No rains, no labourers, Anantpur ryot forced to put young sons to work

Rising labour costs and crop failures push farmers like Boya Sarddanappa into deeper debt and hardship.
Losses suffered due to drought conditions, and the death of his only one ox, have forced Boya Sarddanappa of Nuthimadug village, Kamabadoor mandal of Anantapur district to replace the ox with his children to plow his five acres of land to cultivate.
Losses suffered due to drought conditions, and the death of his only one ox, have forced Boya Sarddanappa of Nuthimadug village, Kamabadoor mandal of Anantapur district to replace the ox with his children to plow his five acres of land to cultivate.Photo | Express

ANANTAPUR : The image of two young boys helping their father till a piece of land under the scorching sun in Anantapur district starkly reflects the sorry state of farmers in the region.

After the death of his only ox, Boya Sarddanappa, a native of Nuthimadug village in Kamabadoor mandal, was forced to put his sons to work in his field for cultivating tomatoes. He could not hire help due to non-availability of labourers. Even if he could, paying them would have been burdensome considering that the drought last year significantly hampered the farmer’s yield and profits.

Over the past few years, the failure of crops, particularly groundnut, due to irregular rains has brought losses to farmers. Even when the harvest was good, the profit margin was insignificant. Rising labour costs and non-availability of farm hands have added to the woes of the farmers, more so small and marginal farmers. With rising input costs, farmers’ debts have also surged.

Sarddanappa and his brothers own five acres of land. He sunk a borewell and with the little water he could get, he cultivated different crops only to suffer losses. With no other option, he was forced to take debts to support his family. A few years ago, he met with an accident, following which he could not do heavy manual work. Hence, he had to depend on his family to help him in the field.

The farmer purchased two cows and an ox for dairy farming and farm work. Unfortunately, the ox and one cow died. He had to sell the other cow to clear his debts as money lenders had been pressuring him to pay back.

Expressing his helplessness, the farmer rued, “I don’t have any other go, but to depend on my sons. Farming is the only way I can support my family. A few years ago, my leg was fractured in an accident, leaving me incapable of doing heavy work.”

Farmer says hiring of agricultural workers gets expensive

Sardannappa’s sons—Karthik and Rana Pratap—study inter second year and Class 9 respectively. They have been helping their father day and night to prepare the land for cultivating tomatoes this season.

Sardannappa explained that two quintals of groundnut, which he sowed last Kharif season at a cost of Rs 70,000, only fetched him Rs 30,000.

“In one acre, I cultivated tobacco with an investment of Rs 75,000, but I could only get Rs 38,000 for the yield. To support my family with dairy farming, I purchased two cows. One died and I had to sell the other to repay debts. My agriculture motor gets burnt every month due to the single-phase of power supply, further exacerbating my financial issues,” Sarddanappa lamented.

According to farmers, the cost of hiring help has increased abnormally in the last few years. Further, the number of people doing farm labour has also dropped significantly in Rayalaseema region in recent years

Earlier, a farm hand could be hired for anywhere between Rs 150 to Rs 400 per day. Now, a woman farm hand charges anywhere between Rs 300 to Rs 500 per day and a male worker demands Rs 800 to Rs 1,000 per day, the farmers in the region explained.

Unlike before, the agriculture labourers only prefer to work for limited hours as per their convenience. If farmers ask them to work a little longer, they might not show up the next day.

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