As trade unions held a strike last week seeking a hike in minimum wages, the Centre announced a raise for non-agricultural workers, to Rs 350 a day. Women field workers in Maharashtra are among the lowest paid in the country. Their minimum wages, at Rs 149.13 a day, are Rs 100 less than what even their male counterparts get.
1. How do you make do with what you earn?
I get paid Rs 120 for a day’s work. Though my husband has 2 acres of land, I have to work on other people’s fields for us to make ends meet. My two sons help my husband on our field. Our area is drought-prone, so sometimes even agricultural work is not readily available. The money I earn is just enough to buy one month’s sugar. Life would definitely be easier if wages are increased. That way, we can at least eat better food.
2. Women farm workers are paid less than men. What do you think about that?
We work as hard as men, if not more. Most of the labourers on the field are women. Yet, we earn half of what men do. Wages should be decided on the basis of the work we do, and we are capable of doing everything that men do. The wages should be revised.
3. Have any of the women labourers protested?
We speak about it among ourselves, but, honestly, there is very little we can do to change the situation. Asking for more money could also backfire; we may not be hired for agricultural work in the future.
4. The Delhi government has decided to increase minimum wages by nearly 50 per cent. Have you heard about it?
Really? No, I haven’t heard of it. It will be very good if Maharashtra does that.
5. Have people from your village migrated to other towns and cities where wages are higher?
Yes. Some have migrated to Mumbai and Aurangabad. They have relatives there. Since we have land in the village, we cannot leave. We try and make the most of what we have.