Ahead of the Republic Day this year, several women’s organizations will march in solidarity with farmers across the country, on January 18. These protests will be in coordination with the national call for ‘ Mahila Kisan Divas’ (Women Farmers Day) by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM).
The women’s organizations participating in the march include National Federation of Indian Women(NFIW), All India Democratic Women’s Association(AIDWA), All India Progressive Women’s Association(AIPWA), Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan(PMS), All India Agragami Mahila Samiti(AIAMS) and All India Mahila Sanskritik Sangathan(AIMSS). They demand repeal of the three farm laws, along with food, work, health services, waiver of the loans of self-help groups, action against harassment by micro finance institutions, and express solidarity with the farmers’ struggle.
“The Modi government has launched a full scale attack on the survival of a large section of our population. The three farm laws will further worsen the situation for women whose lives are already facing a severe crisis due to skyrocketing prices of essential commodities which has made it impossible to make both ends meet,” read a collective statement shared by the organizations.
It added, “The new Essential Commodities Amendment Act will aggravate the situation. The targeted public distribution system is in disarray. The distribution of free food grains has been discontinued since December. Regular food grains distribution through the ration shops has been disrupted.”
Mariam Dhwale, General Secretary of AIDWA, told MAKERS India, “We are organizing protests in different parts of the country. For example, in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, women are marching towards Raj Bhawan; and there are district-level morcha and state-level morcha being organized in some places.”
On why the spotlight needs to be shed on the women farmers in the collective agitation, she says, “Women farmers constitute a very large part of the rural workforce. 70% of agricultural work is done by women. The amendment in the Essential Commodities Act has totally finished the public distribution system. This will increase hunger and starvation and the main target will be women and girl children.
Additionally, the contract farming act will clearly put the women farmers at the mercy of the contractors with absolutely no chance of redressal. It is a crisis situation and women will be the hardest hit.”
Dr Ashok Dhwale, President, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) supported Dhwale’s stand on women farmers being at the forefront in farming, and added that by celebrating 18 January as Mahila Kisaan Divas they will be celebrating their work and their struggle. “Both men and women will participate in the demonstrations across the country and together intensify the protests demanding the revocation of the three farm acts,” he said.
Apart from these demonstrations, other farmers’ unions are also celebrating Women Farmers’ Day on January 18. Reportedly, the Bhartiya Kisaan Union leaders in Uttar Pradesh are also planning a protest march – to be led by women from villages - to the Raj Bhawan in UP.
The farmer unions are also planning a massive parade in Delhi on Republic Day alongside the army parade, according to media reports. This parade will have thousands of women farmers rally in self-driven tractors as well.
(Edited by Athira Nair)