Skip to main content

Forced child labour rampant in Uttar Pradesh sugarcane fields: Oxfam study

By Rajiv Shah
A 14-year-old boy and his older brother were hired by an agent from Bihar under the pretext of getting them a job in a shoe factory in Uttar Pradesh. The agent brought with him a dozen-odd to Uttar Pradesh under the pretext of offering work to them in a factory. Only upon arrival in Muzaffarnagar, the boys were told that they would be working in a sugarcane field.
The farmer who hired the two brothers upon knowing that they have been cheated agreed to release both of them if their families could pay back Rs 10,000, which he had already paid as commission to the agent. Since the family did not have the resources to return this money, the younger sibling was left behind to work and compensate for the commission paid to the agent.
The boy had to agree to work at a meagre salary of Rs 2000 per month, with a total of five months of unpaid work, to repay the commission, says a study, which cites the incident as an example of prevalence of child labour in Uttar Pradesh.
Released by the high-profile NGO Oxfam India, and titled “Human Cost of Sugar: A farm-to-mill assessment of sugar supply chain in Uttar Pradesh”, the study quotes farmers as stating that “children in the age group 12-16 years, are brought by labour agents from Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh”, adding, they are “are either unpaid or underpaid”.
Pointing out that migrant children were found to be working in sugarcane fields in Muzaffarnagar and Meerut, the study, authored by Shankhamala Sen of the Association for Stimulating Know-how (ASK), with inputs from Namit Agarwal and Pooja Adhikari (Oxfam), finds “several forms of exploitation faced by the child migrant workers, as shared by farmers and local villagers.”
The study says, “The child migrant workers living in the private space of the farmers’ houses are often abused verbally and physically. In some cases the farmers do not provide adequate food to these children, forcing them to run away from their jobs and village due to extremely abusive conditions.”
Stating that “false information” is provided about “nature of work at the time of hiring”, the study says, “Children are often hired by agents under false pretext of jobs in factories and sweatshops in Uttar Pradesh. They or their parents get to know about the actual nature of work, only on arriving at the village farms.”
It adds, “The agents pay lump sum advance money to the parents while hiring the children, due to which the parents are unable to withdraw the children from the work. The farmers also pay a commission to the agents due to which they try to recover the cost for as long as possible by making the children work, even after they get to know that the children have been hired under such false pretext.”
Asserting that the child workers are paid “extremely low wages”, the study says, “The wages received by the child workers is extremely low ranging between Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000 per month. The children or their families usually have no bargaining power in this matter as it is always the agents who negotiate their wages with the farmers.”
It adds, “The agents do not care about their salaries because the commission is fixed irrespective of the salary amount that is committed by the farmers for these children. Hence, children end up working under such severe forms of exploitation for such small amounts of money.”
Then, says the study, there is “non-payment of salary by the agents”, noting that “the farmers often handover the entire salary of the child workers to the agents at the end of the season. Often there are instances when the agents do not give the money to the child workers or their families and abscond with it.”
In fact, it adds, “The children and their families do not receive any payment in such cases, after 8-9 months of hard work in the sugarcane fields.”
Referring to the simultaneous prevalence of bonded labour in sugarcane fields in Uttar Pradesh, the study gives cites the example of a respondent from Muzaffarnagar, a worker “who wanted a loan of Rs 5 lakh to build a new house. He offered to work for a farmer in exchange of this loan unsure of the rate of interest he would be charged. The worker agreed to work at a daily wage of Rs 200.”
“In this arrangement”, the study says, “It would take him 6.8 years to repay only the principal amount of the loan, with the interest amount being over and above that.”
The study finds that the government departments “are understaffed at the district level”, and the “labour inspectors do not have the time and resources to monitor the various labour practices at the farm level whether pertaining to child labour, forced labour or other violations.”

Comments

Uma said…
This is not happening only in UP. I believe Bihar is the leader in child labour and child abuse

TRENDING

India performs 'poorly' in Quality of Life Index, ranks 62nd out of 64 countries

Counterview Desk “Expat Insider”, which claims to be one of the world’s most extensive surveys about living and working abroad, in a survey of 20,259 participants from around the globe, has found that of the 64 destinations around the globe, has found that while Taiwan is the best destination for persons living outside their native country, closely by Vietnam and Portugal, India ranks 59th.

Youngest of 16 activists jailed for sedition, Mahesh Raut 'fought' mining on tribal land

By Surabhi Agarwal, Sandeep Pandey* A compassionate human being, always popular among his friends and colleagues because of his friendly nature and human sensitivity, 33-year-old Mahesh Raut, champion of the democratic rights of the marginalised Adivasi people of Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, has been in prison for over two years now.

India's GDP down by 50%, not 23%, job loss 200 million not 122 million: Top economist

By Our Representative  One of India’s topmost economists has estimated that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline was around 50%, and not 23%, as claimed by the Government of India’s top data body, National Statistical Organization (NSO). Prof Arun Kumar, who is Malcolm S Adiseshiah chair professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, said this was delivering a web policy speech, organised by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi.

Human development index: India performs worse than G-20 developing countries

By Rajiv Shah A new book, “Sustainable Development in India: A Comparison with the G-20”, authored by Dr Keshab Chandra Mandal, has regretted that though India’s GDP has doubled over the last one decade, its human development indicators are worse than not just developed countries of the Group of 20 countries but also developing countries who its members.

Stan Swamy vs Arnab Goswami: Are activists fighting a losing battle? Whither justice?

By Fr Sunil Macwan SJ* It is time one raised pertinent questions over the courts denying bail to Fr Stan Swamy, who was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and granting it to Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of the Republic TV, arrested under the charge of abetting suicide of Avay Naik, who ended his life in 2018. It is travesty of justice that a human rights activist is not only denied bail but is also made to wait for weeks to hear a response to his legitimate request for a straw to drink water, while Arnab Goswami walks free.

US publication blames Gates Foundation for 'accelerating' India's healthcare crisis

By Rajiv Shah A new book, published by the New York-based Monthly Press Review (MPR), has blamed Microsoft founder Bill Gates for “crowning” the crisis allegedly engulfing India’s health sector, stating, the top American billionaire’s foundation of late has acquired “extraordinary influence" over India’s public health governance,  giving a fillip to a policy that deprives access of public healthcare facilities for majority of the country’s population.

India among heavily impacted by Covid-19, China 'notoriously' evading transparency

By NS Venkataraman* With the year 2020 inevitably ending in the next few weeks, the thought amongst the people all over the world is whether the coming year 2021 will be free of Covid-19 (often dubbed as Wuhan virus, as it known to have spread from Wuhan in China).In the early 2020, many people thought that Covid-19 would be a localized affair in China but later on, it proved to be a global pandemic.

Namaz in Mathura temple: Haridwar, Ayodhya monks seek Faisal Khan's release

By Our Representative As many as 23 members of the Hindu Voices for Peace (HVP), including the founder president of the well-known Haridwar-based Matri Sadan Ashram, Swami Shivananda Saraswati, and a one of its top monks, Brahmachari Aatmabodhanand, have expressed their “dismay” over the arrest of Khudai Khidmatdar chief Faisal Khan and three others on charges of “promoting enmity between religions” and “defiling a place of worship” after they offered namaz in Mathura’s Nand Baba temple premises on October 29.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Government of India 'refuses' to admit: 52% of bird species show declining trend

Finn's Weaver  By Our Representative The Government of India has been pushing out “misleading” data on the country’s drastic wildlife decline, says a well-researched report, pointing towards how top ministers are hiding data on biodiversity losses, even as obfuscating its own data. It quotes “State of India’s Birds Report 2020” to note that of the 261 out of 867 bird species for which long-term trends could be determined, 52% have declined since the year 2000, with 22% declining strongly.