The plight of farmers in the state of Maharashtra has been becoming worse, despite a good rain last year and a number of schemes by the government to tackle the issue. As per an old report by the Times of India, more than 600 farmers of Maharashtra had committed suicide in the first three months of this year. The situation was no different in the Hinglajwadi village of Osmanabad district of Maharashtra, but there came one change and the face of the village is now completely transformed.
Since the women of Hinglajwadi village have taken charge of the farms in the village, not a single suicide has been reported. And these women are now being hailed for making their village, a ‘No Suicide Zone’.
Led by Komaltai and a number of others in their group, women have brought about a revolution in the agrarian village by transforming its farms as well as homes. These women have developed a sustainable model to take on the perennial crisis of drought and crop failure. The model developed by them is such that no farmer has committed suicide ever since they have taken over, despite repeated crop failures.
These women now work in the farms, take care of their bank accounts and family finances and deal with the traders in the wholesale market while their husbands stay at home, take care of the children and do household chores. And these men are not bothered by the domination of their wives, but are actually, proud of them.
These women have driven moneylenders of the village out of business. In fact, these moneylenders now look up to them for financial assistance. In a report by the Times of India, one of these superwomen, Rekha Shinde reveals their success story. She says,
“Rain deficit and drought are permanent here… A few years ago, the rising number of farmer suicides in the region had got us worried. So we came together to save our families and children. First, we decided to take care of the basic needs.”
She then revealed that their first step was to ensure that in case a farmer commits suicide, his family does not starve. The women of Hinglajwadi, a village with hardly 3000 inhabitants, asked their men to lend them a small piece of land. But getting that wasn’t easy because just like most men in our male-dominated country, these men too felt that women should work at home and not in farms.
After a long and persistent struggle, the women finally got land on which they grew vegetables. They used limited water, and intended to grow vegetables that would be enough for their families. But there was some surplus which they sold and managed to make some profit. It gave them and their families the confidence to take the next leap.
Next, they went to Osmanabad to seek information about various schemes run by the government for the benefit of farmers. Getting the information wasn’t easy but was somehow managed. Hinglajwadi village now has more than 200 self-help groups with more than 265 female members. The total turnover of all the women’s groups in the village is more than Rs. 1 crore.
Kamal Kumbhar, one of the women of the village has won the CII Foundation Women Exemplar Award 2017 in the field of micro-enterprise, as well as the Niti Ayog’s award but she is not the only female entrepreneur of the village.
With the help of these groups, women in the village have started a number of businesses like that of poultry farms, goat rearing, dairy business, cloth shops, sewing business and beauty parlors. And the unwritten rule of the village, that has revolutionized their lives is that each and every purchase must be made in the village and the money earned must not go out.