Mahoba, UP: Drought in the Bundelkhand region is forcing the local farmer populace to migrate in droves.
The bed of the Arjun Dam is now so dry that it can be mistaken for farmland.
Drought has already claimed the Kharif crop this year, which threw people out of work for six months.
For marginal farmers, like Rani and Pratap, there is no hope but to shift to Delhi, which also only offers the promise of work but not the guarantee.
Pratap is one of the farmers who worked under the NREGP for Rs 58 a day during summer but he held the job for only a week.
Officially, his panchayat Sabuha has Rs 35 lakhs for NREGP, but for Pratap, that does not mean a thing, for he has no work and now, no food.
What he and his family carry with them on their journey to the capital is food, all bought on credit till they manage to start working in Delhi.
"We are facing a drought,” he says. “What will we eat? We can't eat the earth!"
Caught in a situation similar to Pratap’s is Halke. The government has handed him a relief cheque of Rs 300 but he will use this ‘princely’ sum buy a precious ticket to Delhi
“I don't have money for the ticket. What else can I do?” Halke asks.
The impact of the Bundelkhand drought is clearly felt in the tiny railway station at Mahoba.
Railway authorities say that everyday more than a thousand tickets are sold for Delhi. At Mahoba alone, 83,000 tickets have been sold for Delhi just in the past four months.
Most of the purchasers are poor farmers and agricultural labour, who buy their Rs 124 ticket on credit.
After all, the first impact of a drought is felt in the labour market and not in the food market.
If the Rs 17 crores drought relief from the government had been used in a timely fashion, many people would not have been forced to leave.
Says Mahoba’s Collector J P Mishra, "The government cannot compensate for a natural calamity."
By 2015 Delhi would have 18.6 million people. Only New York, Mexico, Tokyo, and Mumbai would have a larger population.