Years of consecutive drought in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh has had devastating consequences, with many forced to give up farming after being plunged in debt. Anantapur, which is said to receive the second lowest rainfall in the country, has seen many farmer suicides, and has forced many to leave their land and venture out in search of jobs.
Many farmers in the district, both landed and those without land, have been forced to abandon the profession after the lack of water and mounting debt. Many borrowed money in order to dig borewells, hoping that they would have better luck underground, but in many cases, they fond no water, or the water was too little.
Lakshmidevi, from Udumalagutta thanda, travels to Kottayam district in Kerala for work, in order to educate her children, who study in different hostels in the state.
“We want our kids to study. We don’t want them to take up agriculture. That’s why we’re educating them. If there is rain, we would cultivate but if we're not getting profits. We’re not even getting what we invested,” she says.
“Because our kids have to study, we go there and struggle — come hell or high water, we work,” she adds.
The children of many farmers have also migrated to bigger towns in search of better opportunities, and return twice a year to visit. This has resulted in some towns having populations who are either too old to work, or are too young to be in school. C Laxmidevi, a frail woman in her early seventies, survives solely on the widow pension she receives. At one point, the village housed 120 families, but is now a shadow of its former self.
“I have two kids, they went to live in hostels. There's no water or rain, so they told me that there are no opportunities, and that they would find work elsewhere,” she says.
Her children come to visit her twice a year but otherwise, don’t keep in touch. In fact, Laxmidevi does not know what her children do. “A grandson has come to see me for the festival,” she says, her face devoid of any emotion.
Activists say that negligence and lack of planning to curb migrations by authorities is also worsening the situation.