In the ongoing political debate on the causes and cures for the agrarian tragedy, not much is said about the fate of the widows and children left behind by the farmers who have committed suicide. According to a recent report, married women head four per cent of households in our country. Most of the farmers’ wives do not possess title to land and hence become ineligible for Kisan Credit Cards or other forms of institutional credit. They thus become landless labourers. We need urgently a pan political commitment for safeguarding the education of children and livelihood security of the widows in suicide hotspot areas. I had introduced a private member’s bill in Rajya Sabha for the empowerment of women in agriculture but that could not be taken up for discussion before the end of my term.
I appeal to all the political parties, currently seriously considering how to help farmers in economic distress to incorporate in the relief package a Panchsheel for the widows. Such a five point programme should confer land rights, access to irrigation water, access to technology and needed inputs, eligibility to credit and insurance, and assured and remunerative marketing opportunity. The Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana introduced by government at the instance of MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) should have a special provision for the livelihood empowerment of farm widows through a Panchsheel approach.