EMPOWERING RURAL WOMEN: INDIA’S VISIONARY STEP TOWARDS GENDER-INCLUSIVE AGRICULTURE

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Catch the Wave of Change: Empowering Women, Transforming Agriculture!

In a groundbreaking move aimed at empowering women in rural India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is contemplating a significant boost to the annual payout for landowning female farmers. Three reliable sources have disclosed to Reuters that the proposal involves doubling the current annual payout to Rs 12,000, signaling a strategic move to resonate with women voters in anticipation of the upcoming general election.

Expected to be officially announced in the budget on February 1, the proposed initiative could potentially cost the government an additional Rs 120 billion, according to two of the anonymous sources familiar with the budget discussions. This expansion builds upon an existing program initiated by Modi ahead of the 2019 national election, providing an annual transfer of Rs 6,000 to both male and female farmers under the “Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi” program.

Barclays Investment Bank economist Rahul Bajoria notes, “The expansion of the existing scheme may find more support from women, a key demographic.” The current program has disbursed over Rs 2.81 trillion to more than 110 million farmers in 15 installments up to November of the previous year, as per government estimates.

The proposed plan to double the cash support and specifically target women farmers has not been previously reported, adding a layer of emphasis on empowering women in rural India, as mentioned by one of the sources. However, both the Agriculture Ministry and the Finance Ministry have refrained from providing official comments on the matter.

Female Farmer

India, with over 260 million farmers and their families, constitutes a colossal voting bloc in the country of 1.4 billion people. Despite women accounting for 60% of all farmers, fewer than 13% of them own the land they cultivate, according to government data. By expanding financial support to women farmers, the government aims to address this gender disparity and strengthen its ties with a crucial voter demographic.

Critics argue that doubling the cash support to women farmers would not significantly impact government finances, given the relatively small amount in the context of the estimated $550 billion budget. Proponents of the initiative believe it is a small yet impactful step toward recognizing and rectifying gender imbalances in the agricultural sector.

Women have consistently been a crucial support base for Prime Minister Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Opinion polls suggest that the BJP, particularly with Modi seeking a third term, is likely to secure victory in the upcoming elections. Recent electoral successes in three out of four major states, where the BJP implemented cash transfer programs for married women, underscore the potential appeal of such initiatives.

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