Agri Business

Why farm widows in the drought zone choose to join their husbands

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on September 27, 2019 Published on September 27, 2019

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Incidents of widows and their children committing suicide are coming to light with alarming frequency

As the State is gearing up for assembly elections and politicians are busy bargaining over seat share, the suicide of 35-year-old farm widow Ujjwala Dhoke and her four minor daughters in the drought-hit Vidarbha region of Maharashtra largely went unnoticed. But this is not an isolated case. After a farmer commits suicide, families, society and government make life difficult for his widow and push her to the brink, where she is left with no option then to follow in her husband’s footsteps, say activists.

A month ago, Ujjwala’s husband Baban had committed suicide by consuming poison, according to villagers in Malegaon in Buldhana district. Baban left the responsibility of raising Vaishnavi (9), Durga (7), Arushi (4) and Pallavi (1) on his wife. When active sex selection via foetal abortions becomes impossible because of various reasons, parents keep having children till they get a son or desired number of sons. This son meta preference leads to couples in rural areas ending up with many children.

According to Ujwala’s family members she was worried about the future of her daughters and ended her life by drowning herself and her daughters in a village well.

“Farmers’ suicides are at least reported and recorded. This is not the case with women farmers, farm widows and deserted women. Nobody is bothered about what happens to them -- they live or die. The majority of such women are out of the government’s scheme net. Even many who have no shelter to live have not got a house under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana,” says Osmanabad-based activist Sunanda Kharate, who works with widows and deserted women in Marathwada. “It is not easy for a lonely woman to live and survive in villages. Everyone tries to exploit her in all possible ways. And you can’t even imagine how young widows and women who have young daughters live in dilapidated sheds,” she adds.

Recently the State had announced that it will take steps to transfer 7x12 extract (land ownership paper) in the name of widows of farmers, give land rights to widows, and transfer farmland in the name of widows so that they benefit from the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.

Bhaskar Shinde, an activist from Buldhana, says that government schemes remain on paper. Even a grant of ₹600 rarely reaches widows and despite the decision to increase this monthly amount to ₹1,000, the State has not implemented it. “Women farmers and widows are the most neglected. Nobody raises a voice for them” he said.

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Published on September 27, 2019
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