Child labourers continue to be employed in large numbers at cotton seed farms in tribal areas of Gujarat, said Sudhir Katiyar from the Centre for Labour Research and Action on Monday. The organisation had undertaken a survey of farms in Danta taluka of Banaskantha district along with another NGO, Adivasi Sarvangi Vikas Sangh.
Katiyar said they had visited 17 farms in Danta and Deodhar talukas of Banaskantha district and Kotada, in the neighbouring state of Rajasthan, during September this year. “These children are employed to cross pollinate the male flower with the female flower of the BT cotton plant in farms that produce cotton seeds for big corporate companies engaged in marketing and sale of cotton seeds,” he said while addressing a virtual media conference on Monday.
Sharing pictures and videos of the children engaged in the cross pollination process, Katiyar said that these farms employing children in the under 14-age group are part of the contract farming undertaken by the seed companies. “They are paid wages as low as Rs 150 a day,” said Deepak Dabhi of Adivasi Sarvangi Vikas Sangh, Danta. Dabhi shared his personal experiences of visiting a few farms where children were engaged in agriculture process.
The issue of child labourers being engaged in cotton farms in Gujarat had come to light in 2007-’08. “It has continued since then. The migration and trafficking of children has come down drastically. But the seed production has shifted to tribal farms in North Gujarat and South Rajasthan. This includes tribal farms of Khedbrahma in Sabarkantha, Bhiloda and Mehgraj in Aravali district, Pavi Jetpur and Bodoli in Chotta Udepur and Lunawada in Mahisagar,” Katiyar said.
“A lot of work has been done by both Gujarat and Rajasthan governments in the past to curtail child labour in cotton seeds farms of Gujarat. We have again started conducting raids in every district since August after the Covid lockdown was lifted,” said MC Kariya, additional deputy labour commissioner who tackles activities against child labour.
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