CHAMARAJANAGAR: With no rain in sight, hundreds of families from the drought-hit Chamarajnagar district have deserted their villages to work as labourers in estates of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
During a visit to tribal haadis, Express found many locked houses in Banawadi, Goremodu, Ethegowdanapura and Hosapodu. Though the district administration claimed that they created jobs under MGNREGS, nothing much happened on the ground.
Some villagers who want to make a living have left for work in coffee estates in Madikeri and tea estates in Kerala. However, a section of local women has managed to find work in the tea estates of Bedaguli in Biligiri Ranganatha Wildlife Sanctuary. People living in the borders of Hanur and Kollegal have moved towards Tirupur and Salem to work in the textile industry of Tamil Nadu.
“I am alone at home to take care of my grandchildren as my children have left for work in the tea estates of Kerala. They will return after we receive rain,” said Madamma of Hosapodu.
“They earn Rs 9,000 a month. How can we live when we have nothing to fall back on?” she asked.
Tribals blame the Forest Department for the large scale migration as the department has banned collecting gooseberry, honey and other forest produce for a couple of years.
Shivarame Gowda of Muneshwara Colony said each tribal family used to earn `400-500 a day by selling forest produce to the Large Scale Adivasi Multi Purpose Co-operative Societies (LAMP). The ban on collecting forest produce has hit the tribals hard. “How can we survive with just subsidised ration when we want to buy everything from outside?” asked Pari of Srinivasa Colony. Tribals with 1-2 acres grow ragi and jowar during monsoon and were dependent on forest produce for additional income.
As they don’t have borewell or other water sources, they were not able to grow horticulture crops.
They were not exposed to modern farming methods too.
With no financial assistance or support to grow horticulture crops, local people and tribals have given land to farmers from neighbouring Kerala and Tamil Nadu on lease to grow ginger and banana; they pay `15,000 per acre a year. Many tribals are not aware that ginger cultivation will spoil the quality of soil. Agriculture Department officials are not educating land owners about it and extending programmes to check migration, sources said.