KADAPA: The residents of Nebollagondicheruvu of T Velamavarapalle mandal in this parched district gather at the agricultural fields of P Ramchandra on the village outskirts. The ritual of digging a borewell has now become a matter of life and death. Ramachandra, a lemon grower, has decided to try his luck.
The borewell machine digs down to 500 feet, then 600 feet. It is a staggering 1,000 feet and the villagers heave a collective gasp. Where to now? But Ramchandra is adamant. Jittery, he asks his family whether he should dig deeper, not knowing if he can really afford it.
According to the men with the noisy machine, digging up to 500 feet costs Rs 80 per feet. After that, for each feet, they charge Rs 10 more and after 600 feet, Rs 100 more. A discussion ensues.
How financially viable digging deeper is. Ramchandra receives a doubtful nod from his relatives. There’s no looking back now. The men drill another 200 feet, and turn to Ramchandra. “No water Anna. It is unlikely that you’ll find it any deeper.”
Venkataiah, another farmer from the village says around five years back, water was found at around 500 feet. “Poor Ramchandra!,” he takes a sigh as the crowd fades. Sympathy writ large on their downcast faces, while Ramchandra figures how to clear the bill. “Carrying the debt-burden is not new for us (farmers). This was my last attempt to save my crop, but it appears God doesn’t have mercy on me,” laments Ramchandra.
Though grazing cattle and daily labour are his main sources of living, Ramchandra has been trying to cultivate lemon in his two-acre farm for the last seven years. “There is not a single god to whom my family has not prayed for a modest yield so that I can clear the debts,” he says.
A bag of 800 lemons now sells at around Rs 1700. “I had a hope of yielding at least 400 bags from my plot. Now, I have to look for other options to settle the debts,” he says. The water level in Vempalli region of Kadapa mandal has dropped to 114 metres. Forget about growing crops, fetching enough water for drinking has become a challenge.
Another farmer, P Venkataiah, says his pulse crops have withered. “A few farmers are buying water water tankers. But, I can’t afford such luxuries. We thought a borewell at Ramchandra’s would solve our problems, but everything has gone wrong,” he said. The situation of farmers in Pulivendula, the constituency of opposition leader YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, is no different.
Take a drive along the Pulivendula-Jinnala Road, you will find acres of dying crops. A group of farmers at Lopatnuthala sits under a tree and discusses their losses. P Jagan Mohan recalls how he had invested in banana, only to incur heavy loses.
“Around Rs 4.5 lakh has been spent since last June. We already have three borewells, but no water,” he laments. The village is populated by 300 families, most of which cultivate bananas and oranges.
Ramapuram, Lakkireddipallem, Rayichoti and a few other areas have been badly hit by drought and farmers are at their wit’s end as to how to make their ends meet. Among the villages Express visited, Dinapadukaspa of Lakkireddipalem mandal, has its youngsters working as labourers in the Gulf as the last resort.
Sheikh Miravali has spent over Rs 30,000 on his crop which failed owing to lack of water.
Of the 51 mandals in Kadapa district, 16 mandals are dependent on growing horticulture crops. According to irrigation officials, around 2.18 lakh acres have been cultivated during last Kharif of which over 53,000 acres belonging to 64,000 farmers are on the verge of withering.
The district administration has already announced 32 mandals as drought-hit and officials say another 18 mandals deserve to get the status. Groundnut is the major crop grown during kharif, while bengal gram is preferred in rabi. But what the farmers will do, if there is no water?
“This is a bad year. The district has recorded 75 per cent deficit in rainfall. Groundnut in as many as 25 mandals have completely failed. Red gram, black gram and standby horticulture crops have also been affected."
Kharif crop loss
2.18 lakh acres cultivation land
Over 53,000 acres crop loss confirmed area
64,000 farmers have incurred losses
Groundnut crop has been lost in around 25 mandals. Most of the farmers cultivating horticulture crop are also expected to face severe loss
32 of 51 mandals have been declared drought-hit and the irrigation officials are likely to add more 18 more to the list F77 crore sum suggested to allevitate conditions of affected farmers