Initiating Work With Cane Cutters in Maharashtra

Initiating Work With Cane Cutters in Maharashtra

A team from Oxfam India— Ranjana Das, Ileena Roy and Nikhil Wagh—visited villages in Maharastra's Osmanabad, Beed and Ahmednagar districts to meet with sugarcane cutters who migrate every year for cane cutting. They migrate to places such as Kolhapur, Satara, and Belgaum, in states like Karnataka and Gujarat.

At Nagar village (Kader GP, Omerga Block, Osmanabad) the team met with a group from the Lamani community (Banjara community) and migrant sugarcane cutters who migrate every six months. In Jamkhed block in Ahmednagar district, the team met sugarcane cutters from Pardhi community who are historically considered as criminals.

The topics of discussions with these communities ranged from denial of any essential services, children’s education, violation of women’s rights and most importantly hazardous conditions in destinations where they migrate for cane cutting. 

The team met Asmita Kamble, President, Zilla Parishad, Osmanabad and Chairman, Social Welfare Department, Osamanabad to discuss the major issues related to the migrant sugarcane cutter communities. Kamble promised to work with Oxfam India to link them with housing and other social security schemes meant for these communities.

The visit is a part of Oxfam India’s work to address issues in sugar supply chain in Uttar Pradesh and Maharastra. 

Read Oxfam India Reports on the Human Cost of Sugar from Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra

In India, sugar is one of the most important commodities sourced by food and beverage companies. Social and economic significance of sugarcane and the fact that a significant number of people drive their livelihood from sugarcane production, makes deep delving into this sector (in the post-COVID era) imperative.

In addition, not to undermine the fact that the sugarcane supply chain remains one of the most abused when it comes to respecting human rights. Existence of child labour, gender based discrimination, gender pay disparity, poor working conditions, are to name a few forms of human rights violations in the supply chain. The informal nature of work of the workers contributes to their precarious employment, lack of legal protections and denial of basic entitlements and social securities, thereby adding to their vulnerabilities and marginalization.   

Oxfam India is initiating its work to address human rights violation mainly of the informal and migrant workers in the sugar supply chain and also addressing issues of small holder farmers. It is now designing multiple strategies of community engagement, knowledge based policy advocacy with government and private sector and awareness generation and campaign. The campaign will be mainly to influence general consumers and middle class.

This work will be done in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharastra in the respective districts of Meerut, Saharanpur and Muzaffarnagar in UP and Ahmednagar, Beed and Osmanabad in Maharastra. This work will also be linked to Oxfam’s international Behind the Brands campaign.

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