Jalna (Maha): A grim picture unfolds as one travels through the drought-hit Jalna district of Marathwada region and the border areas of Ahmednagar district in western Maharashtra, with the common refrain being that situation is worse than 1972, a benchmark year for droughts.
People, especially those who can not afford tanker water, have to go around searching for a free source even at night.
"People searching for water day-long and even at night is a common sight. This situation would normally come about only in May but there was no rainfall this year which made it worse. People don`t have water even for bath," said a labourer, who was collecting water from a leak in the pipeline which supplies water to the industrial area of Jalna from the Jaikwadi reservoir.
In 1972, Maharashtra had faced a severe drought but then the problem was shortage of food grains.
"This year`s drought is severe due to acute water shortage. This was not the case in 1972 as water was available. There was shortage of food grains and farmers had no money. This time food grains are available but there is no water," said Madhukar Bormare, a farmer from Jaikwadi village in Ahmednagar district.
Bormare, who grows onion, said the situation is worsening with every passing day. "Animals are suffering a lot," he said.
In several parts of the district, lack of irrigation has visibly destroyed cotton, wheat crops and sweet lime plantations.
"There is no source of income left for the farmers now as the farms are ruined. Farmers will be unable to repay loans... A time will come in near future when the farmers will have to commit suicide," said Ram Patade, a cotton grower from Kutubkheda.
The farmers are now cutting down the dead plants and trees and using them as firewood, he said.
Government and the local legislators have been apathetic, farmers alleged.
"There is no MGNREGA scheme here. Last time, when the construction of Amrapur-Pimplegao road was undertaken (under the scheme), money went to bogus workers," alleged Shivaji Sushe, a farmer from Amrapur village.
Ironically MGNREGA, the flagship scheme of UPA government, was inspired by the employment guarantee scheme devised by Maharashtra government to provide relief in the wake of 1972 drought.