Marathwada’s Farmers Choose Mumbai’s Uncertainties Over Dry Fields

MUMBAI: Two months after her family was forced to leave their home in drought-hit Nanded, six-year-old Ashwini still likes to wear her school uniform, though there’s no school to go to. She spends her day outside in the open camp in Ghatkopar in suburban Mumbai, where her family now lives in a space that’s barely enough for three people to lie down.

This is home, for now. “I miss my brothers,” she says. Her brothers, aged 8 and 10, have stayed back to take care of their aging grandparents, who are too old to travel.

A second year of drought has meant the family chose the uncertainty of Mumbai’s urban chaos to live in the open over staying back in the village, without a roof over their heads, even though the move here comes with no guarantees. Nanded is a part of Marathwada, one of the worst drought-hit regions of the country.

Not too far away, 25 year old Vanita bathes her 5-month-old daughter Raubai. Her husband too is a farmer and they too have left two children back in the village in Nanded. The open camp is no place to raise an infant but here, she feels her daughter has a better chance of surviving. “There’s no water there, nothing to eat. We were desperate. That’s why we came here,” she says.

Those who have left their homes behind because of the drought are forced now to live in the open. With their fields parched and barely any water to drink, they moved to the city in hope of finding work in the city, even though it is only temporary.

“It’s very difficult to get work. If we are lucky we get work once every week,” says Baban Jadhav, 27, a farmer. “Whether it is construction work or other manual labour jobs, we get 400 rupees a day. It is very tough to manage in that since we have to buy everything from the market,” says Devidas Rathod, another farmer from the Mukhed taluka in Nanded.

Farmers in debt back home they have now been forced to do menial jobs in the city to make ends meet, till it rains again in Nanded.