NCW mulls advisory on policies to aid women farmers
NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma told Hindustan Times that as women migrants made their way home to work in farms, policy rethinks are crucial.Updated: May 09, 2020 01:58 IST
The National Commission for Women (NCW) conducted a virtual day-long consultation on Friday to come up with an advisory for states that would enable them to prescribe policy changes in aid of women farmers hit by the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The NCW expects to issue the advisory before the kharif season begins next month, and is treating the matter as urgent since several migrants are making their way home during the lockdown.
NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma told Hindustan Times that as women migrants made their way home to work in farms, policy rethinks are crucial.
Present at the deliberation were officials from the union ministry of women and child development, department of agriculture, National Rural Livelihood Mission, National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, PM Kisan, National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, as well as representatives of non-governmental organisations like the International Fund for Agricultural Development, Oxfam, and Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch (MAAKAM).
A key point that emerged during the discussion was that while a significant number of Indian farmers are women, their access to credit facilities, subsidies and tools are limited. “Most of the land is registered in the name of male farmers, and so, the women are not eligible to apply for credit facilities and state subsidies. Even farming tools are designed for men only,” Sharma said. As a result, one suggestion that came out in the discussion was to give women farmers access to credit without interest or collateral, since many did not hold land titles and others are tenant farmers.
As migrant labourers make their way home — at least 1.8 lakh have registered with states to take trains back home, but the numbers are likely several times more —the labour market is expected to become more competitive. Stakeholders at the virtual consultation suggested that home state must ensure that women get equal job opportunities.
The finance ministry’s Economic Survey 2017-18 pointed to the feminisation of agriculture sector, as more women took up farm jobs, but exact numbers are unclear. While an Oxfam report pegs the number of women cultivators and agriculture labourers at 70%, a 2011 report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations stated that women account for 30% of the farm labour force in India.
Seema Kulkarni of MAKAAM, who participated in the discussion said that in the current situation unfolding due to the Covid-9 pandemic, widows of farmers who committed suicide are vulnerable. “As the kharif season is on the way, widows are particularly vulnerable as they have not sold their harvest and so, do not have seed availability and have high credit liabilities. Loan waivers are not sanctioned, and most of them get loans through self-help groups and micro-finance which are high on interest. Loans need to be institutionalised, and quick estimates of women in need must be prepared,” she said.
In January, MAKAAM had written to the Centre to provide MGNREGA job cards for women affected by farm loan suicides.