MARRYING FOR WATER: A 65-year-old Thane villager holds up a photograph of him with his three wives. He says he was forced to marry a third time to keep his family of 13 going through the drought. His first wife, he claimed, was ill and his second too weak to walk one-and-a-half to three km every day to fetch water. That duty’s fallen on Wife No. 3
Hit by drought, rural folks pour into Mumbai, Pune
Madhavi Rajadhyaksha TNN
Sangli/Satara: Open trailers packed with families and cattle have become a common sight along the state’s highways. They are a telling sign of the distress that the drought in 15 districts of the state has brought with it. Truckloads of villagers are migrating from the hinterland to cities like Mumbai, Pune and Kolhapur in desperate search for livelihood.
While many officials deny the drought-driven migration, the absence of male heads in rural homes in water-starved parts of the state reveals another reality. A senior official from Satara admits that the district has witnessed 10% more migration this year. Local officials say the low minimum wages of the Centre’s flagship employment guarantee scheme (NREGA) have failed to stem the outflow of potential job-seekers.
In Khatav taluka, Satara, fragmented families are a sorry reality in one home after another. Landowner Adhik Wagh (32) has taken a break from his driver’s job and is on a brief visit to his native village in Katgoon. “We used to have ksheti (fields) of our own and cattle too. With not a drop of rain this year, there is no ksheti or water to give the cattle. I work in Kolhapur as a driver and earn enough to educate my two children,” said Wagh who recently sold his buffalo.
Worse off are farm labourers like Mugathrao Wagh (65), whose work has dried up with the wasting away of successive crops. “My wife, daughter-in-law and I were all farm hands and would earn enough to feed ourselves. We are all sitting at home now, while my son does hamali (labour) in cities and brings home some money,” said Wagh. Sangli collector says many are choosing city over NREGA
Sangli/Satara: Satara collector N Ramaswami maintained that migration is tough to estimate, admitting that it is “slightly higher than last year” in the light of a dry spell in the district. District-level surveys had shown that 2,000-3,000 more workers had left the district.
The desperation for jobs is no different in neighbouring Sangli. Dhanashree Gaikwad of Pangri village has been playing mother and father to her two toddlers ever since her husband left for the ‘city’ in search of work. “It is tough living apart, but we have no choice,” she says.
Sangli collector Shyam Wardhane said there was enough work for those who were willing, but admitted that villagers often did not opt for employment under NREGA as they thought minimum wages were too low. Ahmednagar collector Sanjeev Kumar also denied droughtdriven migration in his district, though locals stated otherwise.
Pradeep Gupta, TNN | May 16, 2012,
Sixty-five-year-old Ramchandra (name changed to protect identity), a resident of Dengalmal village, on a hilltop in Shahapur taluka, said his first wife was ill and cannot go far away to fetch water for the family of 13, while his second wife was weak.
Ramchandra’s family includes three sons, their wives and three grandsons; his three daughters have got married and now live with their husbands.
He said he first married when he was 20 and has six children from her. He married again as his first wife fell sick, hoping that she would take care of the household work. But as she was too weak and could not handle the workload, he went in for the third marriage 10 years back.
He justified his marriages, claiming that in a year, they faced a problem of water scarcity for six months in their village. They have to often traverse one and a half kilometres to a well in a nearby village, and sometime to the Bhatsa river three km away.
Villagers initially opposed his marriages as they suspected that he was doing it for sexual pleasure.
Hussain Shaikh, a villager, said, “Earlier, we opposed his move for a third marriage, but later we realized that whatever he has done was right, as his third wife now takes care of the family’s water arrangements.”
Sakri Shende, a 70-year-old woman from the village who spends nearly five hours in transporting water with her son’s wife, said, “We normally find Ramchandra’s third wife carrying water. Only when she falls sick, other family members come to the well for water.
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