Child Labour in Hybrid Cottonseed Production in Gujarat and Karnataka


Hybrid cottonseed is one of the fastest growing industries in India. India is the first country in the world to introduce hybrid varieties in cotton crop for commercial cultivation. In 1970, the world's first cotton hybrid H4 was released for commercial production by the Government of India Cotton Research Station situated at Surat in the state of Gujarat. Since then, a number of new hybrids have entered the market and its use has been rapidly increasing. Approximately 22 million acres of land in India is used for cultivating cotton, out of which 10 million acres (45% of total cotton area) is currently covered under hybrid varieties. The country has earned the distinction of having the largest area under cotton cultivation in the world accounting for 21% of the world's total cotton area and 12% of global cotton production.1 Nearly 95% of the hybrid cottonseed produced in India is used for internal consumption while the remaining is exported mainly to South East Asian countries.
The present study is commissioned by the India Committee of the Netherlands.

The issue of child labour in hybrid cottonseed production in India recently received a lot of attention by national and international media.
The specificity of hybrid cottonseed production in India in India is that it is highly labour intensive and children are used in most of its operations. Cross pollination which is the vital task in cottonseed production (account for nearly 90% of total labour requirement and 45% of cultivation costs) is carried through conventional method of hand emasculation and pollination. Though hybrid seeds are used in cotton crop in most of the states in India hybrid cottonseed production is concentrated in five states namely Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharastra and Tamilnadu. These five states account for more than 95% of the area under cottonseed production in the country. During 2003-04, nearly 55,000 acres were under cottonseed production in the country, out of which Gujarat accounted for 26,000 acres, Andhra Pradesh 14,000 acres and Karnataka 4,000 acres. Andhra Pradesh was the largest cottonseed producing state in the country until recently. Gujarat surpassed its production and has now taken the lead.

The mass production of hybrid cottonseeds in India has produced a new phenomenon -the use of child labor on its farms and cotton processing units. Andhra Pradesh recently received widespread attention due to the pervasive practice of bonded child labor.
An active campaign against child labour, initiated by local child rights groups is currently taking place in the state. The large national and international seed companies have however claimed that the child labour problem is only confined to Andhra Pradesh and that children are not used in any significant way in seed production activity in other parts of country, particularly in Gujarat and Karnataka.

One of the main objectives of the present study is to examine the validity of these claims. The study will also attempt to provide information regarding the labour market and working conditions since no prior studies on the issue in Gujarat and Karnataka states thus far existed.2


The observations presented in this report are based on a detailed study of working conditions of labourers in hybrid cottonseed production in Gujarat and Karnataka states in India. A major of this study was conducted during the months of October and November 2003. The study is mainly based on primary data collected from field interviews and discussions with labourers working in cottonseed farms, seed farmers, labour contractors, representatives of seed companies, government officials and NGO personal in three districts each in Gujarat (Sabarkantha, Banaskantha and Mehasan) and Karnataka (Baghalkote, Koppal and Gadag). For detailed analysis of the workforce composition and working conditions of labourers, data was collected on 40 cottonseed farms in 18 villages (10 in Gujarat and 8 in Karnataka).

The names of the villages in Gujarat are Sayajinagar, Asoda , Undani, Vadnagar Ukhal (in Vijapur taluk, Mehasan district) Narsipura, Surpur, Patanpur, Villar, Khedbrahma ( in Idar and Khedbrahma taluks in Sabarkantha district. In Karnataka, the villages are Kanakagiri, Tippamal, Chikkedu (in Kanakagiri taluk, Koppal district) Honniganur, Kalkapura (in Rona taluk Gadag District) Mallapura, Yeragoppa and Badami villages (in Badami taluk Bagalkote District).


India Committee of the Netherlands / Landelijke India Werkgroep - October 4, 2004