25 October, 2020

Meet The Parents

Teen marriages, migrant labour and cane factories in crisis. A vicious cycle.

Atul Loke
Meet The Parents
It's the same old story, only with a few new twists. Santosh Shinde, 14, son of landless labourers who take an Rs 8,000 loan to educate him. Now the moneylender wants the loan repaid, so the cash-strapped Shindes take a salary advance from the only man offering jobs around town, a sugarcane factory contractor. The advance is for two couples (a couple is a unit of work here) to cut cane for a season at a Karnataka factory. Problem is, they are just a husband, a wife and a gawky boy. So the Shindes hurriedly find a bride for Santosh: another 14-year-old, Pushpa, who accompanies them from their village in Maharashtra's Osmanabad district to Karnataka. They stop en route for a no-frills marriage at a temple.

Such teenage marriages are getting increasingly common in the drought-prone districts of Beed and Osmanabad, where nearly 1,00,000 people work as migrant sugarcane labourers in western Maharashtra's sugar factories. There's even a name for it, 'gatekin'. It probably comes from the makeshift camps these migrant labourers set up outside the factory gates in the cane-cutting...


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