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CHENNAI – The southern state of Telangana in India will begin to map its entire cotton supply chain for the first time in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation in a bid to tackle child labour and modern slavery. Six out of ten cotton growing districts in Telangana will be mapped for labour violations under the project to begin with under the three-year project. Cotton growing farms and spinning mills will be tracked as part of the work in a bid to ensure the industry adheres to ILO standards. Surveys in the country have shown that 80 per cent of child labour is in agriculture.

Telangana is the third highest in terms of cotton cultivation and production in India, after Gujarat and Maharashtra.

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“This is for the first time in India that an integrated approach to identify both child and bonded labour is being undertaken,” said Eslavath Gangadhar, director of Telangana’s agency that tackles child and bonded labour.

“This issue is very relevant for us because recent surveys have shown that more than 80 per cent of child labour cases are being reported in agriculture. And even globally, the focus is on sustainable cotton.”

The world’s second largest cotton producer after China, India was the only country named by the US Department of Labour report in 2016 for having child and forced labour in cottonseed production and cotton growing.

A report from the Thomson Reuters Foundation said the project will also look at gender discrimination in salaries for agriculture workers and whether they have collective bargaining rights.

The state will also train officials to identify and stop any form of forced labour in cotton fields.

The initial focus will be to gather evidence and map the status of child labour, forced labour and gender discrimination.

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