New Delhi, Aug. 29: Women engaged in farming have converged from across the country in the capital demanding a separate identity as "women farmers" with access to the same rights and entitlements as their male counterparts, besides land records classified according to gender.
A key issue pertains to the ownership of land as patriarchy continues to deny women such rights which, in turn, blocks their access to subsidies and other inputs provided by the government. According to the Agriculture Census of 2010-11, only 13 per cent of all operational landholdings were with women. This is despite amendments to the Hindu Succession Act in 2005 allowing equal share of all land, including agricultural tracts, to sons, daughters and widows. Before this, farmland was kept out on the ground that it was governed by the tenancy laws of the states.
It is to remove these gender-specific barriers that the National Commission for Women (NCM) has teamed up with the Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch (MAKAAM) and UN Women - a UN body - to review laws and policies at a time men are increasingly moving out of agriculture, leaving women to tend to their holdings.
NCW chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam said women's names should appear in land and cultivation records for them to gain a legitimate identity as farmers. Also, according to her, GST needs to be reviewed so that rebates given to small traders are extended to small farmers.
Amritham Dorai, a Dalit farmer from Tamil Nadu who fought along with some others and won land rights, said the succession act was not being implemented. Also, with land being given away for development projects, common property resources from which women draw their livelihoods are being snatched away, Dorai said.
Sunita Kashyap of the Mahila Umang Producer Company in Uttarakhand said while the government constantly talked about the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, there was no cover in states like hers against wild animal attacks.
Kashyap also echoed the GST concerns. "We make jams, pickles and wool-based products. However, there is no tax exemption for us and now GST means we have to pay taxes of over 12 per cent, which can't always be passed on to end-consumers." Nageswaramma, from Andhra Pradesh, pointed out that insurance was provided only for cash crops, not food crops.
Sejal Dand, MAKAAM's national facilitation team member, said the problems were compounded by the absence of gender-disaggregated land records. "At a time when there is rapid feminisation of Indian agriculture, the absence of such data hamper progressive laws and policies."