Preliminary reports out of rural Maharashtra indicate alarming auxiliary impacts of the surging COVID pandemic. In districts already hard hit by the agrarian crisis, farmers were just getting prepared for the spring sowing season, heartened by the Indian Meteorological Department’s forecast of a good and timely monsoon in 2021. When COVID struck people were unprepared and health services were unavailable.
As panic spread those who owned farmland left their homes in the village and began staying in makeshift shelters in their fields. The landless, including single women, were left behind in the eerily deserted village. This has left women vulnerable to increased sexual harassment and several other problems. In some areas, people are speaking of “COVID widows,” who are women whose husbands have died from COVID. In many cases these women are no longer welcome in their marital home and leave to live alone without any ration card or land in their own name.
Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch (MAKAAM) a forum for women farmers, has community organizers in 8 districts who provide training and advocate for the rights of women farmers. These same activists are collecting names of women who do not have ration cards or Adhaar cards required to get government entitlements such as the free ration announced by the government of Maharashtra. They will bring these and other issues to the attention of district and state level officials to see that women have access to food and shelter as well as seeds and other support required to start their agricultural work which is the basis of their survival.
based on conversation with Seema Kulkarni, convener, Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch, MaharashtraAID Responds to COVID Donate to COVID Relief Fund