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Part 7 - Surviving the drought on stale rotis

By now the monsoon downpour deluging Mumbai has made so much news that the drought, the ill effects of which still plague interior Maharashtra, has been pushed even further in everybody’s memory. Here, hungry villagers board trains to beg for rotis in the city and bring back the precious food to store it in sacks where it stales. This they then boil and eat. The sight of children munching on rotis caked with mud as if they were a delicacy moves travel blogger NEELIMA VALLANGI to grief. She writes, in the seventh part of her series for Greenpeace, about the worst drought to plague the region in four decades.

Pointing at an overhead storage tank, the villagers told me it was constructed 10 years ago, yet it has been empty to date and has never supplied a drop. We were in Talwade village in Yeola tehsil, Nasik district. Close to the water tank was a half-constructed large pond that was meant to store rainwater during the monsoon and provide employment for villagers during the harsh summers. Neither purpose was satisfied. Work continued only for a few days before it came to a halt, leaving people with no employment and no pond to harvest rainwater.

Further ahead in the same village we came to an area called Shivaji Nagar, where a community of 500 landless labourers lived in dismal conditions. Earlier, when water for irrigation was available, they found work in others’ fields. Ever since, water shortage caused fields to dry up and farmers to abandon them; there hasn’t been any employment for these families. Pushed to survive through extreme poverty, lack of resources, and employment, these people have been living on rotis begged from the city of Aurangabad.

Shaukat Shah, father of three, along with 50 others, boards the Manmad-Aurangabad passenger train a few times a week to bring back rotis from the city to their village. The rotis collected are dried up and stored in sacks, and then shared among everyone in the community. They are boiled and eaten throughout the week. It was shocking to see rotten and mud-covered rotis in the sack. Playful children picked up dirty rotis from the bags that were opened to show us and started munching on them as if they were a delicacy.
In the village of Rajpur, Prakash Hegde runs an electric motor and water pump business. However, due to water scarcity plaguing the villages for the past three years, his business hasn’t taken off.
“When there’s no water, what will we pump?” is his question.
Similarly, in the village of Mithsagar, Dattatreya Jadhav slowly progressed from owing a tea shop to a two-room grocery shop. In the early days of the drought, people still had the spending capacity to buy a candy or an affordable indulgence. After three years of continuous drought and crop failure, and left with no resources, who would come by and buy anything that isn’t a dire necessity? Jadhav today carries his goodies in an auto-rickshaw and travels to neighboring villages in the hope of making a profit.

It wasn’t hard to see the importance of water and its power to drastically alter the quality of life, for better or for worse. When asked about water, everyone repeated the same story we’d been hearing everywhere. With no water to even drink, taking a bath was a luxury they could afford only once every 3-4 days.  

When a thirsty gazelle wandered into a village in Nasik district, the drought-stricken villagers gave it water …
As the sun set a chinkara, as the Indian gazelle is locally known, wandered into the village of Rajpur looking for water; animals and humans alike being parched for the precious resource. Understanding the poor animal’s plight, the villagers gave it some water to drink.
But who will give these villages water?

PREVIOUS: Part 6 - Drought triggers large-scale migration to cities | NEXT: Living with the ashes in Vellade

Moved to action? Join Greenpeace India's effort to support the farmers' movement to get back the water that has been allocated to industries in the drought-hit regions of Maharashtra.


Neelima VallangiNeelima Vallangi is a writer and photographer from Bangalore. She has been travelling in India for the past few years unearthing little-known places of the country. She travelled with Greenpeace through the drought-hit regions of Maharashtra to find out the reality of the situation in the region. Follow her writing on her website and on Facebook


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