India

Farmers in drought-affected Indian state head for the Gulf

New Delhi (dpa) - Farmers in the drought-affected southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh are packing their bags and heading to the Gulf region in search of jobs, it was reported Thursday.

Over the past year, four out of every five people in the state who received passports were illiterate or semi-literate farmers, New Delhi Television (NDTV) reported.

"There is no water and we cannot farm. I am going to Saudi Arabia to work," said Ramulu, a farmer from Nizamabad district.

So far, Andhra Pradesh's biggest export has been software engineers. The tech-savvy state boasts that 25 per cent of Indian software engineers in the United States hail from the region.

Several years of drought have impacted the state's farmers who depend entirely on agriculture for their livelihood. Drought and intermittent rain have lowered ground water levels drastically.

The state is just recovering from a savage heatwave, in which more than 1,300 people died of dehydration and sunstroke. Most were daily labourers forced to work in the sun in order to earn a living.

V.S. Raman, a passport official in capital Hyderabad, told NDTV, "Because of the drought situation and poverty they are trying to run away from the country in search of jobs in the Gulf."

Sayanna, a farmer, cannot sign his name. But he is ready to leave his wife and family in Adilabad district and try his luck in Muscat. dpa ar rk

AP-NY-06-26-03 0728EDT

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