Deaths of livestock in hordes cry out severity of drought in East Madhya Pradesh
Satna/Rewa: We had been travelling through parched landscape of Satna and Rewa districts in northeast MP baked by harsh summer sun for three days now.
Stretches of brown cracked lands, frail children and women lugging heavy water containers from faraway and queue of empty vessels under partially functional hand pumps were integral part of the scene and we had come to somehow accept the criticalness of it all.
But when we reached the Khaiwar Majhgawan settlement in Satna that stark afternoon, we couldn’t but stop in shock. An extremely frail cow was lying under the scorching sun, a tattered blanket covering it partially.
“It is ailing for some days, mainly due to lack of food and water, and is in no condition to move now, so we have covered it to provide some relief till it passes away,” a villager told us.
Kilometres away in Tilou of Rewa district, we saw a skinny cow and a hen trying to quench their thirst in a small pool of extremely dirty water collected near a hand pump. Villagers accepted that they were unable to arrange for adequate clean water for themselves let alone the cattle.
They mentioned 20 days ago a cow died after getting stuck in a narrow pit, trying to drink some water.
In the districts battered by consecutive drought years, people are now losing out on their meager but important holdings like the livestock. The fields were not sown in many areas during the winter and the monsoon crop had been damaged due to extremely deficient rain, leaving the area literally screaming for basic necessities of water and food.
The livestock naturally comes second in priority and with little availability of fodder and water, it is taking the beating.
“We regularly visit the villages and we can easily say that 50% of the livestock has perished in the Java block (of Rewa) during last two to three months,” Ram Naresh of Revanchal Dalit Adiwasi Seva Sansthan Samiti says.
In Deolaha, also of Satna, Dinesh Yadav claimed that 60% of the livestock in the village had perished during the last four months. “You wouldn’t have been able to stand in this village due to the stench some 15 days ago, now that most are dead, the rate of death has come down,” he says somewhat sarcastically.
The figure sounded exaggerated, so when we started questioning people individually, the figures pretty much matched out.
Santosh Yadav said 20 out his 40 goats had died within a month. Of the four cows that Tirath Yadav had, three died while one cow and one bullock of Khiladi Mawasi died, leaving just one bullock and a calf with him.
In nearby Kanpur, former sarpanch Mahesh Rajak said that 11 of his cows and another of a fellow villagers were stolen when they wandered a little too far away in search of drinking water and fodder.
Prateek of Adiwasi Adhikar Manch, Satna says “Cattle deaths are being reported regularly. But when the people themselves are in such critical condition, one can easily imagine the fate of animals.”
Having experienced the terrible water and food crisis in the area village after village, we couldn’t but agree with Prateek.
When it is so difficult for the impoverished people with poor basic amenities and non-existent government aid to take care of their families, what could they do about the few cattle they owned once upon a time.
(C) Photos Courtesy: Rakesh Malviya