One Sweet Step At A Time

One Sweet Step At A Time

The management of the Loknete Sundarrao Solanke Co-Operative Sugar Factory in Maharashtra's Beed district has taken the responsibility of registration of sugarcane cutters and promised education material for the children of the cutters associated with their factory. The registration of cane cutters is a big step towards providing them social security. This was also a big step for the children, who migrate with their parents for nearly six months (from Diwali to March) and have no recreational or learning avenues. 

This announcement was made on 6 Dec, at the Bal Anand Melava, organised by Oxfam India's team in Beed district along with the sugar factory to mark Children's Day. While the main event was to provide recreational programme for the children of the migrant cutters, Oxfam India also managed to get a commitment for the welfare of the migrant workers from the factory owners.

In the run up to the event, the Beed team had done a survey of the sugarcane cutters — 129 workers' families and 410 people — associated with the Telgaon factory. There were 114 children under the age of 18 and the survey found that children were deprived of educational and recreational activities. The survey also brought to light the issue of women's health which was mainly related to poor water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities. 

The survey also brought up issues related to a) online registration of sugarcane workers, b) drinking water, c) Lighting facilities in areas where workers live, d) the requirement for blankets, sweaters and shoes in the winter season, e) educational material for students, f) availability of free accommodation for sugarcane cutters, and g) residential hostel for students. 

The Bal Anand Melava was planned strategically to raise the issue of migrant workers and their children with the factory management and also build a rapport to work together in the future for the rights of the migrant cutters and their families. 

The MD of the factory, Mahadev Ghorpade was the chief guest. Also present on the occasion were Chief Agriculture Office Sanjay Kharat, and Security Officers Vishwanath Thombre and Govind Bade. The Bal Anand Melava held in the factory campus was attended by all 114 children and their parents. "During the programme we explained the situation of the children to the factory owners and presented the survey findings with them," say Om Prakash Giri, Oxfam India's District Programme Officer, Beed. 

Ghorpade appreciated Oxfam India’s work with sugar cane workers and promised to register all the cane cutters associated with their factory and provide learning material for the children. 

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Oxfam India under “ensuring rights, entitlements and dignity of informal sector workers” is working on “responsible supply chain” with special focus on tea and sugar supply chain. The main aim has been to influence the private sector and government to ensure the rights of mainly the unorganised workers in the supply chain.

Read our story on awareness creation on registration of cane cutters

In Maharashtra, Oxfam India is working in the districts of Beed, Osmanabad and Ahmednagar from where almost a million sugarcane cutters migrate every year for cane cutting to various other parts of Maharastra, Karnataka and Gujarat. Oxfam India’s 2019 research Human Cost of Sugar brought out grave issues of human rights violations in the sugar supply chain that included low wages, adverse working conditions, exploitation by labour contractors, and untimely payment of wages. Inaccessibility of social protection schemes is another big challenge for the migrant workers.

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It is in the above context that Oxfam India initiated a programme to highlight the human rights issues in the supply chain and influence both private sector (mainly mills, factories) and government to bring a change in the lives of sugarcane cutters who are otherwise invisible. The programme is in 60 villages of Beed, Osmanabad and Ahmednagar districts where we are mobilising around 12,000 workers to ensure their basic rights of minimum wages, decent working conditions and linking them with social protection schemes. We are also working in the catchment of 15 factories to provide the migrant workers decent working conditions and minimum wages.

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This is one step ahead in the endeavor to make private sector more responsible towards workers in the supply chain.

As it is said—If one wants to enjoy his rights, the other has to carry out his duties—Oxfam India is now confident to many more such wins in coming days for ensuring rights of sugarcane cutters.

📢Oxfam India is now on Telegram. Click here to join our Telegram channel and stay tuned to the latest updates and insights on social and development issues. 


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