ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Sugar Cane Cutters in Maharashtra


Like every year, the sugar belt of Maharashtra will soon receive seasonal migrants to harvest sugar cane fields. The harvesting season starts in October and ends in March. Workers generally migrate from drought-prone and tribal districts towards the sugar belt. These workers are mainly poor, illiterate, lower-caste, and landless people. The well-known fact is that these workers confront myriad problems and compromise at multiple levels after migration. Importantly, in 2019, news reports had highlighted the high proportion of hysterectomies among women sugar cane cutters in Maharashtra. As a result, sugar cane cutters in Maharashtra were part of the sociopolitical discourse for a while. Diverse media platforms debated issues of these workers such as the exploitation of their labour rights, issues related to housing and sanitation, education, and citizenship rights. However, practically none of the problems reached anywhere near being solved. The different issues of these workers are neglected on multiple grounds. Similarly, their health issues are sidelined and are not even a part of any sustained discourse. This letter seeks to underline the negligence of sugar factories and the public health system in its failure to not providing adequate health services to these workers.

Seasonal migration is not only limited to adult male and female workers, but it also involves newborn babies and school-going/school-dropout children. Paradoxically, even pregnant and lactating women are no exception in being seasonal migrants. Their different age groups eventually demarcate migrants’ varying health needs. Workers need services to maintain their occupational, reproductive, and overall health. In this regard, basic questions arise: How do these workers fulfil their health needs at the destination of work? Do healthcare providers at the destination and sugar factories address workers’ health needs? At large, the answer is that in Maharashtra, no district/sugar factory comprehensively addresses workers’ healthcare needs.

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Updated On : 30th Sep, 2023
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