Farmer suicides: Study shows plight of women left behind

Sericulturist Neelamma Munivenkatappa says she has not been able to repay debts left behind by her husband.

Sericulturist Neelamma Munivenkatappa says she has not been able to repay debts left behind by her husband.  

‘Only 41.9% of families in last 3 years compensated’

The Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch, a forum for women farmers’ rights, has demanded that the State government look into the plight of women from families that have seen farmer suicides and announce necessary interventions in its budget proposals on March 5.

The forum has released the findings on the status of women farmers in such families from a survey in six States conducted during November-December 2019.

One of the founding members of the forum, Kavitha Kuruganti, speaking to presspersons here on Monday, said: “Our study points out that Karnataka constitutes 18-23% of all farm suicides across India in recent past. Going by the farm suicides recorded by the Police Department, only 41.9% of affected families in the last three years were compensated.”

No database

She said the study found that 14% of farm suicides in Karnataka are of women. However, there is no database of the women farmers in these families that the government maintains, nor any coordination between agencies that are supposed to support them with compensation, or free education or pension. She argued for better coordination between agencies involved in setting up of committees to monitor and ensure that all entitlements are given. “There should be special ID cards issued to the women farmers in these families, as is being done in Maharashtra. We also want effective helplines to be set up similar to Telangana government’s efforts in three districts there,” Ms. Kuruganti added.

All-woman household

Neelamma Munivenkatappa from Kolar, a sericulturist, described her plight of having to repay outstanding debts left behind by her husband who ended his life in 2018. “Between three sisters-in-law in our family, all of whom are single, we just about recover our cost of production of sericulture. There is no way we can repay the outstanding debts with banks and cooperative societies and I’m now receiving notices from these lenders,” she said.

Kavitha Srinivasan of the forum said: “We need a mechanism by which the women are freed from the outstanding debts, which have not been borrowed by consulting them in the first instance. The government has to set up a debt-relief system so that the women become eligible for fresh loans if needed and are not burdened with outstanding debts.”

The after-effects

Jyothi Raj of Bhoo Shaakti Kendra, Tumakuru, said that the study showed that numerous changes happen in the families after a farmer ends his life. The study showed that land ownership in the same households declined after the suicide, by about 18% in terms of extent. Livestock ownership also declined significantly. In several cases, children have been pulled out of education or employment in cities. In 16% of the sample cases studied, the women farmer shifted to agricultural labourer status from being a cultivating farmer. The women in the families seem to be affected, anxious and mentally stressed in many cases and this requires the urgent attention of the State and civil society, she added.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 3:54:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/farmer-suicides-study-shows-plight-of-women-left-behind/article30906881.ece

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