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Part 6 - Drought triggers large-scale migration to cities

Nobody's home. Empty streets. Locked houses. The streets are silent. The exodus is shocking at the very least. Drought has turned landowners into construction workers. Young boys leave their aged parents to find work in the city. Cash crops such as onion and sugarcane have withered away. The business model that once supported whole communities has broken down due to drought, disrupting the lives of everyone directly and indirectly involved in farming. Travel blogger and photographer Neelima Vallangi, on assignment for Greenpeace India, visits the villages of interior Maharashtra to write home about the worst drought in 40 years.


An old man sits on his front porch in the afternoon. His fields are barren and empty, and so is the small village in Chandrod Taluka. Bapu Mogal, a sarpanch member, owns 17 acres of land. Today he is a landowner-turned-construction worker, for his land is of no use without a drop of water to irrigate it. Just a few years ago, he earned a profit of over 3 lakh rupees. Yet, today, aiming to break even is only a distant possibility.
 
Even through the Employment Guarantee Scheme, work is short-lived, pushing the farmers back to being jobless. To support their livelihood, villagers have taken loans from the credit society, but failed crops have left them unable to repay the existing loan and they cannot take new loans either to continue working in their fields. To escape this situation, more than 25 families of this village have migrated to the nearby cities of Chandrod and Nasik to find work.
 
Pathan Mousina Jamil, 22, is prompt to show me the way to a lane where all the houses are locked up. The families that lived here have migrated to the city in search of work. Pathan has studied till Class 12, but he has failed both final exams. He’d like to retake the exam but to support his family both he and his brother now work as construction workers. Amol Bajirao Kasbe, 17, sat alone in front of his makeshift hut. His sick mother has moved to the nearby town in search of work while he stays alone here. He studied till Class 10 but discontinued his studies to work as a construction labourer. 

Amol Baji Rao, 17, sits alone in his home.

Ahead in Rajpur village, farmers who planted onion and sugarcane crops have understandably suffered losses since the crops didn’t survive the drought. This caused their mass migration to cities to find work in sugarcane fields. I heard similar stories in Beed district as well where young sons have left for cities and sugarcane factories to deal with the drought and unemployment, leaving their parents behind.
 
While not all of these migrating people are landless laborers, during better days when the fields flourished, they used to find work in others’ fields. They could find work in their own village all through the year. Today, even landowners live in such dire conditions that they are unable to provide any sort of employment to others. The business model that once supported whole communities has broken down due to drought, disrupting the lives of everyone directly and indirectly involved in farming. The repercussions of a state reeling in severe drought are pushing people into a downward spiral.
 
Driving back, three of us in the car were discussing how drought is causing people to migrate to cities in search of viable employment. Our driver, Sonu Pagar, turned around and told us that he too was one of the migrants. He had moved to Nasik with his family after the crops failed continuously in his village of Khadak Malegaon.


PREVIOUS: Part 5 - Is death the only fate for animals?  |  NEXT: Part 7 - Surviving the drought on stale rotis


Moved to action? Support Greenpeace India's effort to support the farmers' movement to get back the water that has been allocated to industries in the drought-hit regions of Maharashtra.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Neelima VallangiNeelima Vallangi is a writer and photographer from Bangalore. She has been travelling in India for the past few years unearthing little-known places of the country. She travelled with Greenpeace through the drought-hit regions of Maharashtra to find out the reality of the situation in the region. Follow her writing on her website and on Facebook

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