With cross pollination in BT-cotton plants activity to commence from October for which child workers are mostly employed, officials are geared up to prevent farmers from employing children below 14 years.
Child workers are mostly employed in the labour-intensive sector where seeds are produced through hand emasculation and cross pollination.
Children, especially girls, who have nimble fingers and can work from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. everyday, are employed in the cotton fields that are cultivated mainly in Gangavalli, Attur, Pethanaickenpalayam and Thalaivasal blocks in the district. As many as 8 to 12 child labourers are required per acre everyday as work is continuously carried for about 80 to 100 days from October to December.
A study by UNICEF revealed that migrant children mainly from Javadu Hills in Tiruvannamalai, Vellimalai in Villupuram, and Kalvarayan Hills in Salem district and from Kolli Hills in Namakkal were employed every year.
As many as 330 migrant children were employed in 2011 while it was 419 in 2012. “The migrant labour, which is 55 per cent in 2011 was reduced to 24 per cent in 2012. We have taken measures to reduce it to zero in the current year,” P. Balamurugan, Child Protection Consultant, UNICEF, told The Hindu.
S. Govindaraj of Indira Nagar in Thalaivasal said that children can work continuously for even 14 hours a day and they are paid Rs. 200 per day apart from food and lodging.
“The work has to be continuously carried out without even a single day’s break. Hence, we employ them,” he added.
Though farmers are well aware of the existing laws that prevent them from employing child labourers, farmers in the area said that due to mounting pressure from officials they have reduced the cultivation area, thus, employing less child workers.
P.V. Viswanathan, Project Officer, ICPP, and Project Director for Society for Monitoring and Implementation of Child Labour Elimination (SMILE) said that the area from where children were coming was identified and officials in the districts concerned were informed.
“Seasonal migration is also reduced by enrolling them in special schools run under National Child Labour Project,” he added.