As Karnataka Heads For Another Drought, Farmer Family Struggles To Repay Loan

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This is the second consecutive year of drought, and no water is being released for irrigation.


Mandya district in Karnataka is traditionally a lush area, irrigated by water from the Krishna Raja Sagar dam. But this is the second consecutive year of drought, and no water is being released for irrigation now. The water level in the dam is just over 80 feet -- compared to the usual 100 to 110 feet level at this time of year.

With only half the average amount, water is only being released for drinking.

NDTV travelled through the district and met 53-year-old Ningaraju -- who is struggling to save his father's legacy.

This year, Ningaraju's paddy fields yielded nothing. The saplings planted in July have already turned brown. He has given up on paddy, but dreams of saving the 40 coconut trees planted by his father.

"I will save my father's coconut trees however difficult it is. If I can't do that, what is the point of my being here?" he told NDTV.

With water being stopped for irrigation, Ningaraju felt desperate enough to sink borewells - unusual for this area which depends on irrigation in good years. For him, it meant a loan of Rs 1.5 lakh from a Grameen Bank and a cooperative bank, where he had to pledge his jewellery.

"We have pledged necklaces, bangles, rings and earrings," said his wife Geetha.

But Ningaraju was disappointed by his bore-wells. "I sank two bore-wells. The first had nothing. The second, at 400 feet, gives water for about 10 minutes, enough for just one tree," he said.

The family was already in debt. When money started coming in from their sugarcane and paddy, they had taken a loan to expand their house. They owe a total of Rs 5 lakh now.

Geetha said it was difficult to manage household expenses. "My husband and two sons work as coolies to run the house. And we are re-paying the loan.  Wages vary from 200 to 500 a day but it isn't fixed. We need at least Rs 5,000 a month to run the house if there is nothing unexpected," she told NDTV.


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