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Tuesday, 25 April, 2000, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
Eyewitness: Struggling with drought
Dead animal
A dry wind blows over the parched land
By Daniel Lak in Gujarat state

A dry west wind is howling over the parched brown fields of north central Gujarat.

It blows dust from empty river beds into village and houses.

The landscape wears an oddly deserted look.

Every now and then, you drive by a group of women walking for water with brass jugs balanced precariously on their heads.

Women carrying jars
Women walk great distances for water
A few men are driving herds of cattle from empty well to dried up reservoir looking for water.

Animals haven't yet started to die from thirst here in large numbers as they have in neighbouring Rajasthan - although more than 100 have cows perished from eating hay tainted with pesticide at a cattle enclosure run by devout Hindu monks.

Searching for work

Most of the men living outside major towns are looking for employment these days.

They should have been working in the fields or some other part of the local agricultural economy.

But crop failures in the last two years have made them jobless.

Dead cow's head
Large numbers of cows have died in Rajasthan
Government tanker trucks are on the move constantly delivering scarce water to the poor.

Those with money can afford to buy water from private contractors.

Both food and water prices are soaring because of the scarcities.

The real shortage here, though, is of money to see families and the local economy through this crisis.

One village headman told me he was proud that no one had left his community to look for work in the cities - but he didn't think he could cling to that pride much longer.

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See also:

24 Apr 00 | South Asia
In pictures: India's heatwave
21 Apr 00 | South Asia
India suffers severe drought
20 Apr 00 | South Asia
Fears rise as drought continues
14 Apr 00 | South Asia
Severe drought in southern Pakistan
19 Apr 00 | South Asia
Gujarat drought sparks protests
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