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4th January 2021 – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Content

  1. Don’t ignore the women farmers.
  2. Sexual violence in rural India draws on hierarchies of land, caste, patriarchy.

Editorial: Don’t ignore the women farmers

Context:

  • The gender gap in the agriculture sector will only widen more with the current farm laws.

Relevance:

  • GS Paper 1: Women Empowerment (Feminization of Agriculture)

Mains Questions:

  1. Discuss the various economic and socio-cultural forces that are driving increasing feminization of agriculture in India. 15 Marks
  2. Without any recognition as farmers, women are systematically excluded from all the benefits of government schemes. Discuss. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Status of feminization of Agriculture.
  • Significance of feminization of Agriculture.
  • Issues related to women in Agriculture.
  • Measures to address the issues related women in Agriculture.
  • Way Forward

Status of feminization of Agriculture:

Eminent agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan once said, “Some historians believe that it was women who first domesticated crop plants and thereby initiated the art and science of farming.

While men went out hunting in search of food, women started gathering seeds from the native flora and began cultivating those of interest from the point of view of food, feed, fodder, fibre and fuel.”

  • According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women’s contribution to Indian agriculture is about 32%, while in some states (such as Hill states, Northeastern states, and Kerala) contribution of women to agriculture and rural economy is more than men.
  • Economic Survey 2017-18 says that with growing rural to urban migration by men, there is ‘feminisation’ of agriculture sector, with increasing number of women in multiple roles as cultivators, entrepreneurs, and labourers.
  • According to Census 2011, out of total female main workers, 55% were agricultural labourers and 24% were cultivators.
  • The share of operational holdings cultivated by women has increased to 13.9 per cent in 2015-16.
  • A research by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) shows that the participation of women is 75% in the production of major crops, 79% in horticulture, 51% in postharvest work and 95% in animal husbandry and fisheries.
  • Agrarian distress, male migration and poverty are prominent reasons for increasing feminization of agriculture.

Significance of feminization of Agriculture:

  • FAO estimates that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30%. This could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by up to 4% which would mean a dramatic reduction in hunger.
  • Research worldwide shows that women with access to secure land, formal credit and access to market have greater propensity to invest in improving harvest, increasing productivity, and improving household food security and nutrition.
  • Women are more likely than men to hold low-wage, part-time, seasonal employment and they tend to be paid less even when their qualifications are higher than men’s, but new jobs in high-value, export-oriented agro-industries offer much better opportunities for women.

Issues related to women in Agriculture:

  • Skewed Land holdings: The India Human Development Survey reports that 83% of agricultural land in the country is inherited by male members of the family and less than 2% by their female counterparts. Thus, women are mostly left without any title of land in their names and are excluded from the definition of farmers.
  • Lack of recognition as farmers:  Without any recognition, women are systematically excluded from all the benefits of government schemes. Moreover, they are not guaranteed the rights which they would otherwise be given if they were recognised as farmers, such as loans for cultivation, loan waivers, crop insurance, subsidies or even compensation to their families in cases where they commit suicide.
  • Lack of Institutional Credit: Lack of ownership of land does not allow women farmers to approach banks for institutional loans as banks usually consider land as collateral.
  • Non-recognition: According to Oxfam India, women are responsible for about 60-80% of food and 90% of dairy production, respectively. But the work by women farmers, in crop cultivation, livestock management or at home, often goes unnoticed.
  • Lack of Property Rights- Women are generally not given the land rights in their name. Because of this, women lack bargaining power in the family as against the property holding male member.
  • Contract farming: Female farmers are largely excluded from modern contract-farming arrangements because they lack secure control over land, family labour and other resources required to guarantee delivery of a reliable flow of produce.
  • Innovation in Agriculture: When a new technology is introduced to automate specific manual labour, women may lose their jobs because they are often responsible for the manual duties and also due to low skill level.
  • Lack of Training: Attempts by the government to impart them training in poultry, apiculture and rural handicrafts is trivial given their large numbers.
  • Gender discrimination: The 17-country study by Corteva Agri science revealed that almost 78% women farmers in India face gender discrimination.
  • Poor Representation: As of now, women farmers have hardly any representation in society and are nowhere discernible in farmers’ organisations or in occasional protests.
  • Access to resource and inputs: When compared to men, women generally have less access to resources and modern inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides) to make farming more productive.

Measures to address the issues related women in Agriculture:

  • The government is earmarking at least 30% of the budget allocation for women beneficiaries in all ongoing schemes-programmes and development activities.
  • Government is also giving preference to women under various policies such as organic farming, self-employment scheme, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana etc.
  • Cooperative education programs of women are organized through State Cooperative Societies to ensure women participation in various activities in the field of cooperatives.
  • Under Agriculture policies there are provisions of issuing Kisan Credit Card to women and creating livelihood opportunities through livestock practices, agricultural processing.
  • Focussing on women self-help groups (SHG) to connect them to microcredit through capacity building activities and also ensuring their representation in different decision-making bodies.
  • Special importance is being given to the role of women in achieving the goal of doubling farmers’ income by 2022.

Way Forward:

  • Provision of credit without collateral under the micro-finance initiative of NABARD should be encouraged. Better access to credit, technology, and provision of entrepreneurship abilities will further boost women’s confidence and help them gain recognition as farmers.
  • A declining size of land holdings may act as a deterrent due to lower net returns earned and technology adoption. The possibility of collective farming can be encouraged to make women self-reliant.
  • Government flagship schemes such as the National Food Security Mission, Sub-mission on Seed and Planting Material and the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana must include women-centric strategies and dedicated expenditure.

Editorial: Sexual violence in rural India draws on hierarchies of land, caste, patriarchy.

Context:

  • Hierarchies of caste, class, and gender intersect to form a cocktail of horrors for the women of rural India — we must understand these nuances in order to form any policy that meaningfully tackles gender-based violence in India.

Relevance:

  • GS Paper 1: Salient features of Indian Society; Diversity of India;

Mains Questions:

  1. “Caste system is assuming new identities and associational forms. Hence, caste system cannot be eradicated in India.” Comment. 15 Marks
  2. Debate the issue of whether and how contemporary movements for assertion of Dalit identity work towards annihilation of caste. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What is caste system?
  • Features of the caste system.
  • Issues related to caste system
  • Recent changes in caste system
  • Factor responsible to bring changes in caste system
  • Way forward.

What is caste system?

Caste system can be defined as a social structure according to class of people, which gets decided by their birth. Caste system is a hereditary classification of people in a society, distinguishing people by relative degree of social prestige or status. The status of a person gets pre-determined in a caste system.

The social stratification that categorize people into different groups called ‘caste’ is usually based on your family tree. This system is known as caste system wherein your social status gets decided by birth. No matter what you grow up to be, your birth caste does not change.

Features of caste system

  • Hereditary: Caste system is a hereditary phenomenon. Being hereditary, a person`s caste is not under his control and is something that is pre-determined even before his or her birth. In ancient times, if you were born in a farmer`s family, the society caste system dictated you to grow up to be a farmer. This system is thus seen as a rigid one, where a person`s choice and desire was restricted/suppressed.
  • Occupational: Caste system was primarily meant to categorize the society on people`s job specialization to prevent intermingling between different segments of the society. The whole point of ‘dignity of labor’ was defied in the practice of caste system. People with meagre jobs were looked down upon whereas the people with high-paying jobs were worshipped.
  • Segmental division of society: It means that social stratification is largely based on caste. Membership to a caste group is acquired by birth, on the basis of which people are ranked in relative to other caste groups.
  • Hierarchy: It indicates that various castes are categorized according to their purity and impurity of occupations. Just like a ladder, castes are ranked from higher to lower positions. Pure caste is ranked at the top and impure is ranked at the bottom.
  • Civil and religious disabilities: These comprise of restrictions based on contact, dress, speech, rituals etc. and are placed on every caste group. It was done in order to maintain purity of specific caste groups. Example, lower caste groups had no access to wells, they were restricted from entering temples etc.
  • Endogamy: Members of a particular caste have to marry within their caste only. Intercaste marriages are prohibited. However, in urban areas, the phenomenon of Intercaste marriage is increasing.
  • Untouchability: It is the practice of ostracizing a group by segregating them from the mainstream by social custom. Untouchability was a corollary of the caste system, wherein the untouchables (those belonging to the lowest caste groups) were deemed impure and polluted.
  • Manual scavenging: Manual scavenging eventually became a caste-based occupation, which involves the removal of untreated human excreta from bucket toilets or pit latrines. It has been officially abolished by the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013.

Issues related to caste system in India:

  • Unequal distribution of resources: The lower castes have served the upper castes as potters, labourers, masons and cleaners, while the upper castes work to keep the status quo, adopting a few lower-caste families along the way as serfs in the world’s oldest feudal system.
  • Land ownership: The dominant castes in a particular region have traditionally been the largest landowners, and the benefits of the Green Revolution and the neo-liberal economic order have disproportionately benefited them and seldom the landless labourers who belong overwhelmingly to the lower castes.
  • Sexual violence against women: Sexual violence against women from lower caste communities is seldom about the individual woman; more often than not, it is about robbing the honour of a community, a caste, a family.

Recent changes in caste system in India

Due to various factors such as modern education, industrialisation, urbanisation, Indian Constitution etc. Indian society is experiencing different changes in the caste system.

  • The hierarchy is difficult to pinpoint: In the past, each caste had its own fixed position in the hierarchy and accordingly they followed their own way of life. But now the low caste people by following the way of life of the high caste people are trying to change their position. Sanskritization is one of the most important factors for it.
  • Decline in the supremacy of Brahmins: Brahmins were considered as the representatives of supreme power and they were given utmost importance in the society. All other categories, including the railing group were paying respect to the Brahmins. But, now the situation has been changed. Even in rural India, the dominant caste is getting high respect and if a dominant caste is from a lower caste group, it has power to command over Brahmins.
  • Trends for inter-caste marriage: Purity of blood was one of the main aim of the caste system. As a result, inter-caste marriages were socially forbidden. Due to economic and social necessities, inter-caste marriages on western lines are being performed at increased frequency.
  • Challenge to orthodoxy: Orthodox practices of the caste system such as child marriage, ban on widow re-marriage, ban on conversion, insensitiveness of superior class towards the low caste people are being challenged in the wake of urbanization.
  • New food habits: Due to frequent mixing of the people at meetings, conferences, seminars etc., food habits have changed. Moreover, people have adapted to new social norms such as eating at the same table, accepting food prepared by low caste people without any reservations etc.
  • Changes in occupation: Occupational mobility has become the new feature. Leaving behind their traditional roles, Brahmins have become traders whereas Vaishyas have joined teaching and so on.
  • Improvement in the position of lower caste: Due to steps initiated by the government, position of lower castes have improved economically as well as socially.
  • Change in the caste identity: People are no more identified according to their caste identity or ascriptive status; rather they are identified according to achieved status. Educational qualification, occupational position, income etc. are the bases of identification of the individual.

Factors Responsible for Change in Caste System in India:

Caste system under the impact of certain powerful factors is undergoing rapid transformation in modern India. The factors responsible for such a change in the system are as follows:

  • Modern education: Modern liberal education introduced into the country by the British has played a crucial role in undermining the importance of caste in Indian social life. Modern education is based on such democratic values like equality, liberty and fraternity. It is also grounded on such scientific values like reason and observation. Hence it is quite natural that with the spread of modern education, the people’s belief in the divine origin of caste, Karma and Karmaphala has received a severe set­back.
  • Industrialization: The process of industrialization has affected caste structure to a remarkable extent. Industrial growth has provided new sources of livelihood to people and made occupational mobility possible. Factories, mills and offices are agog with activity.
  • Urbanization: Industrialization has given rise to the process of urbanization. New townships have emerged. The ruralites migrate to these towns in order to avail better employment opportunities.
  • Sanskritization: Sanskritization as a process of change is the mobility concerned with positional change in the caste system. By changing the customs and rituals such as by adopting vegetarianism and teetotalism, people belonging to the low castes are claiming a ‘higher’ position in the caste hierarchy.
  • Westernisation: Due to changes in the spheres of education, food habits, dressing sense, style of eating, manners etc., westernization has brought occupational changes cutting across the caste barriers.
  • Democratic decentralisation: The reservation provided in the Panchayati Raj system has given the opportunity for the lower castes to empower themselves.
  • Caste and politics: They both are closely linked to each other. In fact, the link has led to an empowerment among the lower castes since they ventilate their feelings through elections and power lobby. Dalit politics is one such example, where Dalits are trying to assert their identities and have become successful in capturing power in various states.
  • Legislative measures: A variety of social legislations have been introduced in the post-independence era which aim to safeguard the interests of the down-trodden, to eradicate untouchability and to facilitate the social and economic development of the depressed castes. For instance, Untouchability (offences) Act, 1955 provided for punishment against the practice of untouchability.

Way Forward:

  • With women predominant at all levels-production, pre-harvest, post-harvest processing, packaging, marketing – of the agricultural value chain, to increase productivity in agriculture, it is imperative to adopt gender specific interventions.
  • An ‘inclusive transformative agricultural policy’ should aim at gender-specific intervention to raise productivity of small farm holdings, integrate women as active agents in rural transformation, and engage men and women in extension services with gender expertise.
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