BELAVANAKI, GADAG DISTRICT: As the sun rises above their village, women of Belavanaki in Gadag district quickly pack food for the family. They are ready to be picked up by labour agents, who ferry them to farms located a few miles away.The village is located in Ron taluk, which has been reeling under severe drought for the last four years. Belavanaki has not seen a drop of rain this year. Many farmers have stopped farming, opting instead to work in fields that have irrigation facilities.
The taluk has 1.11 lakh acres of irrigation land, which falls at the tail end of the Malaprabha canal system. However, farmers here haven’t been able to get water from the canal for years, since it’s pumped upstream by people for their fields. The existing canals in and around Belavanaki are in poor condition.
“We used to get eight quintals of jowar per acre when adequate rainfall was there. But in the last few years, we have not harvested more than one quintal,” said Krishnappa Madalli, a farmer and GP member of Belavanaki, adding that since the village got sufficient rainfall in the past, they never bothered with canals. “But now, the government must ensure that farmers get water. But no such efforts have been made. Instead, contractors are making money in the name of constructing roads along the canals, canal repairs and bund restorations, most of which remain on paper,” Madalli added.
The canal in Yavagal, 3 km from Belavanaki, has been in a dilapidated condition for years. It is not cemented, and most of the water seeps down, leaving none for farming.“In the last four years, work carried out under central government schemes has come down. Women who work in the fields get just Rs 100 per day in wages. Farmers who had built Agri Ponds under government schemes have not benefited either, as there is no water in the ponds. We wrote to district administration about the poor condition of canals in our taluk, but haven’t got a response,” said Ashok Pattanshetty, a farmer from Yavagal village.
The story of these farmers is similar to what people are facing in many taluks of central and northwest Karnataka, including Haveri, Gadag and some parts of Dharwad. Despite a good spell of rain this season, erratic distribution has caused a drought-like situation in the region.
Farmers are also rattled with issues such as varying minimum support prices and failure of insurance schemes, Vikas Soppin, a farmer leader from Hubballi, said.“The central government’s Fasal Bima Yojana has failed to meet the expectations of farmers due to lack of coordination between implementing agencies and the government. There is no point blaming the middlemen for poor prices of produce, as some policies for minimum support prices need to changed to benefit the farmers,” he said.