Palaces For The People
Friday, November 07, 2003

Unilever, Monsanto and other Multinationals
Involved in Large-Scale Child Labour in
India's Cotton Seed Production

Utrecht—Both Hindustan Lever Ltd., an Indian subsidiary of British-Dutch multinational company Unilever, as well as the American multinational Monsanto are making use of hazardous forms of child labour in cotton seed production in India on a large scale. An estimated number of 25.000 children, mostly girls, work an average of ten to thirteen hours a day for Hindustan Lever, while around 17.000 children work for Monsanto and their Indian subsidiary Mahyco. These children get no education, earn less than 40 Eurocents (Rs. 20) a day and are exposed to poisonous pesticides like Endosuphan [Endosulfan] during their work. More than 11.000 children work under similar conditions for the multinationals Syngenta (Swiss), Advanta (Dutch-British) and Proagro (owned by Bayer from Germany).

This is the result from the research done by the Indian researcher Dr. Davuluri Venkateswarlu for the Indian Committee of the Netherlands.

Cotton seeds: largest employment of children

In the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh alone 247.800 children work in cottonseed production and around 450.000 in whole India, most of them for Indian-owned companies. No other industry in India employs so many children. The cottonseed companies do not employ the children themselves, but they work through agents called seed organisers. The companies unilaterally fix a price for the farmers that makes it almost impossible for them to employ adults. A child earns 30% less than a woman and 55% less than a man.

Cottonseed production is very labour-intensive. The sector is 'unique' in the sense that nine out of ten of the employees are children between 6 and 14 years of age. Generally they are, through advances paid to their parents, bonded to the same employer. According to Dr. Venkateswarlu's research, almost 30% of the children are being recruited by intermediaries to work as 'migrants' away from home. These children work 12 to 13 hours a day and sleep in the farmer's cowshed or in a 'child camp' where ten to thirty children live.


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