Drought-spawned violence plagues India


The Indian state of Madya Pradesh, located in the north-central heart of the subcontinent, is running dry, with most of the region’s reservoirs at a tenth or less of capacity and 16 percent are bone dry.

Most villages are only allotted meager water rations one or two days a week, and use of water for irrigation has been largely banned.

Violence has become endemic.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

After almost 10 years of below-average rainfall and several consecutive years of drought, the region’s rivers, lakes, reservoirs and wells are drying up.

Disputes are a common problem in many places in India that face water shortages. But Indian police report that the fighting is getting more frequent and bloody. In many parts of the country, neighbours, friends and family are turning on each other, desperate to protect what little water they have left, police records suggest.

Last month, in the tribal-dominated Alirajpur district of Madhya Pradesh, 13-year-old Surmada, her brother and her uncle used a neighbour’s hand-pump, without permission, to get water for the family’s houseguests.

According to police, the owner of the pump and his son attacked the group with arrows. One pierced Surmada’s eye, killing her.

And in the village of Kanker, in Shivpuri district, a large-scale argument broke out after two motorcyclists got into an accident, causing one to spill the 15-litre (4 gallon) container of water he was carrying.

“The two later called their family members and friends and attacked each other with spears, axes and sticks,” said investigating officer Jaisingh Yadav of Sathanwada police station. Fifteen people were injured, five of them women, he said.

And it’s not just Madhya Pradesh suffering from the ongoing drought, as Governance Now reports:

Currently, 11 states are in the grip of drought which has affected 33 million people – close to a third of the population.

There are media reports of mass migration in north Karnataka. In Telangana, cases have been cited from Mahbubnagar district. Maharashtra’s drought-hit Marathwada region has seen mass exodus to Mumbai and Surat. From Jharkhand, people are heading to Kerala.

The severely affected villages in Bundelkhand, a central region divided between the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, is mostly left with women, children and aged men, said Swaraj Abhiyan founder Yogendra Yadav, who completed his 11-day-long padyatra through Marathwada and Bundelkhand on May 30.

“In villages, if you ask for an able-bodied man, 60 to 80 percent of them have migrated to urban areas to earn their livelihood. They are migrating to Delhi, Faridabad, Gurgaon, Indore and Surat. You meet elderly, children and women, but you don’t meet able-bodied men in the village. It’s an entirely migrant-dependent economy right now,” Yadav told Governance Now.

The acute distress due to crop failure in the last three years in Bundelkhand and Marathwada has either led to mass exodus or suicides. At least 216 farmers have committed suicides in Maharashtra alone.

Relief is in sight, according to government forecasters, with a heavy monsoon season forecast in the wake of the devastating El Niño-spawned drought.

But the rains may prove partly ineffective in relieving financial stresses on debt-plagued farmers, who have suffered from low harvests. The reason: Their innate conservatism is causing them to sow less ground.

From The Gulf Today:

From Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh to Rajasthan and Gujarat, farmers ruined by a devastating drought are still edgy about sowing, despite resounding forecasts of a surplus monsoon.

Planting of major crops is 24 per cent lower than what was sown by this time last year.

Even state governments are treading cautiously.

Maharashtra, for instance, had asked farmers to hold back sowing till June 18.

Till now, the monsoon has been 16 per cent deficient, which means it has to cover a lot of ground in July.

Reservoir levels are still barely 15 per cent of their storage capacity.

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