“Earlier, we used to get water every day… Now look how load shedding has thrown the entire schedule out of gear,” says Dilip Dhumal, a farmer from Adarki Budruk village in Phaltan taluka of Satara district, pointing to a serpentine queue of pots, pans and buckets at a common tap.
In Waki Shivane village situated in Solapur’s Sangola taluka, farmer Shrikant Jadhav pointed to sun-baked pomegranates hanging on to the wilted crop. The village exports pomegranates.
“Many of us farmers had availed of loans,” says Jadhav, casting a glance across the arid stretch of land, desperately awaiting the arrival of the monsoon. “How are we to repay the loans if we do not even have drinking water now?”
The situation in the two villages just about sums up the drought-like situation currently prevailing in western Maharashtra.
The region, regarded as prosperous and water-rich, boasts of the highest number of big dams — 30 — with good canal network.
This year, however, even drinking water has become a scarce resource for farmers.
Only last week, Waki Shivane village received its first showers of the current season. By then, the crop scorched.
This time around, the annual fervour in celebrating ‘bailpola’ — a farmers’ thanksgiving for bovines — was conspicuous by its very absence.
Every year, the village has nearly 50 pairs of bullocks participating in a procession that marks the festival.
In contrast, this year saw only two pairs of bullocks with a handful of farmers. The usual shindig-like ambience was nowhere to be seen or heard.
“How will the bullocks come?” asks Waki Shivane’s former sarpanch (village headman), Madhukar Sapate. “Farmers are worried about their future as this part of the year is critical for the survival of farmers and cattle.”
Kharif crops are almost burnt due to lack of rains. Monsoon in parts of western Maharashtra was so poor that even sowing could not take place.
Not only is the kharif crop damaged, what’s adding to the farmers’ burden is that their only ray of hope — milk — is also in danger. Several farmers are planning to migrate to Mumbai or Pune.
Meanwhile, there is still no demand reported for work under the Employment Guarantee Scheme.