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Picking Cotton, Collecting Pains

Picking Cotton, Collecting Pains

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Published by Amjad Nazeer

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Published by: Amjad Nazeer on Nov 24, 2012
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PICKING COTTON, COLLECTING PAINS
(Socio-economic Condition of Cotton Picking Women in South Punjab)
Researcher: Amjad NazeerOxfam GB, Islamabad (Pakistan)(October 24, 2012)
 
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CONTENTS
Executive Summary………………………………………………………….……….……...…2The Euphoria of Agri-economy: ……………………………………………...….…………..7
Higher Yield - Between Myth and Reality: ..........................................................................................8
The Poison Business: ………………………………….……………………………………….9Dealing in Pesticides: ….…………………………………………………………………......10Socio-Economic Condition of Cotton Pickers: …………………………………………....11Cotton Picking and Extended Agri-tasks: …………………………………….……..…….18Bargaining Vulnerabilities: ………………………………………………………………….19Clever Calculations to Rob off Picker’s Labour: ……………………..…….…………..…20Picking Cotton in Poisonous Fields:…………………………………..…………..…..……23Growers and Dealers attitude towards Pickers: …………………………..………..……..27Labour Laws and Cotton Pickers: ……………………………………………………..……29Concluding Thoughts and Recommendations: …………………..…….….………..…….29End Notes and references: ………………………………………..……………….…………34Bibliography: …………………………………………………….……………….………..…36
 
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Executive Summary
Approximately, seven million women are engaged in cotton picking across Pakistan.More or less, one third of them come from South Punjab. The incidence of poverty inrural South Punjab is estimated to be the highest after Baluchistan and parts of Sindh,with women’s condition much worse than men. Poverty and vulnerability of the cottonpicking women speaks volumes about that.Women laborers usually start picking cotton from a very early age. For traditionalvariety, they were paid one-twentieth share of their pick. Picking modified breed,however, is monetized but the amount of wages is terribly low and highly fluctuateswithin and across the region. Paid against quantity not quality, tinkering and tamperingto rob off women’s produce is very common. Conventionalized and other deductionsare part of the day to day business. Tilting scales, underpayment, deliberatemiscalculations and delayed imbursement of wage is a matter routine. Non-literacy andgendered discriminations supplement their vulnerability. Unconvincing andunjustified, but farmers, retailers, dealers and middlemen keep extending their ownarguments based on market measures. In fact, a tight ring of oppression and abuseoperates around to exploit women’s invaluable labour. Set aside its own energy andtrade crisis, Cotton and Textile Industry thrives on women’s labour. The so called freemarket and free labour is culpable for massive inadequacies in the sector.Despite elaborate statements, women do not freely pick and chose their fields of cottonand prices to work at. Limited mobility, religious and other socio-cultural constrainscompel them to work in select fields with certain landlords at whatever wages theyoffer. Other economic compulsions like collecting fodder, fuel-wood and tenderinglivestock holds them back to work with landlords in the vicinity year in and year out.Besides picking cotton, hoeing, seedling, sapling, weeding, thinning, collecting and

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