1.3 lakh children working as labourers in Guj farms: NGO

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Ahmedabad: Nearly 1.30 lakh children, mostly tribal, are illegally employed at cottonseed farms in Gujarat, a city-based NGO has claimed.

Taking cognisance of the matter, an official from the state labour department told PTI on Tuesday that they will send their teams in areas specified by the NGO and take action if any wrongdoing is found.

Low prices paid by seed companies to farmers is one of the main reasons why cultivators are employing children instead of adults for cross-pollination work in the fields, Sudhir Katiyar, from the Centre for Labour Research and Action, told reporters here on Monday.

"According to a study, tribal children are paid just Rs 150 for a day's work, something for which an adult labourernever settles. As many as 1.30 lakh children are engaged as labourers in cottonseed farms," Katiyar claimed.

After the state government's firm action against child labour in such farms in north Gujarat region around 10 years back, the cottonseed industry has shifted production to tribal farms in Banaskantha, Sabarkantha, Arvalli, Mahisagar and Chhotaudepur districts, he said.

"Though the shift has significantly reduced migration and trafficking of children from south Rajasthan, child labour continues in the cottonseed industry as local tribal children are now engaged as farm labourers," Katiyar said.

To stop this illegal practice, seed companies should consider giving better prices to farmers for cottonseed yield, he said.

"We also urge the government to take note of the altered practices in the industry and devise a new strategy to stop child labour," he added.

When contacted, state deputy labour commissioner M C Karia told PTI that they have taken note of the issue raised by Katiyar and action will be taken if needed.

"Our department had earlier broken an entire chain of child labour and trafficking in north Gujarat region. We regularly conduct drives to keep a check on this activity," the official said.

"I will send teams in these areas and take action if any wrongdoing is found," he added.


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