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Nearly 8 million hectares of land is under vegetable cultivation in India, and about 30% of this area is covered with hybrid varieties. The market for hybrid varieties is rapidly increasing. Hybrid seed production is a highly labour-intensive activity.

A recent study has revealed that the Hybrid Seed Production Industry in

Seeds of Bondage. Image source: www.indianet.nl

Seeds of Bondage. Image source: http://www.indianet.nl

India, dominated by multinational companies employs children as labourers.

The present study is mainly based on the analysis of primary data collected through field visits to 490 sample farms in 45 villages in six districts in three states: Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat. Of the total 490 sample farms, nearly 50% (250 farms) are located in Karnataka, 160 farms in Maharashtra and 80 farms in Gujarat.

The Indian company Bejo Sheetal, joint venture partner of Bejo Seeds from The Netherlands, tolerates widespread child labour at the farmers who supply seeds to them. The farmers providing seeds to Nunhems India – part of Nunhems Netherlands – work almost without using child labourers younger than 14. This is the main conclusion from the report ‘A Tale of Two Companies – The difference between action and inaction in combating child labour”, published by the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN)

Reasons companies employ Children include

  • Because children work tirelessly.
  • Because children can be paid less than the minimum wage.
  • Because children can be easily controlled compared to adult workers.

The report found that poverty and indebtedness are the major factors that compel families to send their children to work on the seed farms.

While child labour is banned by law, one major consequence of the invasion of the agricultural sector by corporate houses, driven by relentless search for profits based on cheap labour, is the widespread use of children in agricultural operations in sectors controlled by such companies.

It is not surprising that  seed companies are  relocating and expanding their production to new areas—pockets where cheap labour is readily available and where there is less public concern about child labour.

Our government on the other hand, is  a mute spectator.

The reports can be accessed here.

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