Delhi

Toiling for generations but not farmers yet

Shahjahan Begum Mehboobani grows corn, onions, tomatoes and vegetables on her three-acre plot in Dharwad district of Karnataka. She’s also a responsible member of her local gram panchayat. But without a land patta in her name, it’s difficult to apply for a bank loan.

“The bank wanted documents I could not give, so they did not give me a loan. But I have been able to get a ₹1 lakh loan from our self-help group to dig a borewell,” she said proudly. Her problem is not unique. About 300 women farmers from 24 States gathered for a Mahila Kisan Diwas conference on Monday and shared similar challenges.

No benefits

“The lack of a land title prevents women farmers from having access to credit, resources, extension services, decision making, employment and benefits that are commensurate to their labour,” said Shobha Nagnur, professor at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, who chaired a group of farmers discussing the constraints faced by and strategies needed for women in agriculture.

“I work on four acres of land but it was in my father’s name, so it automatically went to my brother, even though I am the one who actually cultivates it,” said Jayanti Pradhan, a farmer and entrepreneur from Sambalpur in Odisha, who grows mushrooms, makes vermicompost and trains others in organic farming. “If I need a loan, if I want to be part of any government scheme, if I need certification for marketing purposes – for everything, I need an identity card which shows that I am a farmer too, since the land patta is not in my name.”

Even if they do not have ownership documents in their name, many of the women attending the conference belong to families with small landholdings.

The problem is even more acute for tenant farmers and agricultural workers who have no claim to any land, but still are primary cultivators. Acknowledging the crucial role of women in the country’s food production, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh noted that “the participation of women is 75% in the production of major crops, 79% in horticulture, 51% in post-harvest work and 95% in animal husbandry and fisheries.”

Recent statistics from his Ministry, however, show that these women are paid 22% less than their male counterparts.

“We have recommended that women be listed as ‘cultivators’ in the revenue land records so they can also access benefits available to farmers,” said Ashok Dalwai, chief executive officer of the National Rainfed Agriculture Authority, who is also chairing a committee on the government’s promise to double farmers' income by 2022. “However, it is ultimately up to the States, as land is a State subject," he added.


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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 6:43:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/toiling-for-generations-but-not-farmers-yet/article25231961.ece

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