken care of by the government.
For a farmer, cattle are as important as a member of the family. Though cattle fodder, food and water is provided by the government, farmers still accompany their cattle to the camps.
For the first few months, the farmers would return to their homes in the night after staying with the cattle during the day.
Sarika’s husband too followed this routine for the first few months after the cattle camp was opened in September last year, but he later found it difficult to travel from his village. This forced the Munde family to shift to the camp.
“Our stay here was forced as we had to keep our cattle alive. It was a way to repay our loans which have piled up owing to crop failure for consecutive years. We are eager to return home and hopefully the day is not far off. My husband has been working at the camp office as a helper and that is also helping us pay off the loan,” she said.
Like Sarika, Savita too hails from her village and she has been staying at the camp for months. She says that she has been counting the days until when she can return home and she hopes that good rains this year would help her recover last year’s loss of Rs1 lakh.
About 150km away from Palvan, Lakhan Bhad, 23, who has been staying at the cattle camp in Waghole, Osmanabad along with his animals for the past four months, said that it is frustrating to not being able to do anything. “But what else can I do? Had I not chosen to stay at the camp, I would have had to abandon my buffaloes and cows. I think these days are about to end with the onset of the monsoon,” he says. Lakhan and other youth pass time by chatting about films, politics and playing cards.
The cattle camps are like a new village, comprising people from 7-8 nearby villages. The farmers share their sorrows and happy moments besides the tiffin brought from their home.
At least one person is hired to look after their cattle at the camps.
Mahananda Swamy visits the cattle camp at Kolapa, 10km from Latur city every day.
“My granddaughter has come to our house for her vacations, but instead of spending time with her at home, I have to bring her to camp. I wish the early showers yesterday mean that there is going to be an early monsoon. We will start for our homes the moment it starts raining,” she says.
Despite the drought, the farmers from Beed have managed to keep their milk business floating through sizable cattle as the farmers at the camps sell their milk at Rs30 to 40 a litre. The farmers from other districts like Latur, where the dairy culture is not as developed as in Beed, are not that lucky. Mahananda says that the milk from her cattle is sufficient only to feed her family.