A vehicle came to a stop on National Highway 44 between Kamareddy and Armoor in Telanganaâ€™s Nizamabad district. Aboard the truck were eight country-made ploughs, just as many bullocks and at least eight farmers.
An agricultural crisis in a neighbouring area of the state has opened a new avenue to the farmers aboard the vehicle: turning into migratory labourers. Dharavath Shankar, Mallesham and Anjaiah are paddy cultivators from the village of Lingampet in Kamareddy district, who own at least three to four acres each.
Paddy is conventionally sown only after the rains begin. And ahead of the monsoon season, these families are usually forced to run from pillar to post seeking investments for their cultivation.
However, three years ago, they found a way to solve their problems.
As the rates for tractors and mechanised ploughs are often too steep for farmers to afford, many have turned to labour to operate bullock-ploughs for sowing maize, red sorghum and in some cases, turmeric, for those who grow these crops.
Now, as the kharif season sets in, hundreds of bullock-ploughs are being taken to villages in Balkonda and Kammarpally mandals of Armoor area from Yellareddy, Nizamsagar and Lingampet mandals in Kamareddy district.
The payment that the farmers from Kamareddy district get for their labour is, in turn, used as an investment for their paddy crop which is sown once the rain starts.
"Iâ€™ve been travelling like this for three years. For bullocks and ploughs per day, the payment is around Rs 2,000 to Rs 2,500 and the daily wage is Rs 500, along with food and accommodation,â€ť said K Mallesham, a paddy farmer from Adivilingala village, who has three acres land.
Mallesham, who works in other farmersâ€™ fields for 15 days a month, claims to have fetched around Rs 25,000 from ploughing and is now planning to use his earnings for fertilisers, pesticides and labour to aid his own paddy cultivation back home.
According to farmers, deploying bullock ploughs reduces the cost and delay for farmers in Armoor, as the demand and waiting list for tractors also shoot up in the month of June.
Anjaiah tells TNM that they prefer going for brief ploughing stints in neighbouring areas as it allows them to earn a decent income within a short period of time, so they can return to their own paddy farms to begin their work.
"We both are in need. We support farmers in Amoor by deploying our ploughs and they support us financially. Moreover, we can bring some locally collected seeds while coming back," said Anjaiah.
Shankar Dharavath, who works in the same village, added, "We are not sure if we get back what we invest in our paddy but every year, through this, we are able to earn a good amount in less than 20 days."
Ramesh Rathod, a young farmer, and his mother also took their bullocks for ploughing and said that he earned around Rs 20,000. "As we go back, we can start off our harvest because by then the rains arrive," he said.