Drought forces Ashti taluk farm owners to become migrant labourers

As the rescue teams were taking out the bodies and injured from the debris of the three-floor building in Taljai Pathar recently, police identified the deceased as migrant labourers. But every victim of the disaster 11 dead and 11 injured had an untold story.

Annasaheb Devkate's family was forced to migrate to Pune from drought-hit Ashti taluk from Beed district, where they own 10 acres. Devkate (29) and his sister-in-law Meeta died in the cave-in while his wife Deepali was seriously injured.

Devkate was from Bhojewadi village in Beed district which has been hit badly by drought. Yield from his 10-acre farm had been sufficient in last three years, but not anymore after rainfall disappeared from the region.

Sukhdeo Khatke, a resident of the village, says, "Ashti Patoda is known for its migrant labourers. Bhojegaon has a population of around 2,000 and 200 young men and women from them are working in Pune, Mumbai and Aurangabad. Annasaheb and his family had moved about a year ago to Pune and has three children."

Back in village, Annasaheb's father Tulshiram and mother Durabai have still not come out of shock, says Khatke.

He added, "A visit to a Ashti bus stand, at any given time, can prove the point. If one asks the passengers on Pune and Mumbai-bound buses, most of them are leaving villages to work in cities. Our district provides sugarcane farm labourers to the rest of the state. Many of them own lands in villages and it is not a matter of pride for a land owner to work as labourer."

Beed, Solapur and Ahmednagar see large-scale migrations due to scarce resources and scanty rainfall. But district administration has a different take with different facts.

Additional district collector of Beed Shivanand Taksale said, "There is no doubt that rain has been scarce. But we cannot link the case of migration with this condition. We have implemented the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in the district and it has definitely curbed migration. This case might be an exception."

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