Published in: The Hindu, 30-6-2004      

Probe demanded into child labour in seed farm


Expressing deep concern at 13-year-old Mallesh's death while spraying pesticide in a hybrid cottonseed farm in Dudekonda in Kurnool district (see: "Pesticide exposure claims another child labourer's life", The Hindu, 29-6-2004), the MV Foundation has called upon the Government to conduct an enquiry into the exploitation of children in the sector.

In a statement, the Secretary and Trustee of the Foundation, Shantha Sinha, wanted the Government to take immediate steps to enable children in the district to stop working and join schools. She demanded that legal notices be issued to all multinational and national corporations involved in producing hybrid cottonseed for the violation of child rights. She said the corporations must be asked to reveal the names and addresses of small farmers contracted by them for seed farming so the Government and NGOs could monitor child labour.

She said thousands of children continued to work in the production of hybrid cottonseed in Kurnool and Mahbubnagar districts. Each of them was at risk everyday, she said, adding that it was significant that most of the investment in the production of the seed was made by multinational corporations and reputed national companies. These could "very well afford" not to exploit children and abide by corporate and social responsibilities. At a time when small farmers had formed a Child Rights Protection Forum to see that no child was employed in farms, it was "outrageous" that such huge investors remain lackadaisical, Ms. Sinha said.

She said the Foundation had appealed repeatedly to the Government and the Association of Seed Industries to protect children. It had held several meetings with representatives of the Association in the last two years, asking them to put out a clear message that they would not tolerate child labour in hybrid cottonseed farms. "Except for issuing statements and pamphlets or holding meetings among themselves, the Association has done nothing to preyent employment of children in the sector.




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