March 5, 2008 The Pump Handle 0Comment

In Forbes (via Gristmill), Megha Bahree reports on child labor in India. Children chisel stones, weave carpets, and work in fields for low wages, with little time off. Bahree notes that there’s a particular demand for cheap labor and small, nimble fingers in crops that require manual pollination, like Monsanto’s high-tech cotton. The biotech giant tries to keep its farmers from using illegal child labor, but problems persist. Bahree begins her story with a visit to a cotton field where Jyothi Ramulla Naga — “who says she’s 15 but looks no older than 12” — earns 20 cents an hour: 

At the edge of where Jyothi is working, a rusting sign proclaims, “Monsanto India Limited Child Labour Free Fields.” Jyothi says she has been working in these fields for the past five years, since her father, a cotton farmer, committed suicide after incurring huge debts. On a recent December morning there were teens picking cotton in nearly all of a half-dozen Monsanto farms in Uyyalawada, 250 miles south of India’s high-tech hub Hyderabad. Last year 420,000 laborers under the age of 18 were employed in cottonseed farms in four states across India, estimates Glocal Research, a consultancy in Hyderabad that monitors agricultural labor conditions. Of that total 54% were under the age of 14 and illegally employed.

In other news:

Government Accountability Office: Over the past year, the Army significantly increased support for servicemembers undergoing medical treatment and disability evaluations, but challenges remain.

Guardian: Researchers studying approxmiately 65,000 nuclear workers over 60 years have found a possible link between high levels of radiation exposure and heart disease.

New York Times: New Jersey’s Senate has passed a bill that could make the state the third in the U.S. to give employees the right to take paid leave to care for a newborn or a sick relative.

Washington Post: DC’s City Council has passed legislation requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to workers.

NIOSH: New training videos can help mine safety.

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