Cotton ryots forced to pay them higher wages owing to rain

With the monsoon in full swing in the past one month in Nalgonda district owing to three cyclonic storms, coupled with the existing labour shortage in agriculture sector, the labourers in the villages are almost minting money by attending to work in cotton fields for picking cotton.

The farmers are paying more than 50 per cent of their income on each quintal of cotton production to labourers; as a result, the latter are earning about Rs.1,000 per day.

Since October 20, the district experienced incessant rains in October and November because of the cyclone Phailin and cyclone Helen. As the sky remained cloudy with rain almost everyday, the worried cotton farmers were forced to seek assistance of labourers to save their crop.

Earlier, they used to pay Rs.8 on picking of a kg of cotton and the labourer used to pick, on an average, 70 kg everyday. But now, the cost on labour on each kg has risen to Rs.14 and thus the daily income of the labourer who picks more than 70 kg has spiralled to Rs.1,000.

Speaking to The Hindu , Ramavarapu Ramesh, a cotton farmer at Peddsuraram village, said he had taken up cotton cultivation in four acres. Continuous rains in the district for five days in the last week of October and the impending rain threat saw him hire labourers for Rs.14 per kg to lure them from other farmers. Shockingly, the middlemen pay just Rs.2,500 to Rs.2,800 per quintal of damaged cotton which meant the farmers ended up in debts paying about 50 per cent of their revenue to labourers.

During off-season in agriculture sector, the agricultural labourers are seen coming to towns for working as construction labourers, but the trend has reversed as the labourers from Nalgonda district are also seen going to villages in search of better pay. With the labour charges escalating, many school children are skipping classes to help their farmers in cotton picking. J. Purusotham Reddy, a mathematics teacher at Thipparthy, ZPHS High School, said nearly 30 to 50 per cent of the students from each class miss classes during the cotton picking season.

Joint Director, Agriculture, M.D. Jameel Shameed Siqqiue, said it has come to their notice that farmers faced higher labour costs due to the extended rainy season.