Six national women’s organisations have decided to hold protests across the country on Mahila Kisan Divas on January 18 in solidarity with the farmers. In addition to demanding that the three controversial Farm Laws be rolled back, the organisations will also take up other issues.
The six organisations – National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan(PMS), All India Agragami Mahila Samiti(AIAMS) and All India Mahila Sanskritik Sangathan(AIMSS) – will also raise concerns around food security, unemployment, access to health facilities, cash transfers to migrants and women, deepening agrarian distress and the “anti-worker” labour codes.
In a joint statement released on Friday, the organisations said that the protests will be in line with the call for Mahila Kisan Divas by the SamyuktKisanMorcha (SKM). Thousands of women are expected to march to Raj Bhavan, conduct dharnas in state and district capitals and protest at district and local levels.
“The Modi government has launched a full scale attack on the survival of a large section of our population. The three farm laws will further worsen the situation for women whose lives are already facing a severe crisis due to sky rocketing prices of essential commodities which has made it impossible to make both ends meet,” the organisations said.
They added that the new amendments to the Essential Commodities Act “will aggravate the situation. The targeted public distribution system is in disarray. The distribution of free food grains has been discontinued since December. Regular food grains distribution through the ration shops has been disrupted.”
According to data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), child stunting has become worse in 13 out of 22 states in the past four years. The organisations said that with schools closed, arrangements have not been made for Mid-day meals to students. “ICDS services are also affected badly. Conditions for availing free ration during COVID crisis coupled with loss of work will further aggravate the malnutrition, hunger and starvation death,” it added.
They mentioned that despite the “tall promises” made by the Centre, work was hard to come by with MNREGA work coming to a halt. “Women in the unorganised sector have been demanding the implementation of the Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme as the means of livelihood have shrunk during this pandemic. Indebtedness has increased manifold. This has had a devastating impact on the lives of poor families living on the verge of starvation,” they said.
In their statement, the organisations also said that privatisation of healthcare had left many “helpless” and that there has been an increase in violence against women in the recent past.
“Instead of addressing these issues which have got aggravated during the pandemic, the BJP government is pushing ahead with its pro-corporate, anti-people agenda. The arrogance and heartlessness of the Modi government has been explicitly revealed in its adamant refusal to repeal the three farm laws. Lakhs of farmers, including women, are protesting for over 40 days on the five borders of Delhi in the biting cold and rain. Over 60 farmers have lost their lives,” it said.
The organisations also brought the role of the women at the protests into focus, saying that they had “braved all odds and stayed put despite Delhi’s chilly and rainy winter or the lack of toilets, privacy and hygiene.” They mentioned that women in the family are the “first” to be affected during a crisis. “They are forced to sell their jewellery or other household valuables to tide over the family crunch, cut kitchen expenses or make several other compromises to clear debts. Families where men have committed suicides, leaving their mothers, wives and daughters behind, are in a miserable condition. Denial of MSP and corporate take-over of agricultural land will force women to work as bonded labour in their own fields,” it said.
“In the light of this worsening situation, the national women’s organisations have decided to observe the Mahila Kisan Divas at the call of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha on January 18. Thousands of women will participate in this protest to express solidarity, strengthen the ongoing farmers’ struggle for repeal of the three farm laws and jointly take up issues of food security, employment, access to health facilities, cash transfers to migrants and women, deepening agrarian distress, and opposition to anti-farmer laws, anti-worker labour codes,” the statement said.