Nobody loves a drought, good or bad—at least not in the parched farmlands of Maharashtra where the cracks on the ravaged earth run deep and far. This is Dante’s purgatory, a living hell where the acrid smell of a burnt landscape hangs in the still air. Agony sit on the weather-beaten and creased faces of a struggling rural populace as they wait for the monsoon to bring relief to Marathwada, Vidarbha and tribal areas of northern Maharashtra—the worst-hit in a persistent drought.
Outlook travelled through several talukas in Nashik and Palghar districts, predominantly tribal areas, and captured some of the most stark and poignant images that show the effects of the drought in its brutal reality. Women, ribs sticking out from their shrivelled frames, travel many kilometres daily to collect water from the last remaining sources—a muddied pond or a deep well. Livestock share the same water source. People are going without a bath or skipping laundry for several days to conserve water for drinking and cooking. Hundreds of villages wait patiently every day for the government tankers that will bring them water. The precious cargo is rationed.