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Against the grain: In some parts of Maharashtra, women get dowry

Radheshyam Jadhav Sangli (Maharashtra) | Updated on March 18, 2019

Some farmers are willing to pay a dowry of about ₹1 lakh to get their sons married, while others go a step further and agree to shoulder the marriage expenses as well   -  istock.com/rvimages

Young women refuse to marry farmers, or demand huge ‘gifts’ to say yes

Amit Sawant is a 29-year-old marginal farmer from Sangli hoping to tie the knot this marriage season.

But the ‘bride hunt’ has been rather tough. Most women reject him outright on the grounds that he is a farmer, while some demand a hefty dowry.

Sawant, who cultivates sugarcane along with his father, is not the only young farmer facing this problem. In Ahmednagar district, a survey showed that over 3,000 young men were struggling to get married only because they were farmers, while in Nashik, desperate farmers were willing to meet the dowry demands.

Maharashtra’s agrarian crisis has given birth to a ‘reverse dowry’ system, wherein the girl’s parents demand dowry from young farmers.

Shunning farming

While some men do shell out a dowry to get married, others are yet to come to terms with the trend. Along with crop failure, drought, income instability and low produce prices, not getting brides, or having to pay dowry, adds to the list of reasons young men in the State want to quit farming.

“Girls are ready to marry anyone but a farmer,” says Kishor Savale from Buldhana district. “For the past four years I’ve struggled to get a bride despite owning 8 acres of irrigated land worth ₹1.2 crore. I’m an educated man with a master’s degree in library science, but 30 girls have rejected me saying they would even marry a peon or conservancy staff member in a government department, but not a farmer.”

In some villages in Nashik district, farmers are willing to pay a dowry of about ₹1 lakh to get their sons married, while others go a step further and agree to shoulder the marriage expenses as well.

“No girl wants to marry a farmer. Young farmers are leaving farming and going to Pune and Mumbai to work as taxi and rickshaw drivers. They say that if not money, they will at least get a bride in the city,” says Mohan Patil from Satara.

Not surprisingly, the Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies’ report, ‘State of Indian Farmers’ concluded that only 24 per cent of youth belonging to farmer households are interested in continuing in the line, while 76 per cent want to opt out.

Census 2011 showed that between 2001 and 2011, 9 million farmers quit cultivation for various reasons. The number will only go up drastically in the next few years, according to agricultural experts.

“It is a fact of life. Not many would admit that they have paid a dowry to the girls’ parents because society is not willing to accept the truth. The situation is more difficult for people like us who don’t have land to cultivate and are daily wage labourers. There are no girls in the marriage market,” says Phulwanti Shinde in Sangli, who has paid ₹25,000 to her daughter-in-law’s parents to get her son Omkar, a daily wager, married.

Skewed sex ratio

Ironically, the Maharashtra police recently cracked down on a foeticide racket at Mhaisal village in Sangli district. It found 19 aborted female foetuses wrapped in blue plastic bags and buried near a sewer.

Maharashtra’s sex ratio at birth declined by eight points to 899 in 2016 from 907 in 2015.

A skewed sex ratio that Amit Sawant, Kishor Savale and other young men are paying a heavy price for.

Published on March 18, 2019

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