65 year old Parameshwar takes care of his 17 acre land near Saundatti in Belgaum district. He used to grow jowar, maize, grams and groundnut – the most widely grown crops in several parts of North Karnataka in India.
Parameshwar is the head of a ten-member family and is one of the breadwinners along with his son, an unskilled laborer, who earns about Rs 100 a day. Apart from cultivation, Parameshwar has five cows after selling two recently to clear a part of his debt.
During the last sowing season, Parameshwar had sowed maize and onions. Owing to severe shortage of rainfall, all his maize crops failed to grow and only some onions grew.
When the market prices of onions dropped, he incurred losses for every bag sold in the market. He had to bear additional costs in gathering onions and transporting them to the nearest market.
In the previous year, onions’ cost was Rs.7000/- for one quintal (100 kg /220 pounds). It now costs Rs.400/- in the wholesale market. This has forced him to leave them to decompose and turn into manure.
Parameshwar shows onions grown on his land.
Parameshwar says, “The government will not help us during tough times and we will be forced to pledge our land or sell it at low rates. The influential buyer will then get all the provisions from the government.”
The Tahsildar and the Agriculture Officer explain the government has put in efforts and various schemes for farmers like Parameshwar. The government has released Rs. 2150.82 crore aid to drought hit areas. But, little has changed for the farmers.
Parameshwar is one of the many lakhs of farmers to be hit by drought. While Parameshwar’s story is only a small reflection of the larger situation in the country, it may be noted that according to National Crime Records Bureau, 17,368 farmers committed suicide in 2009 mostly due to failure of crop. Parameshwar is considering to sell a part of his land if the rain fails to arrive for the season. He says, “For me, my land is my life.”