Pune: Maharashtra's worst drought in decades is being felt on the pavements of Pune where migrants from drought hit districts are arriving in the hundreds. They come looking for water and jobs and say it's impossible for them to return home.
Daily wage labourers gather every morning in the suburban Pune in search of work. Only a lucky few are picked up by the contractors. The rest earn nothing that day. Kumar Shirsagar, a migrant from Osmanabad, said, "We get work for only two to three days and then the thekedar dupes us and doesn't give us the money. There isn't any water in our villages."
As Maharshtra's water dries up, they have become refugees in their own state, driven by the state's worst drought in four decades. Landowning farmers have now been reduced to labourers on the pavements of Pune. Mahipati Itole, a migrant from Parbhani, says, "After Diwali, the land is barren, so I had to move here. I have 5-acre land. I have studied till class 10 but have no job. There is no work in the village."
Drought is now chronic in many districts of Maharashtra. 26-year-old Suresh has been a construction worker for 10 years, earning barely enough for a daily existence. Ten years ago he owned 3 acres of land in Solapur when drought forced him to migrate. "It was dry there and I had to come here for food. When will the water come, it's been over 10 years now," he said.
Every migrant family has the same story. Laxman Dhotre moved to Pune in 2012 and longs to go back home. "I feel like crying every time I think about my home," he said. His wife added, "I want to go back to our village but we can't. There is no water."
Rents are high even for a small space in Pune. With high prices of essentials, even electricity, Laxman accepts that this new life is not easy.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan's appeal not to migrate means absolutely nothing for Suresh and his family. Migrating to an urban area hasn't made a sea of change in their lives but has at least invoked some hope for survival. Most would return to the native places if the government provides water.