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Differential Dependence in Early and Later Cases

Widows of Farmer Suicide Victims in Vidarbha

Farmer suicides due to agricultural distress are a tenacious and recurring tragedy that plunge the lives of the unprepared widows into chaos. First, the widows must struggle to survive in the same circumstances that claimed the lives of their husbands, but with much less experience and guidance. Second, the widows must emerge from entrenched invisibility imposed upon them by the state, the community, and even the family. However, the study of five widows of the farmer suicides across a decade in Vidarbha reveals differential dependence and autonomy. The widow-headed households of earlier cases appear to succeed with time as compared to the later cases, and mostly through their own individual agency. The study, originally conducted through the years 2014–17 in 18 villages of six tehsils of two districts of Vidarbha, also points to normalisation of distress of widows that leads to their continuous exclusion from the state understanding of farmer suicides.

Widows of farmer suicides are the first witness to the agricultural crisis in India. But their invisibility to the state, the community and even the family diminishes the role they play in the survival of their households and nullifies any contribution they can make towards finding remedies.

Every farmer suicide immediately presents the widow with two challenges. First, she is plunged unprepared into the same circumstances that claimed the life of her husband but with much less experience and guidance. Second, she must displace herself from the position of dependence and invisibility of her internal world in the household to enter the external. The present study seeks to compare the condition of widows of farmer suicides separated by a decade in 2002–03 and in 2012–13, and finds that widows who have survived alone for a longer period of time, like in the case of the early farmer suicides, are less dependent and have more autonomy than those from later cases. The study also reveals that the state’s normalisation of the distress of the widow, through its procedure for suicide inquiry in Vidarbha, is a valuable opportunity lost in understanding the causes and impact of farmer suicides.

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Updated On : 5th Jul, 2018

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