Three Marathwada districts face drought of century

Three Marathwada districts face drought of century

Beed, Osmanabad and Latur in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra are facing the worst-ever drought of the century with over 400 suicides by farmers being reported this year.

With the suicides mounting, there are fears that the farm crisis would shift from the Vidarbha region to Marathwada. There is, however, a little ray of hope as there have been showers since last week.

People are praying for it to continue for a week, so that the Rabi season goes off well. Villagers pleaded that the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP-Shiv Sena saffron alliance government must come out with a loan waiver and extend credit to farmers. Otherwise, the problem would compound further.

“I have never seen such a thing in my lifetime, there have been droughts earlier, including in 1972, but this is the worst one,” said 65-year-old Haribhau Hanumant Bhengare, a farmer from Khamaswadi village in Osmanabad district. “The tears of people have dried….we have no other option and hence suicides. We are entangled in a debt trap, a vicious cycle with no solution in sight,” he said.

“This is the fifth year in a row that Osmanabad is facing drought. There were 28 suicides in 2013, 71 in 2014 and this year, already 105 suicides have been reported,” said Osmanabad MLA and senior NCP leader Rana Jagjitsinh Patil.

“I have toured all these three districts, I have spoken to people of various agegroup, including septuagenarians and octogenarians,” said Patil, a former minister of state for revenue and industries in the previous Congress-NCP government. 

Ganesh Chaturthi, the major festival of the state, would be a low-key affair here this time. “People don’t have money. The festival is days away and there is a slump in businesses, including hotels,” said Nasir Ansari Gulfam, a local businessman and a member of Beed Municipal Council.

Revenue and Agriculture Minister Eknath Khadse agreed. “In Osmanabad, Latur and Beed, the situation is bad,” he said. Water crisis was so severe that the Maharashtra government was in touch with Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu so that water from Ujni dam can be transported from Pandarpur in Solapur district to Latur city in railway wagons.

Migration to towns
“Nearly 1.8 lakh people from Beed have migrated to Mumbai, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Aurangabad and Hyderabad,” said Bharatbhushan Kshirsagar, veteran social activist and NCP leader from Beed.

“Since there is no work in farm and no output, no earning, the easy option is to go to towns for survival,” he added.

In Osmanabad and Latur districts, marriages have been stalled. “People are not marrying off daughters to sons of farmers....it is emerging as a big problem,” said Sushil Shelke from Osmanabad.

In Khamaswadi village of Osmanabad, which has a population of over 10,000, there are over 200 men and 100 women over age of 30, who are unmarried.

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