'Drought, debt driving farmers out of their homes'

'Drought, debt driving farmers out of their homes'

'Drought, debt driving farmers out of their homes'

A large number of farmers in drought-affected states are debt-ridden and many are migrating from their villages, according to a survey by an NGO.

According to ‘Lessons from Desolation: A Citizen’s Report on Impact of Drought and Learnings for Future,’ prepared by Action Aid, 40-65 % of the farmers in the drought affected states are indebted while 20 % have migrated to nearby towns and cities in search of work and livelihood.

The state governments have declared 266 of the 329 districts and 2.55 lakh villages in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh as drought affected. Gujarat has also declared 994 villages as scarcity affected due to scanty rain in April.

The report said accessibility of bank loans to many small and marginal farmers was “almost remote” and they have “no option but to approach private lenders, who charge exorbitant interest rates,” which ranged between 24 to 60 %.

In Uttar Pradesh, the report said, of the 8,216 farmers who were surveyed, 7,189 or 87.5 % had taken loans from various sources. Of this, 1,616 had taken loans from landlords or money lenders.

In Odisha, 70% of farming families took loans from money lenders at interest rates that ranged from 36 to 40 % to “meet food needs and other essentials”.

According to the study, 16,432 of 26,291 farmers (62.5 %) surveyed had a loan burden of more than Rs 50,000 while 19,000 (72.2 %) had taken loans from both banks and money lenders.

In Telangana and Maharashtra, the interest rates ranged between 24 to 60 %.On migration, the report said, besides young population, children and women were also moving out of their villages. Migration has “increased significantly” in Marathwada, Bundelkhand and Telangana regions.

“As rural livelihoods are severely impacted and migration has increased, aged, pregnant women, destitute, the sick, persons with disability, and children are left behind in villages to fend for themselves,” the report said.

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