Women groups want the government to set up a support package for farmer suicide families

There is a wide variation in the R&R package given by different states, they say

Last Updated: Monday 27 January 2020

Women farmer groups are demanding that the government set up a special support package for families of those farmers who have committed suicide. They want Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitaraman to announce the package during the 2020 Union Budget.

The Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch (MAKAAM) and the United Nations Women co-organised a National Consultation on “Status of Women Farmers in Farm Suicide Families.”

“We find that governments are not doing enough to prevent farm suicides. They are not even extending adequate and uniform support to farm suicide-affected families for the women to continue with their lives, livelihoods and familial responsibilities despite the fact that such suicides are due to faulty farming policies,” MAKAAM said in a statement.

Currently, there is no unified policy in India that compensates the families of farmers who have committed suicide. “I am from P.A.Palli in Nalgonda district, Telangana and we do cultivation on leased land. My husband committed suicide in 2018 and we have an outstanding debt of Rs six lakh.

We applied for ex-gratia with the help of local activists and have been trying to access this support — I have gone to the local revenue office at the mandal and district level several times but to no avail. As my husband did not own any land in his name, I am not considered as eligible for getting ex-gratia,” explained Korra Shanthi of Telangana.

Some states have policies that pay monetary compensation, but are poorly implemented.

Andhra Pradesh now pays Rs seven lakh as compensation to the dead farmer's families. Telangana has subsumed its Rs 6 lakh suicide compensation scheme with the farmer insurance scheme Rythu Beema Padhakam. But Maharashtra, with the highest farm suicide rate, pays only Rs 1 lakh ex-gratia.

In Punjab, 919 farmers may have taken their lives (2017-2019) but the state government has turned a blind eye to their families.

“We found that there is a wide variation in the R&R package given by different states. For one thing, there are some states which don’t want to acknowledge that suicides are happening, and don’t have any policy to support the surviving women in the suicide-affected families," said Seema Kulkarni of MAKAAM.

Now, women farmers have demanded a one-time settlement mechanism so that they can be free of debt once their husbands die. They want the finance minister to include a relief and rehabilitation package so that the women can continue farming debt-free after their husbands' death.

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