Over 330 million, or a quarter of the country, had been affected by a drought in the summer of 2016, the Indian government said. Among the worst hit was Marathwada, a region spread across 25,000 sq. miles in west-central India, about 350 km from the financial capital of Mumbai.
In 2015, the region received a deficit rainfall of 51% on average, with some parts receiving as little as 35% of what is considered normal rainfall. It being the third monsoon to fail in a row has had a severe impact on this predominantly agrarian region. As yields suffered and debts accumulated, many farmers were pushed to the brink and some unfortunately beyond. Over 1100 farmer suicides had been reported from the region in 2015 and 216 more took this extreme step in the first 71 days of 2016.
In the cities of Latur and Parbhani, authorities imposed Section 144, which debarred the gathering of more than five people, at water tankers to prevent scuffles. Five trains had been deployed to carry drinking water to Latur, the second largest city in the region, from a source 300km away.
The drought of 1972 is a reference point to calculate the age of Vyjayanta Ithape, 70, who gave birth to a son and had also lost her husband that year. Chincholi in Beed, Maharashtra, India where she lives alone, had been relying on water tankers for the past three years, even during the monsoon.”This one is unlike any other drought in the past, we have grain to eat but no water to drink.” March 21, 2016.
A blackbuck (Indian antelope) sprints across the road near Belewadi Phata in Beed, Maharashtra, India. Farmers say the drying up of watering holes in the jungles has led to an increase in sightings of wild animals on their farms. April 30, 2016.
A man carries a water drum to the tanker in Latur city, Maharashtra. March 27, 2016.
Dead trees dot the hills near Dharur in Beed, Maharashtra. March 23, 2016.
A farmer takes break from work to drink water from a bottle at Gangawadi in Beed, Maharashtra. April 28, 2016.
A family gets a borewell dug at the height of the water crisis at Nandgaon Ves in Latur, Maharashtra, India. March 27, 2016.
A four-member band plays at a wedding in Manjrath in Beed, Maharashtra, India. “If not for the drought, the wedding would have been a much more lavish affair,” said a relative attending the wedding. May 01, 2016.
Jaldoot Express, a train bringing in water from a distance of 300km, being emptied at the railway station in Latur city, Maharashtra, India. May 03, 2016.
Women draw water from a well, which has long since gone dry but replenished once a day with water from tankers, at Karigaon in Beed, Maharshtra, India. March 25, 2016
A woman uses a tumbler to fill her pot from a small puddle on the bed of a well in Atola in Latur, Maharashtra. The previous day, Kevalbai Kamble, 45, stood in a line at the village’s community tap for two hours and collapsed before she could collect her two pots of water. She was declared ‘brought dead’ at the Government Hospital in Latur. Her 80-year-old mother who is half-blind has to live alone now and nobody knows how she will get her water. May 04, 2016.
Women walk back to their homes after a day’s work in the fields, carrying firewood, near Dongargaon in Latur, Maharashtra. March 27, 2016.
Farmers rebuild an illegal well on the bed of Godavari, the second longest river in India, at Gangawadi in Beed, Maharashtra. April 28, 2016.
Migrant workers returning from a sugar mill in neighbouring Karnataka, transfer to smaller vehicles at Dharur in Beed, Maharahstra, where they also shop for gifts and essential items before continuing onwards to their respective villages. March 23, 2016.
A cattle fodder camp at Siddewadi in Beed, Maharashtra, India. The state government had opened 327 such camps in the three heavily-affected districts of Beed, Latur and Osmanabad, providing fodder and water to over 300,000 cattle. March 21, 2016.
Farmers collect chopped sugarcane fodder for their cattle at the fodder camp in Siddewadi in Beed, Maharashtra. The water-intensive sugarcane is a crop ill-suited for the rain shadow region of Marathwada, but government policies over years led to the establishment of 61 sugar mills, both under private and cooperative ownership, in the region and farmers around them are encouraged to sow sugarcane. March 21, 2016.
Deubai Disle, 60, winnows the family’s harvest of bajra (pearl millet) at Dislewadi in Beed, Maharashtra, India. She said the yield from the 12-acre farm was only 1000 kg against the normal yield of 5000 kg. March 22, 2016.
Baliram Jadhav, 40, waits on the operating table for anaesthesia to be administered before a surgery to remove the stones in his kidney at a private hospital in Latur city, Maharashtra. Jadhav, a farmer, says water from a bore well, which he’s been consuming for two years after the well dried up, is responsible for the stones. He delayed the surgery for two years as he didn’t have the money, but went in for the surgery as the pain grew worse with money borrowed from relatives and friends. May 03, 2016.
A drought migrant family from Nanded spends a summer evening at a playground just outside their temporary camp in the Ghatkopar neighbourhood of Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. May 25, 2016.
A family leaves the camp in Ghatkopar, Mumbai for their village in Nanded to prepare their farm for the monsoon rains, expected to arrive in a few weeks’ time. May 25, 2016.
Encouraged by forecast of a favourable monsoon, Arjun Kshirsagar, 70, ploughed his 2-acre land in preparation for the Kharif (monsoon) crop at Saknewadi in Osmanabad, Maharashtra. May 17, 2016.