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The Aftermath of Farmer Suicides in Survivor Families of Maharashtra

How do survivors cope in the aftermath of a farmer suicide in their family? Detailed interviews with around 30 families in various villages of Nanded district, Maharashtra reveal that surviving family members battle with themselves and society to overcome impediments of all sorts for their basic existence. What emerges is a pressing need for a policy framework that focuses on these individuals by supporting them through alternative livelihood, education, and nutrition programmes. Pravin

The post-liberalisation period has witnessed suicides of more than three lakh farmers (including cultivators and agricultural labourers) in India. This spate of farmer suicides has been one of the biggest tragedies of the century as more than half of India’s workforce is still dependent on agriculture for their daily sustenance (Basu et al 2016).

The concern regarding this issue has manifested in many forms. First, national and international media have widely reported on this subject. The focus has been on understanding and presenting the problem at the micro level and to highlight community programmes that have made a difference at a smaller scale. It is noteworthy that, in recognition of the spate of suicides in the state, some media forums have referred to Maharashtra as the “graveyard of farmers” (Sainath 2011). Second, a number of academicians have studied the issue of farmer suicides in India. These include economists, agronomists, sociologists, psychologists, and social workers, who have analysed agrarian distress in specific states in India, particularly focusing on the causes of farmer suicides; they have also suggested remedies and reviewed and/or critiqued the current agrarian policy framework and mitigation or relief measures. Some of these studies include Deshpande (2002) for Karnataka, Mishra (2006) for Maharashtra, and Sridhar (2006) for Andhra Pradesh. The analyses were accomplished using primary data from field studies, secondary data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), and agriculture statistics from state governments. Some researchers have also reported on the prevalence of suicides (Nagaraj 2008; Sadanandan 2014). Finally, the extant literature has also identified the reasons behind suicides (Mishra 2006; Deshpande and Arora 2010; Kumari 2009); the burden of financial debt seems to have contributed to around 90% of the suicides.

While the issue of farmer suicides has been studied extensively from the viewpoint of the suicide victims, the victims’ families and their situations after the tragedy have received relatively less attention. This is despite the fact that after the death of the breadwinner in the family, it is the women and other survivors in the family that vie with society for survival and encounter obstacles of an unprecedented nature. Having lived in the hetero-patriarchal structure of marriage and family, women are left fending for themselves while facing difficult and unpleasant encounters with bank agents and moneylenders. For instance, Padhi (2009) studied this issue for women in Punjab. Her article and subsequent book, Those Who Did Not Die (Padhi 2012), focused on women in agriculture and the life and challenges of widows after a farmer suicide in their family. The findings pointed towards a desperate attempt for survival by farmer widows in Punjab.

This article aims to contribute in several ways to the literature on the lives of surviving family members of farmers who have committed suicide. First, the survivors studied as part of this article include children and older people in the family, in addition to widows. Second, it is one of the few studies that attempt to discuss the life of survivors of farmer suicides in Maharashtra. Finally, the article goes beyond reporting the challenges faced by the survivors and analyses the key concerns that can have strong policy implications.

Literature Review

Basu et al (2016), Nagaraj (2008), and Sadanandan (2014) are the three main studies that have focused on highlighting the volume of farmer suicides in the country, along with discussing statewise patterns. In what is the latest study, Basu et al (2016) summarise the recent trends and provide the aggregate picture of farmer suicides in India from 1995 to 2011. Instead of focusing on the total number of suicides in India, as was done by earlier studies, their focus is on measuring the severity of farmer suicides, which is defined as the ratio of the farmer suicide mortality rate (SMR) to the non-farmer SMR.

According to NCRB statistics, the total number of farmer suicides between 1995 and 2004 increased from 10,720 in 1995 to 18,241 in 2004. The time series exhibits a break in 2004, when the total number of farmer suicides in the country started trending downwards, falling to 11,772 in 2013 and then climbing back to 12,360 in 2014. Basu et al (2016) show that the SMR, in comparison, for all farmers displays a pronounced upward trend over the post-liberalisation period until 2004. In precise terms, SMR increased from 4.95 suicides per one lakh farmers in 1995 to 8.76 suicides per one lakh farmers in 2009 before declining a little over the next two years. The article also compares the SMR ratios between states, and Maharashtra is shown to have the third highest SMR in the country (19 percentage points above the all-India level).

The article also summarises the corresponding data for the period 2005–11, which presents an even more dismal picture. At 0.69, the average SMR ratio for India is much higher during this period. Over this period, states that have an SMR ratio greater than the countrywide average still include Kerala (2.43), Maharashtra (1.15), Uttar Pradesh (0.96), Punjab (0.8), and Karnataka (0.8).

A number of studies have focused on understanding the reasons behind farmer suicides and on recommending possible frameworks for dealing with this issue. For instance, according to Deshpande and Arora (2010), the key reasons behind farmer suicides are indebtedness, illiteracy, and lack of basic support facilities related to health and education. The key policy recommendation emerging from their analysis is improving access to credit facilities and helping in reducing transaction costs associated with borrowing, particularly for small and medium farmers. Mitra and Shroff (2007) and Bharti (2011) also highlight indebtedness as a key reason for suicides, particularly so in the case of crops such as cotton. Mohanty (2013) attributes the increasing farmer suicides to the broader economic malaise being faced by the agricultural sector in India. Reddy and Mishra (2009) find limited rural non-farm employment opportunities, decline in size of holdings, falling investment, falling agricultural credit taken from formal sources, uncertainty of water availability, improper input and use of technology, and increasing costs and fluctuating prices as a broad set of factors contributing to farmer suicides.

By using qualitative data analysis techniques and after studying the farmer suicide issue in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Punjab, Kumari (2009) finds that the reasons for farmer suicides in most agricultural states are similar, the main ones being illiteracy and lack of alternative rural livelihood opportunities. The article recommends focusing on sustainable rural livelihoods and introducing methods by which the rural population can be given specific training in livestock farming and using other rural resources effectively. Mohanty (2005, 2013) attempts to examine how far Durkheim’s types explain farmer suicides in India and find egoism and anomie to be the most relevant for the Indian case. Anomie results from loss of social regulation, while egoism indicates loss of integration. According to Mohanty, most farmers committing suicide belong to higher social yet lower economic strata and are not able to deal with the ignominy of not being able to pay off their debts. This situation is exacerbated by diminishing social networks and thinning social support systems in testing times (Sonawat 2001).

The literature has also focused on impact evaluation of the policies introduced by governments. Narayanamoorthy (2006) analyses the various relief packages announced by the government for suicide victims in 2005 and questions whether the benefits actually cascaded to the targeted individuals. The study argues that such packages are only a stop-gap arrangement and may not be enough even to provide immediate relief to the farmer’s family. Instead, the government must focus on long-term measures such as investment in irrigation facilities and diversifying the possibilities for livelihood in rural areas by harnessing the potential of the livestock and fishing industries. More so, measures for expanding credit availability and improving the process of post-harvest support to the farmer must be incorporated in the agricultural policy framework. Jadhav (2008) presented a critical review of the action plan for balanced agricultural development of Maharashtra. The report called for a complete rethinking of the prevailing cropping pattern and farming methods in different regions of Maharashtra. The document also criticised lopsided policies such as the Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme, 2008, wherein the amount payable to the farmers was equally divided between different regions of Maharashtra even if districts such as Vidarbha had more farmers than some other districts in the state.

Kalamkar and Shroff (2011) also analysed the efficiency of relief packages for suicide victims’ families. The study states that Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra have spent heavily on relief packages. However, these packages have not brought any significant benefits to farmer families, and the spate of suicides has only increased over a period of time. Assadi (2008) also criticises the centralised relief packages for farmers and calls for serious policy intervention by state governments.

Finally, a few studies have also looked at women farmers and the situation of widows of suicide victims. Krishnaraj and Kanchi (2012) highlights the discrimination faced by women in agriculture even though more and more women are participating in agrarian activities. The study states that, as of 2011, only 50% of rural male workers were involved in agriculture, while the corresponding figure for females was around 70%. Kumari (2009) briefly discusses the challenges faced by widows of suicide victims. These include assuming entire responsibility for the household, including thinking about ways and means by which to manage basic household expenditure. Padhi (2009, 2012) focuses on the lives of widows of farmers and landless labourers in Punjab. According to the book, most survivors face a huge economic, social, and emotional burden after the death. Most women have to deal with paying off the outstanding debts, gathering and paying the dowry of their unwed girl children, and meeting education expenses of their schoolgoing children in addition to also acting as primary caregivers to the older people in the family. These challenges overcome their lives and pull them into chronic deprivation.

Research Design and Methodology

The following steps were followed for data collection and methodology design:

Sample for data collection: The study was conducted in Nanded, Maharashtra, in 2014 for a number of reasons. Maharashtra’s population is hugely dependent on agriculture and has four divisions from the perspective of crop specialisation. western Maharashtra produces sugar cane, wheat, onion, and other irrigated crops; Konkan is famous for paddy and fruit cultivation; Marathwada1 grows cotton, pulses, and oil seeds; and Vidarbha’s staple crops include cotton, arhar (pigeon peas), and soybean. Among the four divisions, western Maharashtra is the most developed in terms of irrigation infrastructure, cooperative farming, and availability of alternative livelihoods such as animal husbandry.

Nanded is located in the southern part of Maharashtra, near its boundary with Andhra Pradesh. It is one of the largest districts of the Marathwada region of Maharashtra and has a population of 33,61,292 (Directorate of Census Operations, Maharashtra 2011). More than 50% of the population of this district is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture, and soybean and cotton are the main crops. However, harsh climatic conditions and deepening agrarian distress have led to a spate of farmer suicides in this district. In 2014 and 2015, Nanded witnessed the second highest numbers of farmer suicides in Maharashtra. More so, as per Nanded district collector office statistics, 40% of families where farmers committed suicides were left out of government compensation schemes. Thus, Nanded is an ideal model district to study the problems associated with farmer suicides in Maharashtra.

Research design: Data on farmer suicides were obtained from the district and block offices. Based on the information obtained, a sampling plan was formulated. All the 508 households in Nanded where a farmer suicide occurred between 2001 and 2014 were included in the sampling environment. However, due to financial and other constraints, only 5% (around 30 households) of the sampling environment was actually included in the study. The researcher visited 25 villages in five blocks (Hadgaon, Bhokar, Kinvat, Mahur, and Ardhapur) for data collection. The choice of villages was based on the concentration of farmer suicides in those villages. While choosing the specific households in the village, sample stratification was used and families of diverse socio-economic attributes were chosen. These included the size of land held (small versus medium farmers), the age group of children in the family (babies, teenagers, or adults), the number of years post suicide, and the caste (whether Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, or Other Backward Classes) among others.

The data for the study were collected using the triangulation method, which comprises case studies, semi-structured interviews, and focus group discussions (FGDs). Case studies helped in gaining an in-depth understanding of families who were victims of a farmer suicide. The respondents were asked about the impact of the suicide on their livelihood pattern and how they were able to make ends meet. Further, an attempt was made to understand their sufferings and their pressing needs. FGDs, on the other hand, helped in gathering the views of the villagers about farmer suicides in Nanded and the situation of the family which suffered the loss. Semi-structured interviews with the sarpanch (village head) and police patil (village police head) helped obtain macro views regarding the situation of the farmers. The above data were complemented by the observation method and secondary data from books, articles, loan repayment papers, government reports, and diary letters.

Key Findings

Impact on survivors: The observation method during data collection was indispensable to understanding the challenges of agrarian households in Nanded. During travel between villages, it was evident that the region lacked basic public transportation and infrastructure. This prevents villagers from accessing health and education facilities as most government hospitals and schools are not well connected by any means of public transport. Additionally, the district also lacks irrigation facilities, and the supply of drinking water is also scarce. The researcher noticed several women and children carrying water across long distances even in the rainy season.

Among the households that were interviewed, it was observed that most families lived in semi-pucca houses and not even a single household had a pucca (permanent) house. The households did not have hygienic toilet facilities, and none of them had a toilet inside their house.

Because most basic resources were scarce, dominant communities such as the Marathas monopolised these resources in the region. Life seemed to be very difficult for families that did not have an adult male as there was almost nobody in the family who was socially respected and could speak for their rights and entitlements. Surviving family of farmer suicide victims thus face multiple economic and social challenges.

Economic challenges: Data analysis revealed that survivors of suicide victims struggle to make basic ends meet. The huge burden of debt combined with sporadic income leads such families into a vicious circle of poverty and deprivation.

Livelihood sustainability issues: After the suicide, the responsibility of providing for the surviving household falls on the victim’s widow and the eldest male child in the family. For families that may not have male children, or for younger widows, the situation is even more onerous. Given the patriarchal nature of their society, these women have never had any experience in crop planning, seed procurement, cultivation, and harvesting. Apart from dealing with the trauma of losing their loved ones and continuing with their regular chores, they must immediately assume the role of the head of the family and provide for them. In most cases, the survivors said that they sold off their agricultural land for a meagre sum and went to work as paid labourers on other farms. This is because they felt that the social pressure of being and maintaining their status of respected women prevented them from performing any market-related activities such as seed procurement and post-harvest sales. A widow from Shirsavdi village said,

In the absence of my husband, I find myself unable to perform the agricultural tasks dominated by males (from fear of what the villagers would say) and hence gave our land on lease.

Most survivors who sold off their land and went to work as paid labourers reported that their income dropped considerably and that only basic expenses could be met. They were unable to find alternate means of livelihood as they possessed no other skills. More so, they had limited hours available in the day for working as labourers given their household responsibilities of child-rearing and caring for older family members. The data revealed that the majority of the families earned around ₹25,000 per annum. However, families whose social networks were strong, where elder male children were the primary providers, and for whom cultivation continued to be the primary means of livelihood, the average income was
almost ₹50,000 per annum.

While families where elder male children assumed responsibility of the household reported better income, this effected a dramatic change in the lives of these children. They had to discontinue their education and focus solely on being able to meet the day-to-day needs of the family and finding ways to create a sustainable livelihood. In Kautha village, the elder son of a family said,

When my father was alive, all my school-related needs were taken care of. We feel his absence acutely now, and we can barely make ends meet. I am trying to complete my studies, but resources are limited, and I may have to drop out of school soon.

Increased indebtedness: The data revealed that dealing with increased indebtedness is a key challenge for survivors. As stated in the previous section, income considerably drops for survivors, and yet creditors still hound the families for past payments. In many cases, it was observed that families borrow at exorbitant interest rates to repay old debts and pull themselves further into debt. Those who receive some compensation from the government might not borrow immediately. However, large expenses such as over funerals and over dowries for female children do lead to an increased debt burden at different points in time. Even if these women receive compensation from the government, a limited income source means that there is a huge possibility that their debt burden will increase in the future. A woman from Talani village who had received government compensation said,

Now our family is free from any kind of debt, but for the marriage of my daughter, I will have no other option than to borrow money from someone or to sell my land.

Because most survivors have had limited exposure, if any, to managing funds, they are not able to use relief package money judiciously. Most often, the money is used to cover immediate expenses and is not used to generate future returns. The penetration of sustainable opportunities such as microfinancing in Nanded is low, and some women reported a fear of borrowing from unknown sources. One of the survivors said, “I will skip meals, but I will not take a loan from anyone after what has happened in my family.”

Bleak future growth prospects: Severe financial constraints mean that children in the family have bleak future prospects. Apart from the fact that most families reported dropping out of school for their eldest child, there is barely any money left to be set aside for education and other needs of the children in the family. In several cases, it was reported that the families that did not sell their land and continued to cultivate were unable to make substantial profits. This lower income meant lesser funds for expanding production and using available resources to their full potential. Manula, a widow, summarised this by saying,

We have six acres of land, only three acres of which is arable; therefore, we cannot generate the expected income. We do not have an alternate source of income either.

Apart from there being limited physical resources, there is also little money left over for the development of human capital. The data revealed that majority of the children in the families left school or moved to a school with very few facilities after the death of their father. Additionally, children who did go to school were undernourished and could not do well academically, eventually dropping out. The difficulty allocating the meagre resources between subsistence, education, and health expenditure is the biggest economic challenge for most of these families.

Social challenges: Survivors of farmer suicide tragedies face a number of social challenges. Women in the family become vulnerable and face gender discrimination in all walks of life, while children and young adults must face their declining economic and social status. Life is even more difficult for the lower castes as they face the worst encroachment on their entitlements. Most survivors cope by succumbing to their fate.

Increased gender discrimination: Before the incident of suicide in the family, women reported having faced gender discrimination within the household. Even after working on their own to complete household chores along with helping their husbands in cultivation, they reported that their contribution was never recognised as being valid. They were excluded from the decision-making process and only carried out orders passed on to them by their husbands when alive. Soon after the suicide, the nature of gender discrimination shifted for most women. They now had to deal with experiencing gender discrimination while working on other people’s lands or while selling their produce. Most women had never been to market or had been completely out of the radar of economic activities and found it very difficult to perform jobs that have been traditionally male-dominated. More so, some women also revealed that they faced more discrimination from women than from men and called for greater support of women
towards each other.

In a group discussion with Takali village participants, the thought process of the male villagers showed that they vetted this discrimination and believed that what happened with the women farmers was their destiny, and even if unfortunate, it must be dealt with. One person said, “As bad times have fallen upon these women, they must consider it their destiny and follow the social and cultural norms.”

Girl children also face substantive discrimination with regard to their education. With a tight financial situation at hand, girls in the family are made to drop out of school. In Shivpuri, a daughter survivor said, “After the death of my father, I left school as expenses couldn’t be met, and anyway, a girl’s education is given no importance in our society.”

Social stigma of being a widow: Many women felt that one of their greatest personal challenges was dealing with the stigma of being a widow. They were excluded from most cultural functions and rituals and could talk freely only with other widows. The society also expected these women to maintain “proper” widow titles and roles and to accept the fate of being a symbol of bad luck, due to which their presence on happy occasions is discouraged if not forbidden. This stigma may often exist within the family, and the widows reported that they felt highly isolated.

As summed up by a respondent from Shirsavdi, “When my husband was alive, people used to come home, help us in any way we needed, but now the same people do not even look at our home.”

When the above points were raised in FGDs with villagers, participants revealed that they do not help widows because they feel that other villagers may doubt the reasons for which they were extending help.

Psychological trauma: Almost all survivors reported that they felt depressed and dejected after the suicide. Children reported restlessness, fatigue, and insomnolence. Some women and
elder children said that even a slight reference to the incident precipitated signs of vulnerability and of falling into depression in the younger children. Further, many women noticed
behavioural changes in their children, which they believe is due to the trauma. In some cases, complete withdrawal was noticed, while in other cases, the children became extremely responsible and never made any demands of their mother and elder siblings.

Most of the elderly people interviewed felt that they were unfortunate for being alive while their children had died. They felt bad for not being able to contribute towards for the income of the family. Additionally, they felt that their ill health and lack of financial resources was an additional burden for the elder children and primary earners in the family. An aged father of a victim said, “My son’s passing feels to me like my own death while still living. Nothing is sadder than a father having to perform the last rites for his son.”

Falling social status: Families without a male member reported facing a huge downgrade in their social status. In many cases, they could not even find suitable matches for their children. This is mainly because they start having fewer interactions with relatives, and acquaintances hardly bother about their existence.

Villagers also do not prefer marrying their sons to daughters of suicide victims. This is because they are aware of their deteriorating economic conditions and know that they may not be able to extract substantial dowry out of such families.

Identified Concerns and Issues

The economic and social challenges summarised above are a brief quantification of the manifold problems that survivors of farmer suicides face in their daily life. These impediments affect their lives and curtail the growth possibilities of future generations. In light of the above findings, policy frameworks that aim to deal with the grave issue of farmer suicides must also pay heed to creating a support system for making the lives of these survivors better. In this section, a brief summary of the identified lacunas in Nanded is presented.

Limited penetration of non-governmental organisations: According to Reddy and Mishra (2009) and other studies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs; Sangath and Apulkee among others) have been useful in helping survivors to understand their basic rights and in helping them file for relevant entitlements such as government compensation in different regions across the country. During the process of data collection, almost all participants said that they had no idea about the work and role of NGOs, and none of the families interviewed had ever been contacted by an NGO.

Limited impact and coverage of government compensation schemes: The post-liberalisation period in India saw a huge focus on schemes for battling agrarian distress. Government programmes aimed at creating employment opportunities in rural areas (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act [MGNREGA] programmes) and providing financial resources to cash-strapped farmers and helping them insure their produce (Rajeshwari Mahila Kalyan Insurance, Janatha Rural Personal Accident Insurance, and Bhagyashri Kalyan Yojna). Additionally, the National Agricultural Insurance Scheme was introduced to support farmers in any natural calamities such as droughts and crop failure. Other programmes included supporting farmers as part of the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) through which pulse productivity could be improved (Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India 2013).

Additional support services for improved agricultural and allied activities include National Horticulture Mission, National Bee Board, National Rainfed Area Authority, National Rural Health Mission, National Watershed Development Project for Rainfed Areas, National Fisheries Development Board, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, National Bamboo Mission, Integrated Food Law, Legislative Framework for Warehousing Development and Regulation, and Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights (Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare 2017).

During the data collection process, the respondents were asked about any benefits that they had availed as part of these schemes, and the response was always tepid. The respondents felt that most government schemes targeting farmer suicides cater to relief packages of paltry amounts for suicide victims’ families. Apart from the fact that the compensation amounts are very small and hardly sufficient as a down payment for starting an alternate livelihood, a number of families are not even able to prove that they are eligible for such schemes. A widow from Kautha village said,

The one lakh rupees given by the government was a small sum and therefore not enough to cover cultivation expenses. The government should increase the amount or should provide other alternatives.

Lack of resource management, knowledge, and opportunities: As highlighted earlier, most survivors had little idea about the best way to make use of the resources available to them. This was true for land, assets, and the compensation received from the government. They employed their resources in the payment of dowry or outstanding debt. Further, there seemed to be a deficiency in alternate livelihood opportunities, and families could not think of any other ways apart from farming to make use of their resources.

Difficulty in getting compensation: Many families reported trouble with being able to prove that they were eligible for suicide compensation. Respondents said that they had to struggle a lot to get their payments, and the process was tedious and lengthy. A widow from Dhanora village said,

After my husband committed suicide, police visited the village, but they didn’t register his suicide as a case of farmer suicide. After that, I went several times to the police station and they only finally recorded it as a farmer suicide because my brother-in-law was with me. We then went to the block office, but there too no one would respond to us. We did finally receive the compensation but after so much struggle.

Many respondents also said that the process to get the compensation was very hard and lengthy. When this point was brought up in semi-structured interviews with the block officer (tahsildar) of Hadgaon, he said that after a farmer’s suicide, it is the police who is responsible for forwarding the relevant documents to the block officer and that delays were often caused by the police department.

Fraudulent Claims for Compensation

The eligibility for compensation also seems to have been a factor in inducement as summarised by a participant from Talani village.

I have seen many cases of farmer suicide, but real farmer suicides are not recorded as farmer suicide. But those who have good contacts or influence with police and other government officials have their cases registered even though they are not genuine farmer suicides.

However, none of the participants in the interview wanted to talk about bribes paid for becoming eligible for the compensation.

Lack of support for continuing education: Most respondents expressed keenness in sending their children to school. However, they complained about not having access to decent public schools in the vicinity. The families felt that it was not safe for girl children to be sent to distant schools. Further, even the families in which children did go to school were unsure of how far they would be able to continue their children’s education. In Sivadasi, a respondent said,

At present, all my three children go to school, but I couldn’t say when they’d have to leave school. Our family does not have enough money for two square meals a day, so how I will educate my children?

Conclusions

The present study is an attempt to examine the struggles in the lives of the deceased farmers’ families with a focus on the role and importance of society in their lives, coping strategies for survival, livelihood practices after the suicides, and the degree of helpfulness of government initiatives.

The study revealed that survivors face innumerable economic and social challenges. First, widows must embrace the immediate change in their social and personal status along with becoming the breadwinner in the family. They must strive to exist despite facing gender discrimination in all walks of life and must accept the status quo of living in a patriarchal society. Second, the eldest children in the family must give up their dreams of improving their future growth prospects as they drop out of formal schooling to help the household with day-to-day survival. Third, young children grapple with coming to terms with the fact that their lives and economic conditions have changed. Additionally, a grim mood at home and lack of adequate nutrition make them more susceptible to losing interest in school work. Finally, elders in the family must try to contain their grief and find ways to alleviate the decline of their social status.

Most families who were interviewed pointed towards an inability to continue with farming as the key source of livelihood as they lacked the material resources and know-how for the same. Majority of the widows started working as daily-wage labourers in others’ farms even if this was not in keeping their social status. This limited income meant more difficulty in subsistence and inability to pay debts in time.

Finally, most respondents reported that government schemes had not been very useful to them. The procedure to get the compensation money was tedious and often involved illicit means. The respondents called for a better structuring of schemes, such as greater support for skill building, provision of alternative means of livelihood, and development of education- and nutrition-related programmes for children.

Note

1 Marathwada is one of the five regions in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Historically, this region has faced several droughts, which lead to farmer suicides.

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Updated On : 6th Feb, 2018

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