How wives of farmers who commit suicide attempt to live a dignified life
Suraj Jadhav, a farmer from the Solapur district, went live on Facebook last week, stating that in his next life, he will not be born into a farmer’s family and become a farmer.
‘This is the end of my (this) life; there is no life left for me. The government does not pay attention to farmers and is unconcerned about farmers,’ Jadhav stated.
With one hand holding his phone to record himself for Facebook live, he unscrewed the cap of a poison bottle with his teeth and gulped the poison. Suraj died on Friday after being admitted to the hospital.
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From January to November 2021, 2,489 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra, and the trend is expected to continue in 2022.
Farmers’ wives and children
‘You must have read about farmer suicides in the newspapers.’ But have you ever read about what happens to these farmers’ wives and children? ‘Do they follow in the footsteps of the farmer?’ wonders Ranjana Doiphode, a widow farmer from Osmanabad district.
She responds to her own question. ‘No. We don’t put an end to our lives. We continue to sow in fields and care for our children. ‘We can’t abandon farming because it’s our only source of survival,’ she says. ‘Remember, too, that we women are farmers.’ Doiphode asserts, ‘Count us as farmers, not just widows.’
Between 2016 and 2020, approximately 29,524 farmers committed suicide in India, with Maharashtra topping the list with 12,462 farmers committing suicide during this time period.
‘Life is not easy for a farmer’s widow,’ says Sunanda Kharate, who works with abandoned women and farmer’s widows. ‘But these women are tough. They do not perish. They do not wish to die. ‘I’ve seen hundreds of women who are at odds with society and the system in order to survive and earn a living,’ she says.
A widow from Osmanabad village went to the sarpanch a few years ago, seeking help from the panchayat after her husband committed suicide. The sarpanch intended to take advantage of her. She had the same experience when she went to the government babus. The women of the village banded together to assist her in completing her tasks. However, this is not an isolated incident. To survive, widow farmers must fight at all levels.
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According to Babytai Wagh, a widow farmer from Vidarbha, the majority of widow farmers earn their living through dairy, poultry, goat breeding, and a variety of other agri-based activities. ‘Total reliance on farming is impossible, and there is no choice but to try something else, but suicide is not an option for women,’ she says.
widow farmers keeping the dream alive
Many of these widow farmers are unaware of International Women’s Day, but they have clearly defined their life goals. Aside from educating their children, these women want to live a dignified life.
Many women are grouping together to form Farmer Producer Companies (FPC), attempting to break into the organic farming and agro-based entrepreneurship markets. As stories of farmer suicides continue to circulate in Maharashtra, widow farmers have chosen a more difficult battle to fight.