This article is published by The Times of India, 11-12-2007

Jinka Nagaraju

'YSR govt spawning child labour'

HYDERABAD: A recent international report has revealed that the state government is making a mockery of the recently-enacted Anti-Child Labour Act by actively encouraging the continuance of bonded and inhuman child labour, especially in the cotton fields in the state.

According to the report, nearly 1,28,000 children are working as bonded labour in sub-human conditions in the cotton fields which are under contract to multinational companies and their Indian sub-licensees.

The report, 'The Child Bondage Continues in India Cotton Supply Chain', commissioned by five international agencies - India Committee of Netherlands (ICN); International Labour Rights Forum (ILRF), USA; OECD Watch, The Netherlands; Deutsche Welthungerhilfe (Germany) and Eine Welt Netz NRW (Germany) was released in the Netherlands recently.

The report was prepared after an extensive study of field-level conditions in the four cotton growing states, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

In Andhra Pradesh, 280 sample farms were selected from Kurnool, Mahbubnagar and Ranga Reddy districts where all the seed companies, national and international, are involved in contract farming. Hybrid seed cotton is grown in 16,000 acres in the state, next only to Gujarat and is on the rise. It was found that in these three districts, 42 per cent of the total work force were children. Of them, girls accounted for 73 per cent in 2006-07.

Between 2003-04 and 2006-07, the number of children below the age of 18 employed in the cotton field was 1, 28, 000. Though there is some decline in the number of children below 14, children between 14 and 18 years joined the army of bonded labourers.

The fall in the forced labour of children below the age of 14 is being attributed to the fact that they simply crossed that age but continued to be employed. A shocking revelation of the report is that, unwittingly, the practice of forced child labour was encouraged by the current Y S Rajasekhara Reddy after it came to power in 2004 due to the latter's active propagation of a pro-farmer policy. As a result, the ongoing efforts to eliminate child labour in the state slowed down from 2004.

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Landelijke India Werkgroep - December 11, 2007