When he was elected to Buddini gram panchayat in Raichur district four years ago, Basavaraj Aiyappa, 42, hoped to change the fortunes of his villagers. Thanks to successive droughts and crop failures, Basavaraj himself has migrated to Bengaluru with his family in search of a livelihood.
For the record, he owns 14 acres of agricultural land. Earning Rs 15,000 a month, Basavaraj works at a construction site to feed his wife and three sons. Living in a 10ftx15ft tenement in Bidadi, 30km from here, Basavaraj has only the family’s past glory to draw sustenance from.
The tenement, Basavaraj said, is the size of his kitchen back home. Basavaraj’s grandfather was Buddini’s biggest landlord with 50 acres. He was known as Dalapathi – the commander. He sold parcels of it to afford family expenses. Basavaraj was left with 14 acres. In 2015, Basavaraj won the GP elections, and he dreamt of transforming his village. Tides of immiserisation caught up with Basavaraj, and his dryland worsened the situation. He ended up knocking on the doors of moneylenders to raise a loan of Rs 50,000.
Before long, Basavaraj, a matriculate, realized that agriculture wasn’t remunerative and headed to Bengaluru. Basavaraj lived on construction sites and sent earnings to his wife. Since he couldn’t afford to keep two hearths burning, Basavaraj brought his wife Pallavi to Bengaluru earlier this year. She works in an ice-cream factory for Rs 8,000.
‘I didn’t want to take to corrupt ways’ I’ve told my husband: ‘Feed us before you do good to the world’,” Basavaraj’s wife Pallavi said. The couple’s eldest son, 15, is in a residential school. The other two, aged 11 and 8, attend a Bidadi school.
Basavaraj said: “I wanted to do a bit for my village. Without earnings, I couldn’t stay there. I didn’t want to take to corrupt ways. This is what made me migrate to Bengaluru.” Basavaraj attends gram panchayat meetings in Raichur, and knows the ground situation through villagers.
Also, Basavaraj was keen on better education for his children which was tough to get in the village. His younger son, Pavan Kumar, said he does not want to return to the village because it’s too hot, and has no water or good school. The panchayat member said his plight is shared by lakhs from his region who migrate to Bengaluru, Mumbai or Hyderabad in search of livelihood.
Several parts of North Karnataka have received just 50% rainfall and suffered 70% crop loss in both kharif and rabi seasons last year. “In two years, I’ve helped 30-40 youths get jobs in Bengaluru. Governments make tall claims about farmer-friendly schemes, but none is executed in right earnest,” he said.