Once a flourishing agrarian village, Aralikattehundi is now a ghost town

Jun 8, 2017

MYSURU: Eyes darting restlessly, his back reclined on a pillar in the verandah of his dilapidated house, Madegowda’s voice seemed to echo through the deserted streets of Aralikattehundi village as he spoke of the time when his sons left the place after successive droughts blighted the family’s fortunes.

Aralikattehundi, 22km from Nanjangud, is what one might call a “ghost” village and 70-year-old Madegowda its only inhabitant. “Like all others, my children too left for Mysuru and Bengaluru in search of greener pastures. They send me money every month for sustenance,” said Madegowda.

A cloud of despair hangs heavily over the village, which falls within the purview of the Varuna assembly constituency represented by chief minister Siddaramaiah. With all the villagers deserting Aralikattehundi, the once fertile land now lies barren. The people of the village, who largely relied on agriculture for subsistence, migrated to urban centres such as Bengaluru following successive droughts. The steady stream of migration has now left Aralikattehundi with a solitary figure.

Pointing out that agriculture in the village was rainfall-dependent, Madegowda said, “There were around 70 families here, most of whom belonged to the Kuruba community, while a few of them were from the Kaniru caste. We cultivated millets, grain and sugarcane. Some farmers owned up to 25 acres of land. But lack of irrigation facilities forced them to migrate, and the fertile land turned barren.”

However, Madegowda has no wish to leave the village where he was born, and has lived his entire life. “I once had 50 cattle, but I only have some sheep now,” he added.

For a very long time, Nilavathamma was Madegowda’s next door neighbor. However, the bleak scenario in the village forced her to go to her son Ashwath, a labourer at a truck office, in Nanjangud. “All my five children have gone to the cities. There not enough water for drinking in Aralikattehundi,” she said.

The four water tanks constructed by the zilla panchayat to supply water for the villagers have gone dry, as have the two wells that date back to 1953. With the groundwater reserves having depleted, handpumps too have been rendered dysfunctional.

The anganwadi centre and the lower primary government school in the village too were closed in 2013. Madhu, a resident of the neighbouring Karya village, said, “Children from our village went to the school at Aralikattehundi. But, we have been sending them to schools in neighbouring villages after it was shut.”
Following reports on the condition of the village in the media, Mysuru district administration sent a team of officials led by Nanjangud taluk executive officer Revanna to Aralikattehundi. The officials were tasked with chalking out developmental programmes for the village, to bring back those who have migrated.
Zilla panchayat CEO P Shivashankar told TOI that migration from the village was not a recent phenomenon, but had been happening for the past 30 years. “I’ve sent a team of officers, including those from the irrigation department to inspect the village. We’ll first see the lakes in the village are on the list of 248 others marked for development in Chamarajnagar district and Nanjangud taluk in Mysuru. If they are not on the list, they’ll be included. Once the lakes are revived, agricultural activity will pick up. We’ll also ensure supply of drinking water, besides developing irrigation facilities and encourage farmers to take up cultivation of commercial crops with the help of the agriculture department,” Shivashankar added.
Meanwhile, villagers said that CM Siddaramaiah’s son Yathindra will be visiting the village on Thursday for inspection.