By Daniel Mung:
“Every morning as I wake up, I am hit by the fact that we are living a life of debt,” says 24-year-old Pankaj. He started working in the fields after dropping out of school by the age of 16 to support his family repay loans.
“All I can remember about my father is him being stressed, due to all the debts and irregular monsoon,” says Pankaj. His father committed suicide in 2013 by consuming poison. Currently, he estimates that his family owes about 2.5 lakh rupees to the moneylender and about a lakh rupees to the bank.
Pankaj describes that most of the farmers in Dhanora Bodh village would take loans from moneylenders for seeds, fertilisers, irrigation material etc. during monsoons. “I am still repaying interest on the loan my father took. I think it will take me more than ten years to repay this loan,” adds Pankaj.
For the past three years, a majority of the fields in the village have not yielded crops due to low rainfall and lack of water for irrigation. This has led to men and youth from the village to search for other sources of income.
Each morning, both Pankaj and his 22-year-old sibling, Rupesh walk 10 kilometres from their village to Yavatmal town in search of daily construction labour work. “At present, due to lack of water in the city as well, construction work has reduced. We barely get work two times a week,” says Rupesh.
Both the brothers earn about 250-300 rupees per day, which they save up for paying back their loans and managing their household.
“Even if there is enough rainfall this monsoon, we will not be able to plough our fields due to lack of money,” says a teary-eyed Pankaj. The majority of the farmers have stopped taking fields on lease as there is no profit from the harvest.
As Pankaj’s mother, Renuka comes back home carrying white froth covered drinking water in a vessel, she says that the only surviving well’s water would also dry up in one or two days.
Out of the three wells in the village, only one of them barely has some calcium filled water. “For the past few days now, there have been long queues to fetch water by three a.m. in the morning,” she says.
“If the water in the well dries up, then, all the villagers will have to buy water from the tankers. A majority of us would not be able to afford it,” says Pankaj.
Two weeks ago, about 20 village youth dug the well with simple tools for water. “Due to large rocks, we could only dig until our hands started getting blisters. We deepen the pond by one foot after digging for three hours,” says Rupesh.
“Only God can help us get through another year of drought,” Pankaj adds.
Note: World Vision India has started relief operations that will focus on the 12 districts where we are our present in the drought-hit states of MP, UP, Maharashtra, AP, Telangana and Odisha. We would then scale up the relief to the Marathwada and Bundelkhand regions.
Our immediate response would be to provide water and food to children and families affected by drought. Through food/cash for work programme, we will be providing livelihood assistance to families. We are also going to open veterinary camps for livestock management. In the long term, we hope to improve household access to food through focus on livelihood protection and diversification, advocacy for improved social safety nets, and drought-related disaster risk reduction activities.
To support the relief work, head here.