Students skip school, work at seed units in Davangere

According to a survey conducted by Don Bosco Mission, a non-governmental organization, more than 3,000 children are engaged in seed production units in Harapanahalli taluk alone. The total number of child labourers in the district is put at 15,000.

Employment of child labourers in puffed rice units had come down drastically with the stringent steps taken by the district administration. However, the problem has surfaced again with over 600 seed production units functioning in the district.

Private companies support the seed production business and a majority of the centres in the district produce chilli seeds. They purchase the seeds at Rs 15,000 a kg, while it fetches only Rs 9,000 in the open market.

The lure of money has led the farmers to convert their farmlands into seed manufacturing plots. The demand for labourers goes up in the months of November and December as this is the time when the crops flower at the seed plots. Pollination and seed crossing are carried out at this juncture. Consequently, there has been a significant decline in the attendance of children at schools.

According to the report, the government schools in Kanchikere, Yaraballi, Halavagalu, Arsikere and Mayakonda gram panchayat limits are virtually without children. Of the 22 children admitted to a school in Toudur Lambani tanda, only one student has been attending the classes, the report says.

“We have to show at least 80 per cent attendance in records. The rules hold teachers responsible for the absence of students. It is not possible for teachers to bring the absentee  back to school, in addition to discharging their duties. Law provides for passing a student by providing him or her remedial teaching for 15 days. Hence, teachers give attendance to the absentee students also,” a teacher, who wished to be unnamed, said.

Several hazardous chemicals are used at seed production units to nurture crops, boost the yield and check pest attack. Children exposed to these chemicals are developing skin ailments. The centres pay Rs 80 as wage per day to a child.

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