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


Profile of the Study Area and People Interviewed

Profits in cottonseed production are heavily dependent on the ability of seed farmers to secure cheap girl agricultural labour. How is their labour secured? What are their conditions of work? Why are they preferred to boy and adult male and adult female labour? What are the implications of this work on girls' education, health and for family poverty? In order to examine these questions a detailed field work was conducted during September 1999 and May 2000 in seven mandals10 namely, Sanjamala, Koilkuntla, Bandi Atmakur, Boothpur, Alampur, Maktal and Parigi. Sanjamala, Koilkuntla and Bandi Atmakur are situated in Kurnool district and Boothpur, Alampur and Maktal are in Mahaboobnagar district. Parigi mandal is in Rangareddy district.

A total of 20 seed farms covering 45 acres of seed cultivation were surveyed in these mandals. All the details of the children working in these farms and that of the employers were collected. A total of 380 female children are working in these farms.

Socio-economic background of families of female children

The socio-economic background of the families of working female children indicates that most of them have come from lower castes, marginal farmers and poor agricultural labouring families.

The detailed caste background shows that a majority of them belong to Scheduled Castes. Of the total 380 children, 172 (45.2%) belong to Scheduled Castes mainly from Madiga caste. 179 (47.1%) of them belong to Backward Castes like Kuruva, Magali, Chakali, and Golla. A significant number of female children from Muslim community (7.9%) are also working in cottonseed fields. Children from upper castes like Reddy, Kamma, and Brahmin form only a small proportion (2.5%) of the total-working children.
Table 6: Caste background of families of working children
No. of Families
Percentage of Families
Forward castes
Backward castes*
Scheduled castes
Scheduled tribes
* Backward Castes includes Muslim community also, which accounts for 7.9% (30) of the total families.
Table 7: Economic status of families of working children
Economic Status
No. of Families
Percentage of Families
Landless Labourers
Marginal Farmers
Small Farmers

The details of the economic status of the families of all the children are not available. The details of economic status of 320 families indicate that, a majority of them (60.8%) are either landless poor or poor peasants owning two and below two acres of land. Landless poor constitute 16.5% and poor peasants constitute 44.3% of the total families.

A majority of children belong to the age group of 10-14 years. Of the total 380, 68.3% are in the age group of 10-14 and the remaining 31.7% are in the age group of 7-9 years.

Of the total 380 children, 325 of them are local children working in the cottonseed fields of their own village. 55 of them are migrant children who were brought from distant places for the specific purpose of employing in cottonseed work. It is observed that in most of the places it is the local children who are mostly employed. In few places like Sanjamala, Koilkuntla, where there is a high concentration of seed production, the requirement of labour is very high. Seed producers in these areas employ both local and migrant children. Migrant children are brought from other backward areas by paying loans and advances to their parents. Migrant children stay with the employers through out the season.

Note: Poor peasants are those who own 2 and below 2 acres of land and mainly depend upon agricultural labour. Small peasants are those who own above 2 and below 6 acres of land and also partly depend upon agricultural labour.
Table 8: Caste background of seed producers
No. of Families
Percentage of Families
Forward castes
Backward castes
Scheduled castes
Scheduled tribes

Socio-economic profile of seed producers

Socio-economic background of seed producers indicates that most of them belong to upper castes like Kamma and Reddy, economically well off families and well educated.

Of the total 20 seed producers interviewed, eight belong to Reddy caste (Table 8), seven to Kamma, four to Backward castes and one to Scheduled castes. 14 of them came from rich peasant class background owning substantial amount of land (above 10 acres of land) and other assets.

Except one all the seed producers are educated. 12 of them are educated up to 10th class and four are graduates.

A majority of them are migrant farmers from coastal Andhra. Of the total 20, 12 are migrants. Four of them migrated in late seventies and others in late eighties. In addition to hybrid cottonseed production, these migrant farmers are also involved in cultivation of commercial cotton. In most of the places in the study area, it is the migrant farmers who have first started hybrid cottonseed production.


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