Child Labour in Hybrid Cottonseed Production in Gujarat and Karnataka


Girl child labour in cottonseed farms in Karnataka

After Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka has the largest area under hybrid cottonseed production in India. Karnataka is the first state in south India to produce hybrid cottonseeds for commercial cultivation. Cottonseed production begun in Karnataka in early 1970s by migrant farmers from Andhra Pradesh. Slowly the local farmers also entered the seed production activity. In Karnataka, cottonseed production is concentrated in five districts namely Raichur, Koppal, Gadag, Baghalkot and Havari. These five district account for over 90% of the cottonseed production in the state. In Raichur and Koppal districts, it is still the migrant farmers who are mostly involved in cottonseed production activity. In Raichur district, seed production activity is concentrated in Sindhanur taluk, in Koppal district (Kanakagiri taluk), in Baghalkot district (Badami taluk), in Gadag district (Ron taluk) and in Haveri district ( Haveri taluk).

The large seed companies involved in production and marketing of hybrid cottonseeds in Karnataka are Proagro, Emergent Genetics, Advanta, Mahyco-Monsanto, Nuziveedu and JK Agritech. In addition to the private seed companies, the government owned corporation (Karnataka Seed Development Corporation) is also actively involved production and marketing of public varieties of hybrid cottonseeds. The Karnataka State Seed Development Corporation covers nearly 20% of the area under cottonseed production in the state, whereas in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, the state seed development corporations account for less than 5% of the production area. Both private seed companies and the Karnataka State Seed Development Corporation are dependent upon local farmers for production and multiplication of seeds, where they make buy back arrangements with seed farmers. They operate through intermediaries called` seed organisers` who mediate between the companies and the farmers.

Field work for this study was carried out in 20 cottonseed farms in eight villages in three districts namely Koppal , Gadag and Bagalkote. The names of 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). The main part of the field work was conducted during September and November 2003.

Workforce composition

Table 3 presents workforce composition in 20 surveyed sample cottonseed farms. The work in cottonseed farms is largely carried out by hired labour. Of the total 302 workers engaged in these farms during cross pollination season 250 of them (82.8%) are hired labourers and 52 are family labourers. Unlike in Gujarat where most of the labourers in cottonseed farms are migrants, in Karnataka most of the labourers are locals. Out of 250 hired labourers 228 ? (91.2%) are local and 8.8% are migrants.

Table 3: Workforce composition in cottonseed farms in Karnataka (2003-04)
Total number of farms surveyed (area in acres)
20 (28 acres)
Total number of workers engaged during cross pollination activity
Type of labour
  Hired labour

52 (17.2%)
250 (82.8%)
Type of hired labour

22 (8.8%)
228 (91.2%)
Age group
  Children (8-14 years)
&nbs; Young workers (15-18 years)
  Adults (above 18 years)
Total (%)
203 (67.2)
63 (20.9)
36 (11.9)

Age and gender divisions

Similar to Andhra Pradesh, a large proportion of the workforce in cottonseed farms are children. Over two thirds of the labour force (67.2%) are children in the age group of 7 to 14 years. Among children, girls account for nearly 88%. Women (girls and adult women) account for nearly 80% of the total labour force. 15 to 18 years age group of workers account for nearly 21% the total labour force. In areas where cottonseed production is done by migrant farmers on a large scale the proportion of child labour to the total labour force is higher compared to areas where production is carried out by local farmers on a smaller scale.


Advance payments and long term agreements

As cottonseed production requires an assured supply of labour for carrying out various activities, particularly cross- pollination work, farmers prefer long-term agreements with labourers. Agreements are signed before the beginning of the season and an advance is paid by the labor contractors. The practice of paying advances is widely prevalent in areas where migrant farmers are involved in cottonseed production. The amount of advances varies between Rs 200 to Rs 2000.

Wage rates and working hours

The wage rates are fixed for the whole season at the time of signing of the agreement. During 2003-04, the daily wage rates paid to labourers in cottonseed farms varied between Rs 17 to Rs 25. In Ron Taluk, Gadag district where cottonseed production is highly concentrated, the wage rates are relatively higher compared to other areas. In this area the daily wage rates varied between Rs 20 to Rs 25. Except in the case of young children (below 10 years) who are paid Rs 2 to Rs 5 less, the wage rates are the same for every one irrespective of their age and gender.

The working hours per day varys between normal and peak seasons. During normal seasons, labourers work 10 hours a day from 8.30 AM to 6.30 PM and during peak seasons, they work 12 hours a day from6.30 AM to 6.30 PM. No payment is made for non working days and holidays are not given.

Mallamma (14 years) : case study of girl child labour

Mallamma, a 14 year girl, has been working in cottonseed farm of an employer in her village (Varagappa village, Badami taluk, Baghalkote district) for four years. She has become an expert in the cottonseed pollination activity. She has never gone to school . Her father works in a shop in the nearest town called Badami and her mother is an agricultural labour. The family owns two acres of land, which is rain fed agriculture. The village falls in the tail end of Malaprabha left Bank Canal system. Mallamma is the eldest child in the family with two younger brothers, one going to primary school and the other is still a small baby. Mallamma is not only an expert in cotton seed cross pollination but also handles other agricultural activity such as application of fertilizer, cotton picking and other activities.

The day starts very early for Mallamma during cross-pollination activity on the cottonseed farms. She wakes up at 5 AM and gets ready by 6 AM to go to the field, which is one kilometer away from her house. She reaches the field by 6.30 AM and works there until 1 PM. From 1 PM to 2 PM, she breaks for lunch. From 2 PM to 6.30 PM, she returns to work to do emasculation in the field.

Mallamma gets Rs 25 a day for her work. The agreement between her and her parents regarding her wage payment is that the employer pays Rs 5 to her for working from 6.30 AM to 8.30 AM, and the remaining wage sum of Rs 20/- for working from 8.30 AM to 6.30 PM goes to her parents. The wage that goes into Mallammas' hand is saved with the farmers and is collected once a month to buy some clothes, earrings, and bangles in the weekly market called Santhe and visits to the cinema.

`I work in our farm as and when there is work, but most of the time, I am a wage labourer. I prefer working with this farmer who is a settler from Andhra Pradesh because he is the biggest farmer in the surrounding village and one or the other work we keep getting. The cottonseed plots are raised in batches with the gap of 20 days which gives employment in cross pollination activity for longer duration (4 to 5 months in a year). Further, this farmer mainly grows seeds in other crops and floriculture also, thus there is continuous labour for nearly 8 months` says Mallamma.

Roshanbi (11 Years) : Case study of a girl child labour

Roshanbi (11 Years) : Case study of a girl child labour Roshanbi, (11 years) resident of Kalkapur village, is a school going girl, studying in 5th standard in government school. Her father works in Goa State and mother is an agricultural labourer. Since 2001, she would stop going to school for almost three months during cottonseed crossing activity.

`The schoolteacher will scold us for not going to school but what to do there is no other go. Many families in the village practice this. At least I go to school after the work is over, some of them do not go at all and become school drop out. After the crossing is over my uncle come and tell the teacher to take the me back in school` says Roshanbi.

Roshanbi parents collect her wage and she is given some coins to buy some sweets in petty shop in village. She is paid Rs 20 per day for 11 hours of work from 7.30 AM to 6. 30 PM.

Magnitude of the child labour problem

The estimates of child labourers are calculated on the basis of total area under cotton seed production, per acre average requirement of labour and proportion of child labour to total work force. The sample survey data indicates that an average of 6.7 children are employed in one acre cottonseed farm. During 2003-04 crop season, the total estimated area under cottonseed production was 4000 acres.
Based on this assumption the total number of child labourers (7-14 years) employed in cottonseed farms in Karnataka for 2003-04 is estimated at 26,800, out of which nearly 88% are girls.


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