Seeds of Bondage: Female Child Bonded Labour in Hybrid Cottonseed Production in Andhra Pradesh


  1. The advent of hybrids in seventies brought significant changes in the quantity and quality of cotton in India. Quantity of production, which was about 5 million bales before the advent of hybrids, rose to 13 million bales in 1992-93. Productivity rose from 122 kg lint per hectare to 290 kg lint per hectare during the same period. Hybrids also helped to the improvement of quality of cottons. Long and extra staple cottons, which constituted only 24% of the production when hybrids first appeared on the scene now constitute 54%. Hybrid cottonseed production is highly labour intensive. It is estimated that during 1997-98 nearly 9000 tonnes of hybrid cottonseed was produced in India for commercial cultivation generating about 45 million labour days of employment. (Basu and Paroda 1995, Singh 1999).

  2. Studies have revealed that the system of bonded labour in agriculture sector was almost confined to adult males and boys. Employing women as bonded labourers was rare, and female children, completely unknown. A national survey conducted in 1976 on incidence of bonded labour in India had revealed that 97.7% of bonded labourers were men and boys, and only 2.3% of them were women. There were no girls working as bonded labourer. In the case of women also, the employers did not directly take them as bonded labour - this came about subsequent to the demise of their husbands who were working as bonded labourers. See Sarma Marla (1981), 'Bonded Labour in India - National Survey on the Incidence of Bonded Labour', pp. 20-22 and Patnaik and Dingwaney (1985), 'Chains of Servitude - Bondage and Slavery', p. 259.

  3. For detailed reference list of studies on child labour in different industries, see Richerd Anker et al (ed) (1998): 'Economics of Child Labour in Hazardous Industries of India.

  4. For the review of studies on feminisation of agricultural labour in South India, see Da Corta and Venkateswarlu (1999).

  1. In India the use hybrid seeds in cotton first started in 1970 with the release of world's first hybrid I cotton H-4 from Cotton Research Station, Surat in Gujarat. This hybrid cotton by virtue of its high yield potential and adaptability became popular among the farmers initially in Gujarat and later on in states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamilnadu. Since 1970, a number of new hybrids have come up and the use hybrids has been rapidly increasing. By the late 1990s, nearly 40% of the area under cotton has come under the use of different hybrid varieties (Basu and Paroda, 1995).

  2. Exact data on how much of seed is locally consumed within state and how much is exported to other states and countries is not available. According to unofficial sources, however, more than 60% of all seed produced is exported, both to other states in India and to inernational markets (interviews with K. Murahari Rao, former president of A.P. Seedsmen Association, Vidhyasagar Rao, Managing director of Vibha seeds and K. Prasad, Managing Director of Amareswara Agri Tec.).

  3. In 1990-2000 AP State Seed Development Corporation has taken up hybrid cottonseed production in about 250 acres only.

  4. The area under hybrid cotton in India has increased from 3% to 40% during 1975-1998 (see Singh, 1999).

  5. In May 1998, American biotechnology giant Monsanto bought 26% of share in Mahyco (India's largest and also till recently world's largest hybrid cottonseed producing company) for 1.8 billion rupees ($43.3 million) and formed a joint venture called Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech Limited.

  1. Mandal is a middle level local administrative unit. Each mandal consists of 20-30 villages.

  1. In order to counter the campaign against child labour by a local NGO (Mamidipudi Venkatarangaiah Foundation) seed employer in Chityala village, Parigi mandal, started a night school for female children working in his cottonseed farms. He tried to convince the parents that their children will also get education while working. This experiment soon failed because children were unable to attend the night school after putting long hours of work in the daytime in the fields.

  1. This study titled ' Pattitotalalo Balikala Veni Chakiri' was carried out by the present author. The second edition of this hook was published in September, 2000 by Azad Reading Room.

  2. Pasula Narsamma, a 12 year old girl in Pudur Mandal, died while working in the cottonseed fields in September 1998. It was suspected that the inhalation ofpesticides sprayed in cotton fields caused her death. The issue was prominently reported in newspapers. MV Foundation filed a case against the employer. In order to avoid any enquiry/litigation employer with help of village elders made an agreement with the parents of Narsamma by paying Rs.10,000 compensation.

  3. Rs.4 lakhs fine was levied against one employer in Siva Reddy Peta village.

  4. One Telugu daily newspaper carried a front page article criticising the Labour Department initiative. In a close conversation with the author, one seed company owner revealed that they even met the ministers and influenced them to put pressure on Labour Department for not initiating any action against seed employers.

  1. In Alavakonda village in Sanjamala mandal few seed farmers are completely depending upon adult labour and are competing well with other seed farmers.

  2. BASIX is a recently started private financial institution operating in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka states. It aims at promoting rural livelihoods by using innovative methods and channels in extending credit to hitherto unreached and neglected rural customers. Hybrid cottonseed production is seen by BASIX as one which has great potential for generating rural employment and is actively supported by extending credit facilities to farmers through intermediary channels like seed organisers, seed processing units and input dealers.

  3. BCF is a not-for-profit business coalition, established in New Delhi by Indian and international companies, in association with the Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum, UK. BCF is an alliance of like minded companies who believe that the business can be a powerful and positive force for change in today's society.

India Committee of the Netherlands / Landelijke India Werkgroep - June 6, 2003