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May 27, 2013 at 10:23am IST

AP: Farmers forced to sell cattle to fight drought in Rayalaseema

Anantapur: Through the summer, CNN-IBN has focused on the rising water shortage across several states. Among the worst hit is Andhra Pradesh's Rayalaseema region. With acres of dry land, withered crops and farmers with little hope, drought is now chronic in Andhra Pradesh's Rayalaseema region.

Falling ground water levels and three poor monsoons in a row have destroyed livelihoods there. Lack of fodder and water hurts the cattle farmers as well. "Earlier everyone owned cattle. But there's no water, no fodder, so most of us have sold our cattle," said R Narasimha, a farmer.

Venkat Choudhary's family has been cattle farming for generations, but the drought has forced him to sell his cattle to the slaughterhouse. 50,000 heads of cattle have been sold for slaughter in the Anantapur district in the past four months. From producing 500 litre of milk a day, the people of Narpalla now buy milk to consume at home. "Government fodder centres are 30 to 40 km away. If we go there to feed our cows, who will look after our land? And the cost of fodder has become too high for us," Venkat said.

Rajashekhar Reddy's family has paid a higher price. Drought has pushed them into debt. Despite digging borewells up to 800 feet, Rajashekar's father could not save his crop and committed suicide in 2011. Since then, Reddy says, the drought has only worsened. Four farmers have committed suicide in the past two months alone. "The government gives Rs 1 lakh as compensation, but we have got only Rs 50,000 till now. The bank won't give me fresh loans till I clear my father's dues. How do I survive," asks Reddy.

The district administration says a good monsoon is the only hope. S Satyanarayana, Joint Collector, Anantapur district, said, "We have contingency plans in place for drought but only good rains can actually help the situation."

Rayalaseema is one of the most arid regions of the country. Several lakes have dried up with the area facing one of its worst droughts. While the government hopes for a good monsoon, farmers here are angry over government apathy and lack of contingency plans year after year.