Farmers in Vellore district are facing a difficult situation due to shortage of fodder and lack of water in ground level tanks for their livestock. While the State government has declared 28 districts, including Vellore, drought-hit, the farmers have complained that it has not provided any relief to them.
Usually, small-scale farmers own one or two cows. However, those who have more than 10 acres of land don’t own any livestock which enables them to sell the hay generated from their fields. The problem is that with a large amount of straw transported to Andhra Pradesh due to the higher rates offered there, local farmers with animals are struggling to get fodder, Raja explained.
While the price of one tractor load of hay (roughly one tonne) was priced at Rs 500 three years ago, it has shot up to Rs 5,000 now, said official sources. Straw is booked even before paddy has ripened in the field. Once the crop is threshed, the straw is lifted by AP farmers, said Varunkumar, secretary of TN Farmers’ Association.
Meanwhile, the small-scale farmers are worried about the fate of their livestock once the drought intensifies. “We are caught in a vicious cycle without relief. As Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh is the milk hub of south India, farmers in villages like Palamaner, Bangarupalayam, Tirupati and Punganur require hay for their livestock to ensure continued milk supply. So, they are ready to pay more,” said K Elumalai, a farmer.
The State government should procure hay and provide it to farmers at subsidised rates as they did some years ago to help us tide over the crisis, demanded Raja.
Adding to their woes, the ground level tanks built under the MGNREGA scheme have no water supply in several areas. “Though the tanks were built to provide water to the livestock during summer, they are totally useless now,” claimed Elumalai.
“Whenever we meet Animal Husbandry Department officials to raise our concerns, they ask us to come back after election results,” said Raja. The farmers added that they are annoyed by this response as only teachers and revenue officials are involved in the poll work.
When questioned about the livestock in the district, the officials told us that there were 2.75 lakh animals according to the 2011 census and no enumeration was undertaken after that. We feel that the number would be double the official figures right now. Providing fodder would be a huge problem in sometime, claimed Raja.
“If the State government fails to take any action even after May 23, we will plan state-level agitations to highlight our plight,” warned the farmers.
They also appealed to the Forest Department officials to initiate measures to provide enough water for the wild animals. “We fear that wild animals would enter human habitations in search of water and food if this is not done. Many villages abutting the TN-AP border near the reserve forest area are living in this fear,” said Elumalai.