The tale of an arid land

Dakshin Kannada

Kalaghatagi have been facing severe water crisis since last few years. This has lead to the failure of the crops in the villages.

Mallangowda Patil, a young, determined boy of Kalaghatagi taluka,gave up on his education to assist his father in farming. He is19 years old.

Mallan has four siblings who also help in the farming.

“My Mother and I, do farming whereas my brother works for a truck service. I have been farming with my father, since eight years”, said Mallan.

Mallan owns 1.5 acres of land,where he cultivates paddy,jowar and soyabean. However, less rainfall changed everything for him.

“These rains have causes us a lot of trouble and we didn’t get any rains. This year Soyabean, jowar, paddy is grown in our farms and we suffered a huge loss this year” informed Mallan with disappointment on his face.

Mallan’s tale is the story of each farmer of the taluka.

“Rainfall this year, fell down by figure per cent, causing the farm to be very dry and the income to went down by fifty percent. Oxen didn’t get water. Earlier, soyabean used to grow fifteen quintals per acre and cotton fiteen quintals, brinjal thirty quintals. Less rainfall lead to all the crops getting curbed by fifty percent.

I have a borewell, but if the rainfall aren’t sufficient, even the borewell can’t help”, told Manjunath, a farmer living in Linganakoppa village.

Kalaghatagi has been seeing a consistent decline in the amount of rainfall in the last five years. Each year, the rainfall is getting scantier, causing decline in Jowar and Paddy, which are the major crops of the taluka.

“Kalaghatagi is a transitional zone, therefore, rainfall used to be much higher, earlier, it used to more than 800-900mm. But, the things changed due to global warming and since five years, the rainfall has gone down. I

In 2017-18, we had less rainfall and we received less than 600 mm and this time also, the paddy has gone down. The other crops have harvested moderately”, informed Pradeep, Additional Commissioner of Agriculture Department, Kalaghatagi.

The Panchayat found the absence of proper water storage facilities to be the reason behind such crisis.

“There are only borewells and no other water resources. government get us the tankers when the place gets really dry. Water storage is the big problem in the Taluka. If Mahadayi issue gets solved, then we will be able to provide proper water facilities to the people for their farms.

Malaprabha river water was supposed to come to Kalaghatagi, but it actually is impossible”, said Kantesh Agasibagila from Kalaghatagi panchayat.

According to Kalaghatagi Police, the heavy losses to farmers have also lead to their inability to repay loans. Almost 30 farmers committed suicide in the last three years.

Their suicides have left their family devasted.

Tipanna, a 45 years old farmer committed suicide after not being able repay his loans due to less paddy yields.

“My father committed suicide as he couldn’t repay the loan. There has been a lot of scanty rainfall, which is why they are not able to grow the crops” expressed Raju, deceased’s son.

Similar is the case with Hemavati, whose husband poisoned himself to escape the loans after suffering the huge losses in  Paddy crops.

“I have got four children. My husband took loans to invest in the land. We have one and half acres of land. But there have been less rainfalls in the last 3-4 years, leading to huge losses in sugarcane and paddy yields. Due to this tension, my husband committed suicide”, said Hemavati, with a heavy heart.

However, Hemavati’s family received a compensation of Rs.5 lakh, unlike Raju, who is still waiting for the money.

“Tehsildaar promised us to pay us the compensation amount. It’s been over a year, we haven’t received it”,  said Raju.

Vijaya Bank informed that the banks don’t torture the farmers for the repayment of loans, even if they fail to meet the deadlines. Instead, they send them a subtle kind of reminder about the repayment. The loan’s interest rate for those farmers who cultivate the non-commercial crops is 7 percent. If the farmer pays the interest amount in the first year, then the government subsidizes the 3 per cent of it, and farmers only have to pay 4 per cent.

Currently, the banks has given Rs.150 crore on loans in the Taluka, out of which more than fifty percent of the money has not been paid back. The bankers also say that since the election are on their way, the farmers in the taluka expect to receive loans waiver’s scheme and that is why the farmers aren’t paying loans.

Talking about Karnataka, almost 3,515 farmers committed suicide in last five years. The same number for Maharashtra is 10,808, where the government has declared the loan waiver’s scheme. In tota, there have been more than 12,000 suicides in India each year.

The farmers opine that the loan waiver scheme is the best way to get over the whole issue.

“Loan waivers are not the solution to the issue. The MSP should be increased by fifty per cent. If the government of India is able to do that then the loan waivers won’t be required.

Despite all the challenges, economists say that the agriculture is still one of the largest sectors of the country.

“Compared to the subsidies, facilities and support given to the other sectors, and the challenges that the farmers are facing, their performance is par excellence”, said MG Chandrakanth, Director, Institute for Social and Economic Change.

Farmers put forward several solutions to dissolve their problems.

“First of all government should make more investments in agriculture. More investments should be made in Research and Development in agriculture.  With that only, they can increase the cultivation, infrastructure and facilities. This will help the farmers to remain in agriculture” added GC Byyareddy, President, Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha.

Each farmer still awaits the day, when his fields will bloom with the crops are our Annadatas will get paid for their perspiration.

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