In Holathalu village located in Tumakuru’s Madhugiri taluk, farmers run for 8 or more kilometres behind a truck once or twice a week.
Every day, they camp out on the highway connecting Madhugiri and Pavadaga, waiting for a particular truck to pass by. Twice a week, they get lucky. There’s no specific time or day when the truck would come, but when it does, the farmers get set for a long run.
The truck they wait for is the state-sponsored vehicle that carries fodder for the cattle in the government-run gaushala (cowshed) in Thovinakere.
The loaded truck inadvertently drops scraps of fodder on the way; some of the fodder even gets stuck to the low hanging branches of trees. Some farmers climb up trees and try to get their hands on the fodder while the truck passes by.
And for the men and women of Holathalu, these scraps spell survival for their cattle. Because the survival of the cattles is linked to their own survival.
Cattle-rearing is a major occupation in Holathalu village. There have been several cattle deaths due to lack of food and water recently but the government, apparently, has not even kept count.
Krishnappa, 47-year-old farmerThere is only one gaushala for both Madhugiri and Pavagada taluks and it is located in Thovinakere in Pavagada taluk. At the gaushala, the fodder is rationed to farmers - everyone gets just one kg per trip, and the trucks come in just once or twice a week. This is also not consistent. The quantity of fodder is not enough to sustain the demand. Hence, we have resorted to this move.
"There is no said date or time for these trucks to arrive,” explains Krishnappa. “Sometimes they come early in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon or evening. So we wait everyday and look out for them. My brother and I take turns to watch for them," he says.
We are desperate for water and our cattle are suffering without food. Some of us have a lot of loans to pay off and we can’t afford to buy fodder. We have to make do with the scraps fallen on the road. All the politicians shed false tears and rant at each other about how bad the condition is, but no one really cares about us. We have to fend for ourselves.
Despite several attempts to contact the Deputy Commissioner of Tumakuru, there was no response.
The state government, for its part, has hardly spoken on the issue of fodder for cattle.
While Major Irrigation Minister MB Patil told mediapersons ahead of the state budget that the government was making efforts to ‘minimise sufferings of the farmers on a war footing’, the Chief Minister was less vague during his budget speech.
Siddaramaiah announced that the government is going to procure 1 tonne of fodder from Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra to tackle the shortage in the state.
The farmers in Karnataka though say there has been no action taken on the ground.
Jagadish, the president of the Tumakuru Farmers’ Association says, “We requested Home Minister Parameshwara several times to set up gaushalas in the district as it is his constituency. But only a few have materialised so far. Even those are not stocked properly to cater to the farmers’ needs.”
(The story was first appeared on The News Minute and has been republished with permission.)