Saturday, Mar 17, 2018 | Last Update : 05:54 PM IST
Although the teachers try to counsel parents of these kids not to take them for such long gaps, the advice had no impact.
Chandigarh: Government school children in the cotton belt of the Malwa region in Punjab, are on unofficial holidays or “cotton break” to assist their parents pluck the cotton crop in neighbouring Haryana and Rajasthan.
The demand for extra hands in these poor farm labour families deprives their children of schooling during the three-month-long cotton season and shrinks attendance in almost all state-run schools in Malwa.
According to general secretary of Punjab Khet Mazdoor union Lachman Singh Sawewal cotton plucking is labour intensive exercise and continues for long period.
“Work in cotton fields provides employment for three months unlike paddy, which continues hardly for 15 days. These families have to go out of the state for a living and prefer taking their children with them,” he said.
Tarsem, a farm labourer from Khude Halal village in Muktsar district, said the trend of labourers from Malawa temporarily shifting to cotton-growing neighbouring states has picked up in the last three-four years.
“Last year, 12 families from our village went to Gujarat for cotton-plucking. Employing children in farm work helps boost family earnings,” he said.
In government elementary school at Doad village in Faridkot district, 34 students have gone on three-month-long leave as their families have moved over to Sriganagnagar district of Rajasthan for cotton-plucking. Similarly, in government primary school at Chanian village over 30 students are not attending classes.
Although the teachers try to counsel parents of these kids not to take them for such long gaps, the advice had no impact. But, Dharambir Singh, district education officer said, “The department is planning the conduct special courses for the farm workers' students once they return to school after three months so that they can cope with their studies.”
Interestingly, the Malwa region, known as cotton belt of Punjab, and its farm workers who specialised in cotton plucking had no problems finding jobs in local farms during the plucking season.