MYSURU/HYDERABAD: The drought prevailing across large swathes of South India this year is different: in addition to taking a vice-like grip on historically vulnerable areas in the rain-shadow districts of Telangana and northern Karnataka, it has spread to areas that were hitherto unaffected, such as the normally lush Cauvery basin.
And the signs of the big dry are most familiar on the highways: you see long lines of cattle being marched to slaughterhouses.
With mercury levels touching 39-40 degrees Celsius in Mysuru and Chamarajanagar districts, borewells have dried up and the fringes of once-verdant forests are tinder dry. With no water in the interior villages of Hannur on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border, farmers are putting their cattle up for sale at throwaway prices.
The situation is similar in eight of the nine districts of Telangana. For, fodder shortages are almost universal in this drought, be it in perennially dry Medak district or in the Cauvery and Kabini basin. The local district administrations claim that they have adequate supplies of fodder but distress sale of cattle across the droughtscape is a dead giveaway. In the Cauvery basin, cattle sales have become particularly common in the last couple of weeks. “For generations, we kept 20-25 heads of cattle. But today we are left with just four cows,” said Venkate Gowda of Geramala village, his eyes turning moist.
Even religious institutions are unable to care for cattle. The Pinjarapole Society in Karnataka has received more than 500 cattle in the last 10 days. The society used to buy fodder at Rs 4 per kg, but the price has gone up to Rs 7 now.
Pankaja Faces Heat for Selfie
Mumbai: Pankaja Munde, Maharashtra minister for water conservation, came under fire for posting selfies during her tour of parched Latur. Pankaja clarified that the photographs pertained to work done in the district by the local administration for drought relief and that she was just showing her appreciation. But the Congress and even BJP ally Shiv Sena were quick to call the move insensitive.
TS Govt Bungles on Death Toll
Hyderabad: State government officials have clearly bungled up the number of deaths due to the heatwave condition in the state this season. On April 6, an official release put the death toll due to heatwave conditions at 66. But, on Monday, deputy Chief Minister Md Mohamood Ali backtracked and claimed that there are only 19 deaths so far.
If the rains fail again this year, it could shoot up further. About two dozen people are going around Mandya and Mysuru districts to buy fodder for the society. They have already spent Rs 2 lakh on livestock, procuring water in tankers. Kalahalli, 25 km from Mysuru, depends on tankers even for drinking water. The village, with 250 houses and a population of 700, did not celebrate Ugadi as it was in no position to invite guests.
The Kalahalli village panchayat built three troughs to provide water for cattle. But people stole water at night for cleaning their houses, said Rangaswamy, a villager.
In rural Telangana, with the government’s attention consumed by distress faced by people, cattle come a distinct second in the order of priorities. Government agencies deny hearing anything about cattle deaths or abandonment, but admit that there is a 50 per cent shortage of fodder almost everywhere. The Animal Husbandry Department’s strategy of drought management has been to announce construction of water troughs for cattle. But they have a long way to go.
In almost all districts, the number of troughs available are not even a tenth of what are needed. Khammam district, for instance, needs 1,281 troughs but has a mere 176.
Keepers of goshalas in Karimnagar say: they have never seen a drought as bad as this. Though the department says no mass livestock deaths have been reported, there are reports aplenty that farmers are selling cattle to slaughterhouses.
It’s not just cattle that are perishing in the drought. Peacock and deer are dying of thirst in the forests of Medak and Warangal and leopards are straying into villages in search of food and water.