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Vidarbha reels under drought, farmers jittery


Hemender Sharma,CNN-IBN
Aug 21, 2009 at 02:45pm IST

Wardha: Drought in the Vidarbha region is driving farmers to a state of extreme misery. While the region's canals and dams have sufficient water the fields are parched due to the government's shoddy water management programme.

A widow at 30 and three minor children to feed Meena has rarely spoken since her debt-ridden husband Krishan Bhoer committed suicide in 2004.

Now 35, she spends her days quietly sitting in this corner of her one room house in Neri village of Wardha district.

She occasionally helps her daughter with the dishes. The villagers have presumed she is now mentally deranged.

Her eldest daughter Mohini, a class 11 student, runs the house and her studies are dependent on doles from the Swaminathan Trust.

After Meena's husband died the seven acre land was leased out for Rs 10,000 last year. This year the lease is for Rs 12,000 but with no rains she isn't sure she will get her amount.

"My father committed suicide as he was under debt from money lenders and banks. Today my mother's mind is not working so I have to take care of my two sisters and a brother. The rent from the fields is the only source of income to run the family," Mohini says.

Ironically, Maharashtra's Vidarbha region for long called the epicentre of farmers' suicides in India had received unprecedented financial support from the Prime Minister and despite the little rain has water in its dams and canals.

Yet farms are parched.

Madhav Govind, a relatively well-off farmer and also a civil engineer explains how a corruption and inefficiency in water management is worsening the crisis in Vidarbha.

"It has not rained this year but still there is water in this reservoir. But how does it reach the farmers. The distribution system has completely collapsed and why it has collapse is because of corruption," says Govind.

Wild weeds in the canal suggest why the water isn't flowing to the farms. The canal runs at a height lower than the fields it is supposed to irrigate making it tough to be lifted to fields even if it flows.

The condition of distribution channels shows water has not flown for years.

Experts say rain gods and monetary doles are not the solution for the wailing farmers but maintaining irrigation network is.

If the rain gods have been unkind to the farmers in Vidarbha those managing water are no better.

A total mismanagement of this precious natural resource has driven the farmers of Vidarbha to a state of desperation and complete hopelessness.

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