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Bundelkhand drought over, but no men to till


Nilanjana Bose,CNN-IBN
Jun 24, 2008 at 02:41pm IST

Bundelkhand (Uttar Pradesh): After more than five years of no rainfall, Bundelkhand is today witnessing heavy rains. Even though it comes as a blessing for farmers, the irony is that most of the men have migrated to other states and there is no one around to till the fields.

For Angad Singh, who is a farmer, the rains meant an end to the five-year-long nightmare of no rainfall. However, to make the most of the rain, he has had to take the place of his bullock. The reason - unable to grow any crops in the last few years, he had to sell off his animals to run his house.

So now, he tills his field with the plough on his own shoulders, without the help of bullocks, and his brother for company.

"We are happy the rains have come, but there is no one left in the village to work in the fields and I had to sell off my animals so its a mixed feeling," says he.

In Geora village, the women hang around by the roadside hoping to see the familar faces of their husbands coming back home. More than 150 men left the village four years ago, migrating to other states to earn money.

Lakhs and lakhs of agricultural labourers literally ran away from Bundelkhand because they gave up on the rain gods. Now ironically the skies have opened up, but the fields look more desolate than ever before.

Houses lie locked and except for a handful of men, villages like Geora are full of just women and children. Eighty-year=old Chakki Lal is today the reluctant head of his family.

His son left the village two years ago, frustruated at not being able to grow crops on their land. He left behind a young wife and a son. So now Chakki Lal is struggling to fulfil his responsibilities as a grandfather, father-in-law and husband. Meanwhile, his plot of land - well irrigated with rainfall - waits expectantly.

"My son went away because he couldn't do any work here. There was nothing left to do. I live in the hope that he will come back now that the rains have arrived," says Chakki Lal.

However, no one knows whether the sons and husbands will risk returning to their villages. After all, next year could well be a year of drought again. But for the moment, ngad Singh and Chakki Lal live in hope.

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