Chhatarpur is one of the 37 districts of Madhya Pradesh, which are reeling under a water crisis and facing drought. This is winter and the worst is yet to come - the summer is yet to set in.
BHARAT SINGH of village Doriya, in Chhatarpur district, had to sell the land to repay a loan he had taken last year for buying seeds and fertilisers. He sold off two bigas of agricultural land for Rs 80,000. The money he got was divided into three parts, as three brothers, including Bharat, jointly owned the land. He used his share of the money to repay the loan he had taken earlier. The stock of food grains in his house will hardly last for a month. He is unsure of his future. His sons have migrated to other cities to earn, which hopefully will help him and his family survive the present crisis, but what will happen in the months ahead? Chhatarpur is one of the 37 districts of Madhya Pradesh, which are reeling under water crisis and facing drought (The state boasts of 48 districts). This being winter, the worst obviously is yet to come during the summer. According to information available on the website of the relief commissioner of Madhya Pradesh, 151 tehsils in the 37 districts have been declared as affected.
But this is not an abrupt development. Media reports and reports coming in from various parts of the state had anticipated the crisis. But urgent action from the government has been conspicuous by its absence and now the push has come to shove.
Recent media reports have expressed grave concern over the water crisis in Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur, Damoh and Panna districts. Rabi crop in the said districts will be definitely affected and a shortfall in wheat production is feared. If one interacts with the village communities of these districts, this is evident. Farmers are sowing pea, chickpea and mustard, which require lesser water. They are not sure even raising these crops will be possible given the water crisis. The rich and the powerful would be able to survive this crisis but the poor are already suffering and for them, the worst is yet to come.
Migration has started, though many interpret it as the usual migration, which these districts witness. But this time, the problem it is more acute and many are migrating to towns owing to financial problems occasioned by the drought. Children somehow don’t get noticed but are amongst the first and the most affected by the crisis. Uday Bhan, a young student who studies in eighth standard in a school in Chhatarpur district, is worried about the water shortage his village is facing. His family sold off part of the land to survive through the crisis. His parents may migrate in search of jobs, which could help in keeping the wolf from the door. He may not go with them since he wants to attend school, but some of his friends have already migrated and hence dropped out of school. He misses them. He is still lucky as many in Panna and Tikagrah districts have moved out with parents and hence have dropped out of school. Kids not only drop out of school but also get uprooted from their natural environment. They have to rebuild their lives in the new environment they find themselves in.
Khusboo, a second standard girl, may not speak much but her little eyes do. Before going to school she has to fetch drinking water from the hand pump in the company of her mother, if possible, for the entire family. It is water, which worries her more than her studies. Though the state has provided some relief and sought relief from the centre, communities, especially the vulnerable ones including women and children, are suffering. Some intervention from the powers that be is needed to tackle water and food shortage. There is a need to address long-term issues too. The situation warrants urgent attention else the State may be heading for a crisis that could impact millions.
Contributed by Anil Gulati