The strange and painful reality of Beed Maharashtra

We in our articles try to take up various social and economic topics. In this particular article we will discuss about Beed. Beed is a district in Maharashtra that is suffering from economic crisis for years. Sugarcane is a prominent farming option in this region. Many poor men and women migrate to this region so that they can work for the sugarcane contractors. These people are so poor that even one rupee matters to them. What is unique about this area is that you will find a lot of women who do not have a womb because they have undergone hysterectomies. The obvious question is why women take up this procedure? Well the answer is simple the contractors of the sugarcane farms are not interested in hiring women who have periods. The contractors say that women who have periods will take breaks or would like to stay at home for a few days and that will hinder the work and cause losses that they do not want.

Many women after having two or three kids take to hysterectomies so that they do not have periods. The contractors themselves pay these women for these surgeries and later on keep reducing these from the wages of the women. Many women do it so that they can earn some money to feed the families who live below the poverty line in these areas that are porn to severe draughts. It is not that these women are forced by the contractors to go through these procedures. These women do it by choice so that they can get a good opportunity to work in the sugarcane fields and earn some money.

The cane cutting does not happen all through the year. It happens only during October to March. Many poor people migrate to this region during this time so that they all can work as cane cutters. Husband and wife are considered one unit by the contractors and together they are paid per day. The rules set are very strict; none of the workers are allowed to take any breaks as they work. If they take a break they will have to pay a fine of 500 rupees. This is a very high amount for the cane cutters as most of them are really poor.

When a woman goes through hysterectomies, the womb is removed as a result there is no way possible for her to have periods and that is what the contractors actually want. The draughts have had a very severe effect on the beed district of Maharashtra as result agriculture is no longer possible. This is why sugarcane has become a very popular crop there. For money people have no option but to work as sugarcane cutters, no matter how harsh the life is. A cane cutter explains that husband and wife together are considered one unit by the contractors. The sugarcane cutting season lasts for four to five months in a year. At the end of the season a couple can end up cutting about 300 tonne of sugarcane if they work all day without break. The couple are fine with this as they get a good sum of money that can help them survive the whole year till the next cutting season arrives. There is no other source of income and this seems to be the only way to earn money for the people in this region. The workers do not take breaks and work even if they are not well. Women who are having periods will have to take breaks and that is not acceptable as it will cost money that these poor workers cannot afford.

The experts say although it is a choice the women are making but the circumstances are pushing them to take this decision. Women as young as 25 are alco going through the surgery and that is alarming. Women get married early and by the time they are 24 they already have a few kids so they go ahead with hysterectomies. This is not natural and all these women develop physical and mental problems. They put on weight and they are mentally not fine due to the hormonal disbalances. Some experts and few women who are cane cutting in these fields do confess that the reason for hysterectomies is not only the fact that women will not have periods. Sexual exploitation of the women is common. Most of the women who work as sugarcane cutters are sexually exploited by the contractors and their men. A woman without womb will not conceive and no proofs of sexual exploitation can be found either. This is a topic that most of the women are not openly discussing but these exploitations are common. The fear of loosig out on money makes these women accept the exploitation in the hands of the contractors and even the husbands do not protest much.

The cane cutters are made to live in tents near the sugarcane fields and mills. The basic conditions provided to the workers are very poor. No bathrooms and toilets make it miserable for the women especially. If they have periods then managing without a bathroom is impossible. These facts make the life of workers in these sugarcane fields hellish and especially for the women.

NCW (national commission for women) has recently started to take a lot of interest in this topic. The commission is of a strong opinion that the women are forced to remove the womb by the family members. The whole process is not a natural one and the long term effects of the same can be really bad on the mental and physical health of these women. The sugarcane contractors are saying openly that do not force the women but the conditions that they are putting in these fields and the policy that the workers will have to pay a fine for taking breaks make it very difficult for the women.

The NCW is also looking into the matter of sexual abuse. This point cannot be completely ruled out. Looking at the conditions these workers are forced to live. There are no bathrooms that force the women to take bath and to relive themselves in the open. It is true that no many women will come out to speak about the sexual exploitation. Simply because they feel it can cause a lot of trouble between them and the contractors. These women depend on the money that the contractors are providing to them.

NCW has issued a notice to the chief secretary in Maharashtra. Investigation is going on to ensure that the living conditions of the workers can be improved. Attempts are being made to rehabilitate those who have already become the victim. Strong policies will have to be made so that such atrocities cannot happen in the future.  The commission also found that the women were not provided any papers of the surgery done. They could not get the rest that they deserved and as a result the health conditions became even worse. We hope that the actions that NCW is taking now will ensure that the women in this region get to live a more healthy and dignified life.

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