Landless villagers and small farmers have been migrating with their families on a massive scale from 8,000 villages in Gujarat following a severe water and fodder famine in the western and southern parts of the state.
A study by Disha, a non-governmental organisation, which surveyed 1,131 people in 224 scarcity-hit Gujarat villages, found that 59.65 per cent of people in these areas had no avenues of work and 50 per cent had already migrated with their starving
The study also found that about 70 per cent had been pushed into a vicious circle of indebtedness and worst of all, at least 70 per cent of the small landholders in the Dahod, Panchamahal, Kutch, Saurashtra and Banaskantha areas had to sell off their
All these areas were officially declared scarcity-hit by the state government following severe shortage of water and fodder after the monsoon failed in most parts of the state last year.
“I have no other option but to leave my village with my family and migrate in search of work,” said Kanoji Gadhavi, a landless labourer from Kutch who carries a bundle of clothes on his head. His wife and two children follow him around with their donkey
which is laden with a ‘charpoi’ (cot), cooking utensils and other household goods.
Crops of many poor farmers have failed completely and 50 per cent of the farmers have been buying expensive fodder on credit, said the survey which was conducted in 13 Gujarat districts including Gandhinagar, Anand, Jamnagar, Vadodara, Dahod, Amdavad and
People chosen for the survey included beneficiaries of the Indira Avaas Yojana, daily wagers and those surviving on cattle breeding. Almost 46.60 per cent of the people were tribespeople, 17.66 per cent belonged to the socially underprivileged classes and
9.72 per cent belonged to the extremely backward classes.
Among those covered in the survey, 28.29 per cent were dependent on agriculture, 56.85 per cent on manual labour, 14.49 survive on miscellaneous vocations and 0.44 per cent survived both on agriculture and labour.
About 30.86 per cent of those surveyed were landless. Among the land owners 72 per cent owned only two acres of land while 16 per cent had about two-five acres of land. Some 77.01 per cent survived on an annual income of Rs. 2000 or less; only 12 per cent
had an incomes in the range of Rs 2,001-5,000.
Those who fared worst were those doing manual labour: 59.65 labourers did not get work at local level and 20 per cent of those who did had accepted wages below the standard. More than 50 per cent of the 792 newly indebted families owed up to Rs 3,000, 18
per cent owed Rs 3,001-5,001 and 30 per cent of the indebted owed more than Rs 5,001.
More than 25.57 per cent of those surveyed have to walk more than a kilometre to fetch drinking water. Most of the families were feeling the pinch of increased prices at “fair price shops” of grains and kerosene prices. About 86 per cent of them got only
one litre of kerosene per month which is why most continued using wood as a fuel.
A news report in the fortnightly magazine Naya Marg, published by Khet Parishad, a landless and small farmers’ organisation, said, “While no ‘starvation deaths’ as per government criteria were reported, 9.21 per cent of those surveyed never ate breakfast,
66 per cent ate only vegetables and ‘roti,’ 14.47 consumed ‘dal’ and ‘roti,’ and only 10 per cent ate ‘dal’ and rice.” About 40 per cent said they were not sure about an evening meal.(India Abroad News Service)