GALU gears up to stop child labour on Bt cotton farms in North Gujarat
A study conducted by the Migrant Workers’ Protection Front found that every year, several thousand tribal children between the ages of 10-14, shepherded by contractors came to work in the cotton farms of Sabarkantha, Banaskantha, and Mehsana districts of Gujarat.
The study carried out by Sudhir Katiyar, convener of the Front, which is a network of civil society organisations of Gujarat and Rajasthan says that largescale migration is a dangerous phenomenon, and particularly so when the children hired are underage.
GALU shares the same concerns and has been raising the issue here with the Labour Department for the last one year. GALU vice-president Paulomee Mistry said, “It is serious issue. After all, the future of so many children is at stake.”
Katiyar’s study says that the children who are employed for cross-pollination work of Bt cotton seeds are made to do extremely strenuous work. Moreover, girl children are preferred as they are more manageable and work harder.”
Mistry said, “This also makes the girl child vulnerable to sexual abuse. In most of these farms the children are made to stay in makeshift tents in the middle of the field.”
An average day at the farm starts at 4 am and goes on till noon. After a break of three hours, the children are back to work. Mistry said, “Usually the children are paid Rs 30-40 per day, which is lower than the minimum wages of Rs 50 for agricultural workers. The rest is eaten up by the contractors.”
Mistry said, “As part of GALU’s plans to campaign against child labour in Bt cotton farms, we will distribute pamphlets so that farmers come to know they are breaking the law by employing children. We will also post volunteers at check posts on state borders to check the trafficking of children and co-coordinating with civil society groups in Rajasthan.”
However, Vipin Bhatt, Rural Labour Commissioner denies the allegations. “Children are not employed on cotton fields,’ he said.