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    : More and more people are joining mass exodus from Thar desert, as the arid zone faces another phase of severe famine which may lead to an imminent drought in the next couple of months. The large scale migration for fear of expected drought is reported from Nagarparkar and Chhachhro Talukas from where, according to a Thar-based NGO, almost 80 per cent of adults have moved to other places in search of livelihood.

    Realising the threat of famine, which is looming large over the area, the deputy commissioner Mithi has already communicated it to the higher authorities and asked for preventive and relief measures to minimise the adverse impacts of the imminent drought on the population as well as on livestock. However, so far, there has been no action or reaction from the Sindh government.

    Dr Sono Khangrani, Executive Director, Thar-Deep Development Programme--an NGO working in Thar region - told The News the people have ran out of money, as they have spent all their earnings on purchase of seed and cultivation of a crop in hope of rain. There are no rainfalls and all their investments has gone waste. "Now, even the shops are being closed down as there are no buyers," he added.

    Dr Khangrani said experiencing persistent droughts of severe nature for some time, the people are on an early flight to barrage areas lest the situation go even worse. "If the influx of Tharis reaches at its peak in surrounding areas and they find it difficult to get employment," he added. According to him, 80 per cent adults of Nagarparkar and Chhachhro Talukas have migrated, leaving behind acute shortage of labour. "Almost 40 per cent population along with their livestock has migrated from union councils Veera Wah, Pathapur, Puri and Adhi Gampuri in Taluka Nagarparkar," he said.

    Atma Ram, a lawyer from Mithi, said about 40 per cent population and around 60 per cent of total livestock have left Thar, particularly from Nagarparkar, Chhachhro and Diplo. "There is no fodder, no food and no water, why they stay there," he said. Atma Ram added that the forthcoming local elections in Thar would serve no purpose until and unless a permanent solution to drought is found. He deplored lethargy of the Sindh government, saying the government is still considering the reports, instead of declaring the entire area as calamity-hit area.

    However, amid the reports of mass exodus, the local administration is seen relaxed. When contacted, SDM Mithi Ahmad Buksh Ghumro termed the flight of Thari population as a 'natural phenomenon'. "Instead of getting information from me you better contact ADM, who is in direct touch with all this situation", the SDM responded to the queries of this scribe on telephone.

    ADM Mithi Lajpat Rai Rathi told this scribe on telephone they are strictly prohibited by the high-ups not to talk on the issue to any one, especially the newsmen. "I will not say anymore, nor you ask my name," he added and put down the phone. Deputy Commissioner Mithi Asadullah Dharejo admitted the migration of the Tharis and has asked the officials to compile data of migrating families. "At present, it is an initial phase of migration and about 20 per cent people have moved out the area, however, if there are no rains Thar will again face a drought in March," he told The News.

    Dharejo said he has suggested in his recent report to the Sindh government that the area people should be exempted from recovery of all taxes and past arrears, besides wheat and flour be provided to them at subsidised rates. Confirming the reports of migration and survey of the movement of population and livestock from Thar, Commissioner Mirpurkhas Mir Hussain Ali said due to little rainfall during 1999, the drought conditions had become imminent.

    He said the government had notified, on November 11, 2000, District Tharparkar and parts of District Umerkot as calamity-affected areas, adding that after the issuance of the notification, the recovery of land revenue and other dues had been stopped. "In addition, the construction of water reservoirs and provision of hand pumps have been taken up and an amount of Rs 100 million has been allocated for the purpose," the commissioner added.

    The commissioner said that the entire government machinery at divisional and district levels, including Pakistan Army was providing relief to the affected people. This year rainfall was again less than required and as such the possibility of drought could not be ruled out, he stated and added as such the local administration was keeping a strict watch on the situation. "The deputy commissioner is conducting surveys of the crop cultivation, availability of water in wells, movements of population and livestock etc, so that further action can be initiated," he added.