BENGALURU, June 16: IPM India, the wholesale trading arm of Philip Morris International (PMI) in India, has reported a significant improvement in school attendance as a result of its programs directed at reduction and elimination of the use of child labour by tobacco growers. The project on “Prevention of Child labour and Rural Development in tobacco growing villages of Andhra Pradesh & Karnataka” undertaken through a voluntary organization ASSIST, has focused on school infrastructure development to promote school attendance, income generation activities and building awareness.
The program has resulted in children from 34 communities in 30 villages attending school regularly. Around 8000 school children have started attending schools regularly, thereby moving out of the farm work force. The awareness programs have reached out to over 3400 children through child-to-child workshops. Awareness rallies and cultural programs involving over 7000 children have built connect with over 60,000 villagers.
“Every year PMI supports nearly 8000 children in tobacco-growing areas in AP and Karnataka on a range of projects. At PMI we are committed to sustainable farming, better opportunities for farmers and the fight to end child labour. While we don’t own tobacco farms in India, they are a crucial part of our economic, environmental, and social footprint. Consequently, we have developed a comprehensive program called Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). Through GAP, we are striving to improve the lives of millions of people in India who rely on farm work. A big part of that is eliminating child labor on tobacco farms. We also support projects in the tobacco growing communities where we operate, to reinforce this commitment,” says R Venkatesh, Director, Corporate Affairs, IPM India.
India has a large number of economically active children, estimated at 4.35 million (5-14 years) by the Census of India in 2011. Worldwide 60 per cent of all child labourers in the age group 5-17 years work in agriculture, including farming, fishing, aquaculture, forestry, and livestock. The majority of child labour are unpaid family members.
PMI’S AGRICULTURAL LABOR PRACTICES (ALP) PROGRAM
PMI is committed to progressively eliminate child labour and other labour abuses where they are found. The ALP Code defines the labour practices, principles and standards PMI expects to be met by all tobacco farmers. Farmers and suppliers are expected to adhere to the ALP Code which states that there shall be no employment or recruitment of child labour.
Philip Morris International (PMI) partners with NGOs to improve living conditions in agricultural regions where it sources tobacco. PMI has focused on “Access to Education” in India for the past decade.
One component of “Access to Education” is the School Infrastructure Development (SID) program which focuses on improving school facilities including sanitation systems, potable water systems, sports facilities, and classroom equipment.
The After School Programme (ASP) is an effort to prevent children from dropping out of school by providing them meals and engaging them in activities after school, particularly during peak agriculture seasons, when the need for working hands is higher.
According to Venkatesh, “Our contribution programme has been implemented in more than 50 schools in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Over the years, we have seen a significant change in the school-going patterns of children. Students, supported by their parents, prefer to go to schools which now have good facilities and infrastructure. We are pleased at the way in which local communities have joined hands with us in spreading awareness against child labour and encouraging students to attend schools.”