Skip to main content

Netherlands report: Gujarat's huge 60% child labour in sugarcane fields is unpaid

By Rajiv Shah

A recent report, published by The Hague-based child rights organization, Global March Against Child Labour, has found that, of the four states it studied for child labour and gendered dimensions in sugarcane supply chain in India -- Gujarat, Maharashtra Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka -- Gujarat not only has the highest number of children migrating from its tribal areas to work in sugarcane fields, but also has the largest number of unpaid child labourers.
The report finds that, in Gujarat, 59.2 per cent of child workers are unpaid, followed by Maharashtra 42.3 per cent, Uttar Pradesh 36.3 per cent and 24.7 per cent Karnataka. As for the paid child labourers, they report says, Maharashtra has the highest, 27.6 per cent, followed by Uttar Pradesh (23.7 per cent), Gujarat (21.5 per cent) and Karnataka (17.5 per cent).
“All of the child labourers were the children of cane cutters, mainly engaged in activities such as cutting of cane to the ground level; proper cleaning of the cane, i.e. removing extraneous matter such as leaves, trash, roots and; binding of cane which is further loaded on trucks, tractors or bullock carts either arranged by the factory, the contractor or the family itself”, the report says.
The report, published in September this year, is based on an interaction with a total 1,433 children aged 6 to 18, and 367 children of up to five years in the four states. They work in sugarcane fields of 554 sugar mills mainly in South Gujarat under a state-controlled cooperative system, with a few of them also privately owned. They employ more than 0.45 million farmers and cultivators, with the harvesting process entirely dependent on migrant labourers.
“A factory employee acts as a contractor for both the factories and the labour, also known as muqaddam who is responsible for approaching labourers from neighbouring districts to arrange for migrant workers to harvest sugarcane. The harvesting is done from November-December until March-April, depending on the sowing period”, the report notes.
The states studied, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, were selected as they are some of the most crucial states for sugarcane production in India. Due to the vastness of geographical land under sugarcane cultivation, only the districts with highest sugarcane crushing capacity and migration rates were selected, says the report.
Asserting that around 57.41 per cent of children in Gujarat were found to be working in sugarcane harvesting to support the family income, the report gives the example of one Keshav (name changed), aged 14, born in a family of seasonal sugarcane harvesters in Dang region of Gujarat, to suggest how, after his father passed away in a road accident, he began working in a sugarcane field in Surat district of the state.
Uneducated, Keshav is “officially” not employed for cane cutting on the farm, yet he works for six to eight hours a day to help his mother and brother in harvesting more volume of cane. He is quoted as saying that he comes to the farm every day, and is “learning” some work and also “helping” his mother and elder brother in work.
In yet another example, the report cites 37-year-old Darawde Munde, also from Gujarat’s Dang district. He has been migrating for the last five years with his family to the sugarcane farms of Bardoli in the state. Earlier, he worked in Kolhapur district of Maharashtra. “He has been working as an agricultural labourer ever since he dropped out of school”, the report states, quoting Munde as saying, “My father spent his entire life repaying the debt to muqaddam. We had no other choice but to accompany him to the farms every season”.
Noting that this type of situation is common in sugarcane fields, and identifying it as a form of bonded labour, the report quotes Munde as saying, “It is our helplessness. We have nowhere else to go or nothing else to do. You must think that me and my family are bound but I don’t like to think that.”
Uneducated, Keshav is officially not employed for cane cutting on the farm, yet he works for six to eight hours a day to help his mother and brother in harvesting more volume
Yet, the report regrets, officials do not consider it “as an act of bonded labour”, quoting an official from the Agricultural Labour Department, Surat, Gujarat, as saying “The workers or their families who take advance from muqaddam are not always the victims. They often take the loan but refuse to go to work when the season comes which has financial disadvantages for the middle man. The workers have nothing to lose.” 
According to the report, the wages are not paid according to the state's minimum wage standard. Thus, in Gujarat, daily wages of cane cutters per day was found to be Rs 266.55 per metric ton for a pair of harvesters (usually husband and wife duo), which is lower than the daily minimum wage rate of Rs 203.27 per day for an agricultural labour in the state. 
Focusing on gender issues, the report finds that young girls migrate with their families during the sugarcane harvesting season “to take care of their siblings and household work, besides working on the farms”. Thus, “girl child labourers with triple burden were found to be the highest in Karnataka, 91 per cent, followed by Gujarat at 88 per cent and Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh at 76 per cent and 62 per cent respectively.”
The report finds that, in Gujarat, the number of out of school girls working on sugarcane fields was the highest, 33.89 per cent, as compared to 26.22 per cent boys, as against 30.98 per cent girls and 20.78 boys in Karnataka, 30.59 per cent girls and 24.78 per cent boys in Maharashtra, and 32.68 girls and 29.89 per cent boys in Uttar Pradesh. Further, in Gujarat, 15.61 per cent girls and 10.55 per cent boys were never enrolled in schools, and 8.52 per cent girls and 5.21 per cent boys were dropouts.

Comments

Child labour is banned on paper but like many other good laws in our country, who cares? There is either no one to enforce these laws because of ignorance of the laws or the offender bribes the enforcer and that is the end of it.

When the budget is so niggardly about spending on education--what else can you expect?

TRENDING

Did Modi promote Dholavira, a UNESCO site now, as Gujarat CM? Facts don't tally

By Rajiv Shah  As would generally happen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet – that not only was he “absolutely delighted” with the news of UNESCO tag to Dholavira, but he “ first visited ” the site during his “student days and was mesmerised by the place” – is being doubted by his detractors. None of the two tweets, strangely, even recalls once that it’s a Harappan site in Gujarat.

Labelling a Jesuit a Marxist? It's like saying if you use a plane, you become American

Jesuits: Cedric Prakash, Stan Swamy By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* A thirteen- fourteen-year-old has many dreams! That's an impressionable age; at the cusp of finishing school. It is also a time when one tastes a different kind of freedom: to go for camps with boys of your own age (not with ones family). Such camps and outings were always enjoyed to the hilt. The ones, however, which still remain etched in my memory are the mission camps to the Jesuit missions in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

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".

Giant conglomerates 'favoured': Whither tribal rights for jal-jungle-jameen?

Prafull Samantara By Mohammad Irshad Ansari*  The struggle for “Jal, Jungle and Jameen” has been a long-drawn battle for the tribal communities of India. This tussle was once again in the limelight with the proposed diamond mining in the Buxwaha forest of Chhatarpur (Madhya Pradesh). The only difference in this movement was the massive social media support it gained, which actually seems to tilt the scale for the tribal people in a long time.

If not Modi, then who? Why? I (an ordinary citizen) am there! Main hoon naa!

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The number of women ministers is doubled in early July from the first term after cabinet reshuffle by the present government led by Narendra Modi. While there were 06 women ministers in the previous term, this term there are 11. The previous two governments led by Dr Manmohan Singh had 10 women ministers in each tenure. Are these number of women ministers something to rejoice in the near 75 years of independence? Yes maybe, if we think that things are slowly improving in the patriarchal system. This change is less likely to achieve gender balance in the parliament otherwise we require more than 11 as per the 33% reservation . This change is also less likely because the men politicians’ inability to handle the country’s mess is becoming more and more evident and especially during the corona crisis. Seems, the addition of more women ministers may be a result of the recent assembly elections where women played a decisive role in the election results. For example

Effluent discharge into deep sea? Modi told to 'reconsider' Rs 2275 crore Gujarat project

Counterview Desk  In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, well-known Gujarat-based environmentalist, Mahesh Pandya of the Paryavaran Mitra, has protested against the manner in with the Gujarat government is continuing with its deep sea effluent disposal project despite environmental concerns.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Gujarat govt gender insensitive? Cyclone package for fisherfolk 'ignores' poor women

By Our Representative A memorandum submitted to the Gujarat government by various fisherfolk associations of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat under the leadership of Ahmedabad NGO Centre for Social Justice's senior activist Arvind Khuman, who is based in Amreli, has suggested that the relief package offered to the fishermen affected by the Tauktae cyclone is not only inadequate, it is also gender insensitive.

Debt bondage, forced labour, sexual abuse in Gujarat's Bt cottonseed farms: Dutch study

By Rajiv Shah  A just-released study, sponsored by a Netherlands-based non-profit, Arisa , “Seeds of Oppression Wage sharecropping in Bt cottonseed production in Gujarat, India”, has said that a new form of bondage, or forced labour, exists in North India’s Bt cottonseed farms, in which bhagiyas, or wage sharecroppers, are employed against advances and are then often required to work for years together “without regular payment of wages.”

Covid: We failed to stop religious, political events, admits Modi-dharmacharya meet

Counterview Desk An email alert sent by one the 11 participants, Prof Salim Engineer, on behalf of the Dharmik Jan Morcha regarding their "religious leaders' online meet" with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, even as offering "support to meet challenges of Corona pandemic", blames religious congregations, though without naming the Maha Kumbh and other religious events, which apparently were instrumental in the spread of the second wave.