Six notable National Women’s Organisations, in an open letter directed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have opposed the new Farm Laws, saying they will have an "adverse" impact on women in the rural sector. Extending solidarity and support to farmers protesting nationally since November 26 against the central laws, these organisations have also condemned the use of brute force - through tear gas and water cannons - against protesting farmers. The letter etched out the role of women as significant "invisible contributors" in agriculture, stating that the new legislation would impact them negatively as well.
The letter, undersigned by the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA), Pragatisheel Mahila Sanghatan (PMS), All India Mahila Sanskritik Sanghatan (AIMSS), and All India Agragami Mahila Samiti (AIAMS), mentions, "We strongly condemn the brutal repression of the farmers’ struggle, tear-gassing and water cannoning them in the bitter cold. Farmers are reeling from persistent agrarian distress and the economic impact resulting from the unplanned and draconian measures taken by your government to deal with the pandemic."
Women In The Agriculture Sector
The letter also brings notice to the contribution of women in agriculture, saying, "The role of women in the agricultural sector cannot be ignored as they comprise 33% of the agriculture labour force and 48% of the self-employed farmers." As such, the organisations have expressed deep concern to the PM Modi "about the adverse impact of your policies and the recent three anti-farmer laws passed by your government on women in the rural sector."
Referring to farmer suicides, which NCRB data pegged at 10,281 in 2019, the letter says, "Women farmers from the suicide affected families are in a totally vulnerable situation. Women are not the holders of land titles. Hence they receive no help from the governments to cope with the double calamity of indebtedness and suicide that hits them."
What Are The Demands?
The open letter by these women's organisations notes some key demands that must be met by the authorities. The first is to allow farmers to protest in peace, without curbing dissent or using force to do so. Echoing the farmers' demands from Punjab, Haryana, and Delhi border, the letter asks for the farm legislation to be repealed and for farmer-friendly policies to be introduced.
It also asks for ensuring mid-day meals for children, guarantee minimum support price for all agricultural produce, and waive loans for widows of farmers who have died by suicide.
What Are The Farm Laws Being Protested Against?
The farmers agitation can be pegged to the three Farm Bills that were passed in the Parliament this year: Agricultural Trade and Commerce Act, Farmers Price Assurance Act and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act. Farmers are fearful that their agrarian livelihoods will be at risk through these Acts, since "it will put farmers and their families at the mercy of agri-businesses."
Harsimrat Kaur Badal, leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal, had quit her role as the Food Processing Industries Minister in September this year in opposition to the controversial farm bills. Read more here.