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Seed producers chalk out plan to discourage child labour

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C.R. Sukumar

Hyderabad, Dec. 8

THE hybrid seed manufacturers have chalked out an action plan with the help of Government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to tackle the child labour problem in the seed industry across the country.

This is in response to the widespread criticism the multinational seed companies were facing for not effectively discouraging the use of child labour by the contract seed farmers. Several studies in the recent past have pointed out that the Indian seed production market, roughly estimated at around Rs 4,500 crore, is dominated by child labour.

According to Mr Clive J. Pegg, Managing Director of Proagro, a Bayer CropScience Group company, the `no-child labour' movement was taken up by the seed majors in the country three years ago.

As a part of this programme, major awareness campaigns are being taken up in villages where child labour is used in seed production. The results of the action plan are being constantly monitored and reviewed at periodic intervals to make necessary changes to further reduce child labour in seed farms, Mr Pegg told Business Line.

One of the key initiatives under the action plan is to offer attractive incentives to contract farmers who discontinue employing child labour and increase adult labour. The plan also envisages imposing sanctions on farmers employing child labour and even rejecting their seed procurement. The seed majors were also discontinuing the contract agreements with such farmers, Mr Pegg said.

Further, the seed companies are initiating measures towards adopting the villages where the seed farmers come forward to discourage child labour. The seed companies are extending financial support towards building schools and learning centres for children brought out of the farms. Stating that Proagro on its part has been taking up the `no-child labour' movement quite aggressively, Mr Pegg claimed nearly 80 per cent success. He attributed a significant part of this success to the support extended by the local NGOs and Government.

"Unfortunately, some of the local seed companies are not supporting our initiatives in discouraging child labour since it has been a long established practice for them. This is where the problem becomes more serious. The local companies are employing those children whom we discouraged on our farms. With the help of NGOs, we are trying to convince these local seed manufacturers to join our `no-child labour' movement," Mr Pegg said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 9, 2005)
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