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Child Labour in Hybrid Cottonseed Production in Andhra Pradesh: Recent Developments

Introduction

The issue of child labour in hybrid cottonseed production in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India, has recently received national and international media attention. A number of initiatives to address the problem have been undertaken by the Government, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), the seed industry and international agencies like ILO-IPEC, UNICEF and UNDP.
The present study is commissioned by the India Committee of the Netherlands. The author is a member of the joint committee formed with the representatives of Association of Seed Industry and MV Foundation in September 2003 to advice the Association Seed Industry in its efforts for total elimination of child labour in cottonseed production. The observations presented in this report are the author's own and may not represent the opinions of either ASI or MV Foundation on this issue. The author is grateful to Prof. Shantha Sinha, Gerard Oonk, Lucia da Corta, and representatives of ASI for their comments and suggestions on the draft report. He is also grateful to several individuals and institutions who have directly or indirectly helped him in carrying out this study.

The publication of reports by the Business and Community Foundation and Plan International in 20011 and the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) in 20032, pointed out the role of large-scale national and multinational seed companies (MNCs) contributing to the problem of child labour in cottonseed sector. A subsequent campaign initiated by NGOs, trade unions and social investors in The Netherlands, Germany, UK and USA has put the multinational companies (MNCs) who are producing and marketing hybrid cottonseeds in India under severe pressure to pay serious attention to the problem. As a result, several national and MNCs acknowledged the problem of child labour in the seed industry and have recently come forward to initiate steps to address the problem. In addition to the seed companies, the state government, local NGOs, and international bodies like ILO-IPEC, UNICEF, UNDP have also initiated several measures to address the problem of child labour in general and cottonseed production in particular. This study is an attempt to critically examine the recent interventions and their impact on the nature and magnitude of the child labour problem in hybrid cottonseed production in Andhra Pradesh.

Hybrid cottonseed production is characterized as highly labour-intensive and girl children are engaged in most of its operations. The exploitation of children in cottonseed farms is linked to larger market forces. Several large-scale national and multinational seed companies, which produce and market the seeds, are involved in perpetuating the problem of child labour. Children are employed on a long-term contract basis through advances and loans extended to their parents by local seed producers, who have agreements with the large national and multinational seed companies. Children are made to work long hours and are paid less than market and official minimum wages. They are also exposed to poisonous pesticides used in high quantities in cottonseed cultivation.

Based on a detailed field survey conducted in 2001, the ICN report estimated the total number of children employed in cottonseed production in Andhra Pradesh at 247,830 out of which 85% are girls. Child labour accounted for nearly 90% of the total labour force in cottonseed production. The farms producing seed for MNCs - Unilever, Bayer, Monsanto, Syngenta and Advanta3 - accounted for about 19% of the total children working (53,500 out of 247,830) in cottonseed production in the state.

Objectives of the study

  • To examine recent trends in employment of child labour in hybrid cottonseed production in Andhra Pradesh.
  • To examine the impact of recent initiatives undertaken by the government, local NGOs, seed industry and international agencies like ILO-IPEC, UNICEF and UNDP on the nature and magnitude of the child labour problem in cottonseed production in the state.
  • Resurvey of farms producing cottonseed for MNCs previously covered by the ICN study.
Methodology

The study is mainly based on primary data collected through field visits to cottonseed farms as well as interviews and discussions with children working in cottonseed farms, seed farmers, organisers, representatives of seed companies, government officials and NGO personal in four districts namely Mahaboobnagar, Kurnool, Rangareddy and West Godavari. The field survey for the present study was conducted during September and December 2003. The estimates of the total number of child labourers in cottonseed production for the 2003-04 crop season are calculated on the basis of the total area under cottonseed production, per acre average requirement of labour and proportion of child labour to total work force.

The present study consists of a detailed survey of working conditions of children in 174 cottonseed farms in 38 villages in ten mandals in Kurnool, Mahaboobnagar, Rangareddy and West Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh. Out of 174 farms surveyed, 130 produce seed for various local companies and 44 for multinational seed companies. The names of local seed companies included in the survey are Nuziveedu Seeds, J.K. Seeds, Ankur Seeds, Swagath Seeds, Sri Ram Seeds, Nandi Seeds, Palamur Seeds, Tulasi Seeds, Nagarjuna Seeds and Vikki Agro Tech4. The names of MNCs are Emergent Genetics group of companies (Paras Extra Growth Seeds and Mahendra Hybrid Seeds), Proagro (owned by Bayer), Mahyco-Monsanto and Advanta. Of the total 44 MNC farms included in the survey, 16 produce seed for Emergent Genetics, 14 for Mahyco-Monsanto, five each for Proagro and Advanta. In case of four farms complete details are not available to clearly link them to specific companies but based on the limited data5 the study concluded that they produce seed for MNCs and not local companies.

As part of the study, a resurvey of farms producing seed for MNCs which were previously covered by the ICN study was undertaken. A sample of 22 cottonseed farms producing seed for different MNCs (12 for Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL), three each for Syngenta and Mahyco-Monsanto, and two each for Proagro and Advanta) were surveyed in 2001 by the author for the ICN study. When these farms were revisited during November 2003 it was found that out of 22 farms only 14 were producing seed for MNCs. The remaining 8 farms either discontinued their production or shifted to local companies6.

Structure of the report

The present report is divided into three sections. Section one examines the recent initiatives against child labour in general and cottonseed sector in particular in the state by different agencies. Section two examines the impact of the recent interventions on the overall situation of child labour in cottonseed production. The final section briefly discusses the current situation of child labour in cottonseed production in the state.



CONTENTS   SECTION I

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