Monday, May 15, 2017
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Bukya Syamulamma has been left all alone to take care of her younger brother and sister .

Sixth consecutive drought in Anantapur district of Andhra has worsened due to non-payment of wages under rural job scheme, failure of crop insurance and lack of fodder camps 

TWELVE-YEAR-old Bukya Syamulamma has been left all alone to take care of her younger brother and sister at Kareddipalli Tanda village in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. Their grandmother broke her leg recently and went to a relative’s house to recover. Syamulamma lugs 25 kilos of PDS ration on her back from a neighboring village several kilometers away, fetches water and cooks. Rama Devi (15) is living all by herself after her parents migrated to Kerala for work. 

The walls of this village are full of mobile phone numbers of people who have migrated, for ready reference. There are only children and elderly people living in the homes and this story repeats itself in several villages of the district which is facing sixth consecutive drought this year. At least 4.87 lakh persons have migrated out and the kharif crop loss is estimated to be Rs 3,500-4,000 crore. 

Farms and orchards are barren and livestock have been taken to far flung areas due to lack of water and fodder in the region. A team of civil society organisations went to different parts of Anantapur district and found a collapsed government apparatus that denied wages under MGNREGA, did not compensate farmers who had insured their crops and made almost no effort to make essential services like water available. 

P Chandrasekhar Reddy, a grape farmer from Raminepalli village, went missing for two months ago after having invested repeatedly on nearly 25 borewells without any success of finding water for the crop. His wife and two small children have been left to cope with the hardship of their unfortunate life all alone. A few others have committed suicide due to coercive methods of banks eager on recovering their loans. At least 42 per cent of the agricultural borewells in the district have dried up and the groundwater levels in the district have fallen to 70-90 meters at many places. Around 68 per cent villages face severe drinking water shortage. 

The number of milch and draught animals in the district has reduced by half. It is estimated that around 38 lakh heads of sheep and 8 lakh goats have been taken to distant places for grazing. 

No guarantee of wages, insurance 

The rural job guarantee scheme (MGNREGA), which should have helped villagers earn a living in these difficult times, is instead abetting migration as no payments are being made for the work done. Arrears from last year are yet to be given to some workers, while others are waiting to get their wage payments for work done three months ago. No single worker has been paid a compensation for the delays beyond 15 days as granted under the scheme. Such long delays in payments force families to migrate out. 

Posts of field assistants under MGNREGA are vacant and no technical staff is present for taking measurement of work done. In fact, villagers complain there is no recording of demand for work. Workers are not issued their job cards despite repeated requests in several cases. At Raminepalli, Canara Bank is adjusting MGNREGA wages against an outstanding loan. Even old age pension payment is adjusted against an outstanding loan by the bank in one case. 

Arrears from last year are yet to be given to some workers, while others are waiting to get their wage payments for work done three months ago.

Farmers have already paid an insurance premium amount of Rs 300 per acre with the state and central governments expected to provide a subsidised share of Rs 540 each per acre. The gross insurance premium paid on 7.67 lakh hectares of groundnut turned out to be Rs 2,64.71 crore, but farmers still await their claims to be settled, seven months after the harvest time is over. 

Food and fodder at premium

The number of milch and draught animals in the district has reduced by half. It is estimated that around 38 lakh heads of sheep and 8 lakh goats have been taken to distant places for grazing.

 

Water for livestock is a major problem and animals are herded several kilometers to watering points, before being taken for grazing over parched lands. At least six cases of drought-related deaths of milch animals were found incurring a loss of Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000. There is a high level of distress sale of animals by a large number of families at throw-away prices because owners are unable to provide for the animals any more. Many are selling their animals at throw-away pricesbeing unable to provide for them any more. Animals purchased for around Rs 30,000 are being sold at as low a price as Rs 5,500. 

All livestock-owning households are purchasing fodder at the cost of at least Rs 5,000-7,500 per month. In absence of any fodder cultivation taken up by the government village-wise, or supply of fodder from elsewhere, this is something that families are spending their limited resources including by borrowing money. 

Many are selling their animals at throw-away pricesbeing unable to provide for them any more. Animals purchased for around Rs 30,000 are being sold at as low a price as Rs 5,500 

Functioning of the public distribution system of ration supply is the only saving grace even though in almost all villages, there are some families which do not possess any ration card, for a variety of reasons

In Kareddipalli Tanda village, the dealer’s outlet is six kilometers away, forcing little children to walk for long and carry back kilos of ration when accessed as their parents have migrated out. In several cases, problems with bio-metric verification were reported. Elderly residents of Diguvapalli village are unable to access their PDS entitlements because they can’t go to the dealer’s shop for biometric authentication.

In fact, if the families who migrate out in search of work do not access their PDS quotas for three months, their names are removed from the lists and PDS supplies are no longer accessible to them even after they come back.

See the full fact-finding report

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