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From Banas to Anand, how women in dairy farmers of Gujarat are taking charge of their money and politics

Savitaamthe day starts at 6 o’clock. Helped by her mother-in-law Hansaam, she milks 12 buffaloes before starting other household chores. The family sells the milk to Banas Dairy and earns Rs 30,000 a month.

Savitaam of Lunawa village in Tharad constituency of Gujarat works as one patwari and also does household chores. The work includes milking cattle and washing them. About 85% of the households in the village own more than 10 cattle and sell 40 to 50 liters of desi cow’s milk per day.

Speaking to News18, Savita is full of praise for her mother-in-law. “Mere jitna toh yeh bhi kamati hain, meri toh income fixed hai but inki income ki koi seema nahi hai. (She earns as much as I do. My income is limited, but my mother-in-law earns as much as possible depending on the milk our cattle give),’ she says.

Savitaben with mother-in-law Hansaben in Lunawa village in Tharad constituency of Gujarat. (News18)

The family believes that women have become an important contributor to household income as a result of government schemes to encourage female entrepreneurs.

“Our family won’t say anything if I go to our elders on the khat but our neighbors would say ‘now that your daughter-in-law earns, she doesn’t respect the elderly anymore’,” jokes Savita. She is careful with her ghost hat in the presence of elders.

Savita is not only financially prudent, but also politically aware. She knows which candidate from which party is running and that the BJP candidate is the chairman of Banas Dairy.

She also knows that she can get loans at minimal rates under various schemes of both the state and central government and that she can thrive in the dairy industry.

Bathe mein dhanda karna hai (I want to expand the business). We want to sell our homemade dairy products by labeling them as our own. It’s pure and authentic,” says de patwari.

The family has also ventured into organic vegetables. A relative, Smarut bhaihas waited two years to see a profit after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for organic products.

“I lost money for two years, but then I broke even in the third year. If we want our country to be prosperous, health must be taken care of. So I started growing only organic vegetables,” he says.

About 300 km from Lunawa is Anand’s Vidyanagar, where female beneficiaries of government schemes have a similar story to tell. They created Sakhi Samuhs to help each other in getting financial help from the government.

Mehalam, who has lived in Vidyanagar for almost 10 years, says that two of her daughters have received scholarships from the government. She herself received a cylinder under the Ujjwala Yojana. “I was rationed during the Covid-19 pandemic. We have water in our taps,” says Mehalam.

Few other houses in the colony have dairy cattle and their livelihood is based on the milk they sell to the dairy. Many say they received valuable government assistance during the pandemic. Each family here earns up to Rs 10,000 per month depending on the amount of milk they sell.

“We have food, we have money in our accounts as a pension. We have tap water and cylinder. I have a sewing machine and my daughter-in-law sews clothes and earns money,” says Jeevtiam who is in her 80s and knows only one “party” – Narendra Modi.

What strikes the women here is the government’s Nal Se Jal plan. “Nal Se Jal jojana was successful. We used to go to one tap and wait for water. Now we get water in our houses. Shanti lagi, kaam karwama, pani bharo, kapda dhowama, shanti panni padi‘ says Vijuam.

Ujjawala Yojana also has customers, but the price of the gas bottle is a squeeze for many.

Ushaam Solanki has three Sakhi Mandals here. “We have availed loans worth Rs 7 lakh. I bought a car driven by my husband. I am also a bank default. Many women in our Sakhi Mandal are engaged in animal breeding. Some have taken out loans for their daughters’ weddings,” she says.

Renukaam says she joined a Sakhi Mandal seven years ago. “During Covid, we got help. I bought a sewing machine and I sew clothes. I have taken out two loans. I earn about Rs 6,000 per month. I just milk, vegetables etc for the house with my own money. I don’t have to ask my husband for money. My husband is one mystery and earns Rs 8,000 if he also works night shifts,” she says.

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