The new report Seeds of Oppression by ARISA describes slavery-like conditions in Gujarat’s cotton sees industry. Workers, many Dalits, produce cotton seed, yet receive no wages and owe the landowner debts.
All stakeholders … need to acknowledge that discrimination on the basis of caste and tribal background is a highly problematic issue that needs to be urgently addressed. There are many ways of doing this. Suggested ways forward are:
- Include discrimination on the basis of caste and tribal background, in corporate two-way codes of conduct and monitoring programmes. There are various helpful tools that companies, MSIs and RBC initiatives can use to help with this, such as the Dalit discrimination check (IDSN, 2008)33, ETI Guidance on Caste in Global Supply Chains (ETI, 2019)34, and the Ambedkar Principles and Guidelines to address Caste Discrimination in the Private Sector (ISDN, 2009)
- The OECD should include discrimination on the basis of caste, and other similar forms of discrimination, in the OECD Guidelines for Multinationals.
- Cotton seed companies should consistently create awareness among their field-staff, among farm owners (kheduts), contractors and seed organisers of the issues of bonded labour and caste discrimination, this baghiya system and the implications thereof.
- Cotton seed companies should ensure that the issues of bonded labour and caste discrimination are explicitly addressed and mentioned in policy documents.
- National and state level governments should enact equality laws that prohibit public and private employer discrimination on the basis of caste or analogous systems, take steps to remove customary constraints on leaving traditional caste-based occupations and promote gainful alternative employment opportunities and full access to markets for members of affected communities.