GURMITKAL/DEVADURGA: Driving along the dust tracks of this northern Karnataka region, you see thanda (hamlet) after thanda with no human activity. With a severe drought in Yadgir and Raichur districts, the working population has moved out. Only elders live in the villages, helpless, lonely and distressed.
With both his sons away looking for work in Pune, Hanumanthappa (62) and his wife find life a painful grind. They live in a largely deserted Yempad Thanda. “There is no meaning to our lives. We lost both kharif and rabi crops because of scanty rain,” Hanumanthappa told Express.
About 50 people from this hamlet have left for the big cities to work as daily-wagers. “We survive on the meagre amounts they send,” Hanumanthappa said. Elders gather under the shade of a tree to chat till sunset.
“Getting two pots of drinking water is a daily accomplishment for us. We wait for our children to send us a bit of money to keep our soul and body together,” Hanumanthappa said.
This is not an isolated voice of despair. You hear similar stories in thandas such as Gajarakota and Ibrahimpura. The last time Ningavva, a 64-year-old widow in Gajarkota, cooked a filling meal was a week ago. She lives in a ramshackle house, while her son and daughter-in-law have left for Bengaluru in search of work.
“I stayed back as I can’t imagine adapting to city life at this age. I make do with the money my son sends,” she said. A roti, eaten with a slice of onion, or a glass of milk is all she can afford each day.
Masalappa and his wife, her neigbhbours, have two goats for company. Their three sons are looking for a livelihood in Goa.
“With no construction or farming in the villages around here, we have nothing to do. I spend all day chatting or lazing around at home. Each day is an agony. There is no life left in the village with our young ones going away,” Masalappa rues.
At Maledevaragudda village in Devadurga taluk of Raichuru district, rows and rows of huts are locked, as entire families have migrated. The elderly people staying back visit the Tahsildar office regularly, in the hope of getting their crop loss compensation, overdue by four to five months.
While they are there, they also ask the authorities to set up a water purification unit to make borewell water potable.
“Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s claims about drought relief are a joke. The rural employment guarantee scheme is a big fraud as workers exist only on paper. Officials pocket all the money after getting work done by JCBs,” complained Dodda Eerappa of Maledevaragudda.