Following consultations in Vidarbha and Marathwada region where a high number of farmer suicides has been reported, the Maharashtra State Commission for Women, along with NGOs, has created a charter of demands for farmer widows.
The demands include a Kisan Mitra helpline that caters to 14 affected districts, increase in ex gratia amount from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 3.5 lakh on the lines of the Andhra Pradesh government’s policy and a detailed database on widows and their needs in the affected districts.
Vijaya Rahatkar, the chairperson of the women’s commission, held two consultations in Vidarbha and Marathwada in February and March. The Nagpur divisional commissioner has suggested starting the helpline in Wardha. “The Amravati divisional collector has agreed to look into all cases in which legal and land rights have been denied to widows,” Rahatkar said.
According to NGO Makaam, which helps women in drought-affected areas and has been working with the women’s commission to safeguard the rights of farmer widows, getting legal land title rights for widows in villages remains a major issue.
Rahatkar said a suggestion to provide free legal aid has also been made. She said widows who wish to start their own work are being denied bank credit.
“They have to turn to money lenders and borrow money against high interest. Women end up becoming wage labourers. Farmers’ widows must get credit loans and crop loans on priority basis,” Rahatkar said.
Women have also complained about educational issues for children due to paucity of funds. Officials with the women’s commission said the issues would be discussed with the chief minister.