Donkeys in Kurnool are gradually dwindling in numbers. While a significant number of them are being taken away by a gang to send them to meat markets of neighbouring districts and States, the rest are left in lurch as the Rajaka (dhobi) community has stopped depending on them.
Unlike the rest, the donkeys in Kurnool are taller in size. They used to help dhobis in their profession.
Nagaraju, president of Rajaka Vruttidaarula Sangham (RVS), says that donkeys are being stolen late in the night. A few years ago, we stopped lorries carrying donkeys.
The price of donkeys about five years ago was 20,000 to 50,000. But in recent times, it has come down to a mere 5,000, says Mr. Nagaraju.
He laments that the Rajaka community has been facing a number of problems in the city. The main issue is the shortage of water and whatever available, it is polluted. The Handri river and the rivulets have become polluted as drainage water finds it way into them, says Mr. Nagaraju.
About 80% of the Rajakas are situated near the rivulets and the Handri river. With these water bodies being polluted, they are forced to leave the area and it deprives them of their livelihood. Only about 20% of the people working in the Old Town area, where the Tungabhadra flows, are still engaged in the profession, he says.
However, Mr. Nagaraju says that the situation is better in some towns and villages in the district where a few of them are still finding a job. But he is sceptical of the future.
While lack of water and polluted rivers is a major concern, another reason for the urban Rajakas to lose their livelihood is the increasing use of washing machines, says Venkatesh from the Rajaka community. Some of us even started doing construction work, he says.