Thomson Reuters has reported that according to a government order, the farmers who commit suicide in Maharashtra, their titles will be given to their wives. This is an attempt to provide inheritance right to the wives. “This will allow women to get their rights and resolve problems they face,” said the order, which human rights activists said were the first of its kind in the country.

Thomson Reuters has reported that according to a government order, the farmers who commit suicide in Maharashtra, their titles will be given to their wives.

The Maharashtra Government issued this order this week and also added that the widows will also receive assistance with their children’s education and also access to welfare benefits such as the rural job scheme. From the last two decades till 2015, the government data shows that around three lakh farmers killed themselves. Around a third of these deaths took place in Maharashtra, one of the common reasons for the deaths being failure to pay the debts. The human rights activist said that the widows of these farmers often face difficulty in claiming their husband’s property. “The land does not get automatically transferred to the widow. It is often the husband’s male relatives who will take it,” said Nirja Bhatnagar, a regional head at advocacy group ActionAid India. “Women are not even recognised as farmers. So having the land title in their name is crucial to enable them to take bank loans and avail of government subsidies like crop insurance,” she added.

India has the highest number of widows in the world, with around 46 million widows, according to the Loomba Foundation which looks after their rights. In rural areas, the practice of prejudice with the widows is a common act and hence it is important to look after their rights and that they get to claim what is theirs. Here, they are thought to be inauspicious and also a financial burden to the family with which they live. Ideally, the husband’s property belongs to them but this does not happen in every case in reality.

In rural areas, the practice of prejudice with the widows is a common act and hence it is important to look after their rights and that they get to claim what is theirs.

Moreover, if they put a demand for their rights, it has been seen, particularly in Maharashtra, that their children face safety issues as they too are subjected to abuse, according to a 2017 study by advocacy group Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN). “The Maharashtra government move is a positive step towards ensuring greater equality and the physical and economic security for these widows,” said Shivani Chaudhry, HLRN’s executive director. “But the government also needs education campaigns to spread awareness about the order, and steps to ensure its implementation. Policy changes are also required to recognise women as farmers so they can access credit and other resources.” she added.

Though the Indian Constitution gives equal legal rights to women, in real, the property is inherited by the son. The law also says that a woman is an heir to her husband’s property, but again, this doesn’t happen. Ultimately, in time, the woman in most of the cases then faces abuse by her son or daughter-in-law. Nearly three-quarters of rural women in India depend on land for a livelihood, yet only about 13 per cent own land.

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