When a crisis-hit farmer kills himself, what happens to the family he leaves behind? His widow is further pushed into the debt trap and multiplies her struggle to make ends meet.
This is what a new study carried out across six districts of Vidarbha has found.
Carried out by studying 59 families whose breadwinning farmers have committed suicide, the study found that not a single widow of the 59 farmers was able to repay the debt that pushed her husband to kill himself.
Instead, the widow and the family were further pushed into a vicious cycle -- 54 of these families had to take to working as a labourer in other people’s farms to sustain themselves.
Conducted under the banner of Kisan Mitra, a collective of farmers’ organisations across Vidarbha, the study involved 10 organisations going across six crisis-hit districts of Yavatmal, Amravati, Buldhana, Akola, Wardha and Washim and studying the condition of 59 families of the 3,145 farmers who’ve committed suicide between 2012 and April this year.
From facing pressures from her in-laws to struggling to keep herself financially afloat, the widow’s life changes drastically, the study has noted.
“When her husband dies, she is suddenly jolted to the reality of having to step outside her home, sustain herself and her kids,” said Aarti Bais, who has extensively worked with farmers’ widows and runs an organisation called Swarajya Mitra. Bais was part of the study and interviewed some of the women herself.
The research shows how women struggle to break free from societal constraints. Over 50 per cent of the widows said the family’s farms had not been transferred to them, whereas over 73 per cent of the widows said the house they lived in with their husbands had not been transferred to them.
Last year, HT had in a series of ground reports highlighted how widows are often neglected by the society. Many widows also face harassment from their in-laws while they struggle to become independent, the reports had revealed.
These societal constraints lead to a financially crippling situation, making it impossible to repay the debt. The study showed that of the 66 loans that the 59 farmers had taken, not a single one had been repaid.
Bais said many women also go through extreme emotional trauma which affects their mental health.