Written by Arvind Guleria. The article represents the opinion of the writer and not of the Burning Perceptive Blog. The article is published as per TBP Community Norms.
Agriculture, whenever we see or hear this term, the first image that comes to our mind is a male ploughing his field in a hot sunny day so that he can feed himself and his family. But this image has changed from the last decade(s). Now if we look closely, we will find a woman doing same work and carrying her baby on back.
Let’s call this wonder woman “Kavita”. So Kavita’s day starts at 4:30 by milking cows. After doing household chores, she carries her baby on her back and starts working in a farm. After working for 10 hours, she gets her daily wage (which is very low). Her husband has gone to city in search of work. So after exhausting herself to limit, at the end of day, she is labelled as “agricultural labourer” or a “cultivator”. Kavita doesn’t even get the title of being called as a “FARMER” because she is a WOMAN.
As large number of working-age men are migrating towards cities for jobs, the landscape of rural India is being “feminised”. 65 percent of agricultural workers are women and yet they are not officially counted as farmers.
According to M. S. Swaminathan, the famous geneticist, the art and science of farming was initiated by women as they started gathering seeds and began their cultivation. The role of women in conservation of basic life support systems such as land, water, flora and fauna is laudable. They protected soil health through organic recycling and promoted crop security through varietal diversity and genetic resistance.
Apart from agriculture, poultry farming is one of the major sources of rural economy. Even though, women don’t use modern techniques like vaccination or improved feed, but their results are commendable, which leads to rise in income from poultry farming every year. But in the avidness of making more money, these women sell all eggs and poultry meat with nothing left for personal use, and due to this, they suffer malnutrition.
As compared to male farmers and cultivators, their female counterparts are burdened heavily as they labour in fields and also do household chores along with taking care of children single handedly. The multidimensional role of women i.e. agricultural, domestic and other allied activities (fodder collection, milking), shows that they worked harder and longer than males. In addition to that, other ancillary branches like animal husbandry, fisheries and vegetable cultivation are solely dependent on women.
So the main question arises that why don’t our “Unsung Heroes” get their due?
As stated by government, a person is recognized as farmer who have claim to land under her/his name in official records and data shows that only 12.7 percent of women have that. So for this small recognition, the main reasons that can be drawn are:
– The invidious patriarchal society which holds back women’s ownership of land.
– Land being state subject, is governed by personal religious laws rather than constitution.
So what if women are granted the right to land they cultivate. Will their problems be resolved ? Both men and women get caught up in the throes of agony when it comes to lease a piece of land. Marginal, poor and landless farmers cultivate 35 percent of India’s agricultural land. So before securing women’s land ownership rights, it’s imperative to work on providing security of tenure for tenant farmers. It can be done by providing adequate incentive, security and opportunity. Albeit, Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act was released by NITI Aayog in 2016, which seeks to legalise and liberalise land leasing with interests of both the landlord and tenant in mind. Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh has already amended their laws and Telangana is working on it.
So the war of feminism needs to start from micro level in rural India. The possible way ahead in solving this problem is that we need a few changes in legal and financial systems which can intensify women’s social and economic contributions to rural development. Awareness can only be spread through education among women. So more and more women need to be educated. We can look upto the Mann Deshi Foundation lead by Chetna Gala Sinha, as an example. The feeling of insecurity and vulnerability needs to be wiped away from the minds of rural women. And the chances of being physically abused reduces from 49 to 7 percent for propertied women. So by providing security of land tenure, women farmer’s confidence and agency will reach new limits. Government, by keeping in mind the Sustainable Development Goals that our country pledged in 2015, should promulgate such policies which will ensure food security (Goal 2) and gender equality (Goal 5). By acknowledging the efforts of our unsung heroes and giving them what they truly deserve, the new face of “Indian Farmer” will be genuinely defined.