Over 60% percent of working children in Maharashtra are engaged in Agriculture : CRY
On World Day Against Child Labour, CRY-Child Rights and You calls for taking a closer look at the reality of children working in agriculture
Mumbai, June 2019: Contrary to popular belief, a majority of working children in India are not only found in factories, workshops, or working as domestic helps and street vendors in urban areas. Instead a large section of children are also found working in farms and fields. Whether its harvesting or planting crops, sprinkling pesticides or spraying manures on farm produce, or tending to livestock at farms and plantations, the reality of children working in agriculture cannot be ignored.
As per the Census 2011 data-sets released in the year 2016, a whopping 62.5 per cent of working children and adolescents below 18 years appear to be engaged in agriculture and related industries in India. In absolute numbers, among 40.34 millions of working children and adolescents, 25.23 million work in agricultural sector.
International Labour Organisation (ILO), recent global estimates cite that there are approximately 152 million children in child labour and seven out of every 10 working children are in agriculture. ILO also considers agriculture to be the second most hazardous occupation globally. In India too, current trends indicate that more than 60 per cent of children in the country are part of the economy sustained by agriculture and related activities. Overall estimates suggest that in India there are 40.34 million working children and adolescents between 5-19 years (62 per cent of them are boys and 38 per cent are girls).
A closer look at the Census 2011 data analysis by CRY – Child Rights and You suggests that children engaged in agricultural work majorly miss out on the opportunity of education. Among the total 40.34 million working children and adolescents within the age-group of 5-19 years, only 9.9 million attend educational institutions, which mean only 24.5% of the working children go to school. Put in simpler terms, three in every four working children are virtually denied of their right to education.
Children in agriculture in Maharashtra
In Maharashtra the percentage of working children in agriculture stands at 60. 67 percent.
In many regions of Maharashtra that are drought prone, like Marathwada, there is large scale migration hence the problem of child labour in agriculture gets exacerbated. When families migrate, the situation of children worsens—there is a rise in drop-outs, child marriages and children eventually working as daily wage labourers.
In the districts of Latur and Parbhani with most fields drying up and due to non–availability of water, families are forced to migrate with their children in search of jobs in nearby villages or cities. And also families migrate for employment during the sugarcane cutting season and children also migrate with the parents. With most villages having schools only until the primary level, many children eventually dropout of these schools and begin working with their parents at the place of migration. With the habit of being made to earn money from a very young age, there is very less possibility of the children returning to school to continue their education.
According to CRY partner Sankalp Manav Vikas Sanstha, who has been working in Parbhani district for several years now, during the months of migration, 6764 families from the talukas of Pathri, Manwat and Selu migrate to work in sugarcane harvesting.
From the perspective of children, agriculture has its own set of hazards, too. For example – handling pesticides, agricultural equipment and so on, can cause severe long term damages to children’s still developing bodies.
“Experiences gathered from past four decades of work with children and their communities go on to suggest that majority of the agricultural work in our country is carried out in situations where there is hardly any boundary between working and living conditions. Children, working in the fields, face serious dangers such as exposure to pesticides as well as pesticide-contaminated water and food. For children working in farms, hours of work can get extremely long during planting and harvesting. It is physically demanding and strenuous, involving long periods of standing, stooping, bending and carrying heavy or awkward loads,” Priti Mahara, Director Policy Advocacy and Research at CRY explained.
The first step to address the issue is to address the reasons that force children to work, says Priti Mahara. “Children work mainly to help their families because the adults do not have adequate income. Children work also because there is a demand for cheap labour in the market. When they are forced to work for long hours, their chance of attending school gets limited, preventing them from gaining education. Their time to play and leisure is somehow compromised.”
Kumar Nilendu, General Manager, Development Support, CRY- West believes that Hungami Vastigruhas (seasonal hostels) have played a major role in Maharashtra to get children working in agriculture back into education. “Because of joint efforts of the Panchayat, local schools and CRY partners working in the field there has been some major successes in ensuring that children remain in the village and hence in school where their parents migrate. Hungami Vastigruhas are a real boon which help in preventing children migrating and dropping out. The government should look at further strengthening the Hungami Vastigruha concept by increasing the funding and ensuring more enhanced quality.”