By Aarteeshymal Joshi
Aurangabad (Maharashtra), July 9 (101Reporters/IANS) As if fear of erratic rains and crop failure wasn't bad enough for farmers, their profession has made it that much harder for them to find a life-partner. With low income and debt trap becoming synonymous with farming, no family wants to marry off their daughter to a farmer.
Ghatnandra village in Marathwada region's Aurangabad district is dotted with houses of unwed young men. Almost every second home has a young bachelor. Be it Ghatnandra or Amthana village in Aurangabad, parents of most unmarried men refuse to speak on the subject of their marriage altogether.
In Ghatnandra, Revannath Wagh reminisces how the situation was completely different when his eldest son got married 22 years ago. Wagh is a priest and owns some land. He has three sons and two daughters. He says even in 2007, he didn't face any difficulty finding a bride for his second son.
He began feeling a shift in the scenario when they started finding a bride for Ram, the youngest of the three brothers. They spent almost five years, searching until 2018, when Ram married a girl from Chalisgaon village in Dhulia district, who incidentally is physically challenged.
Deepak Jadhav, founder-director of matrimonial firm Marathajodi.com, says delayed weddings of men are looked down upon. He reveals that out of 4,000-odd women looking for a life partner, barely three-four choose farming as the profession of their prospective partner.
"Even the girls who belong to farmer families are not willing to marry a farmer," he notes.
Until 2016, he used to match 75 couples a year. Now, he's able to fix barely 20-25 weddings a year. "Everything was fine till a decade ago. But the trend tremendously changed. If the girls are not ready to marry rural boys, what will the boys do! Parents need to change their mindset. Like farming, there is no guarantee of jobs in cities," he opines.
Bhaskar Gawande, a farmer from Chitte Pimpalgaon village in Paithan tehsil, says when it comes to marriage, it doesn't matter how many acres of land a farmer owns. He says it's common knowledge that if a farmer has to raise money for a health emergency or children's education, he has no option but to sell his land. That is why, he says parents of young women prefer a groom with a fixed salary.
"Even owners of grocery shops or wheat mills can find a girl for marriage but farmers can't," he underlines.
According to him, this situation became particularly acute after the 2016 drought. In 2016, he expected a yield of 200 quintals of soyabean but got only 65 quintals. As he didn't want his son to face such hardships, he sent him to Aurangabad to pursue engineering and asked him to stay away from farming.
Dr Smita Awchar, a professor in the Department of Sociology at Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University in Aurangabad, contends that imbalance in gender ratio is another reason there are too few prospective brides for one too many prospective grooms. Thus, she says, young women in the region have a choice to select their life partner.
She says other reasons women are reluctant to marry a village-dweller are poor roads and patchy availability of water, electricity, cooking gas, mobile connectivity etc. She says neither women nor their parents want them getting married to a farmer.
Kishore Shitole, founder-director of NGO Jaldoot (dedicated to water conservation projects in rural areas) and a governor-nominated member in Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University Senate, frequently visits the villages in the region. He seconds Dr Awchar's statement that women prefer a partner with a job over a farmer.
"Cities are land of opportunities. Even if it comes to the education of their kids, there is no good facility in villages. Villages lag behind at every front," he says.
(The author is an Aurangabad-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters)