Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Farmers' widows want to contest elections-Gulf News Report

World | India

Farmers' widows want to contest elections

Women's organisation hopes to benefit from proposed Women's Reservation Bill

  • By Pamela Raghunath, Correspondent
  • Published: 00:00 March 10, 2010
  • Gulf News

Mumbai: The Women's Reservation Bill has caught the imagination of women across the country and even farmers' widows in Maharashtra's crisis-ridden Vidarbha region want to contest from all reserved constituencies if the Bill is passed.

The Vidarbha Farm Widows Association (VFWA) representing more than 7,000 widows of cotton farmers, who committed suicide since 2001 in the ongoing agrarian crisis, passed a resolution to contest from all the reserved constituencies if the bill is passed, said Bebitai Bais, President, VFWA, from the small town of Hiwara in Yavatmal district.

Life of dignity

"Our aim would be to unite all these farmland widows and 35,000 orphans of Vidarbha whose concerns and problems are common," she said on Monday, after the International Women's Day celebrations. "We must show the world the apathy of the bureaucracy and politicians to our issues and our demands to live a life of dignity," she said.

"The Vidarbha farm widows are a small representation of a total of more than 200,000 widows who are leading a pathetic life in an age when the Indian president, Pratibha Patil, is a woman, the Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar is a woman and the UPA Convenor Sonia Gandhi is a widow," said Swarswatibai Ambarwar, Secretary, VFWA.

"It's a matter of national shame that the problems of food, health and education of children of more than 200,000 farm widows are not even discussed in Parliament," she said.

The Vidarbha agrarian crisis was first highlighted in 2005 when 118 suicides were officially registered from the region.


This prompted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to send agriculture expert M.S. Swaminathan there who reported in September the crisis that year was severe. Since then, aid packages, including a massive one of loan waiver package of Rs700 billion (Dh58.33 billion) on an all-India basis in February 2008 have failed to stem the suicide rate. The suicides continued unabated — 440 in 2004, 450 in 2005, 1,640 in 2006, 1,468 in 2007, 1,500 in 2008, 1086 in 2009 and 223 so far in 2010.

"We are disturbed when we watch the rosy picture of progress made by Indian women when millions of farm women have to struggle for a survival," says Bais.

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