The Price Some Pay for Sugar


This comic tells the story of a family that migrates seasonally from Bodhka village in Maharashtra’s Beed district to work in sugarcane fields in other parts of the state. It is inspired by reports and PARI stories, including those by reporter Parth M. N. on migrant agricultural labourers in Maharashtra and Karnataka: The long road to the sugarcane fields and Cutting cane for 2,000 hours

The 10-page comic was written by Rehaan Diaz, a writer and filmmaker, and illustrated by Farah Ahmad. Vishaka George, Senior Reporter and Social Media Editor at PARI, helped conceptualise it and provided editorial guidance. 

The members of the Kedar family in the comic – Ram, Seema and their three children – are a small section of the “1.6 million farmers who cultivate sugarcane on 700,000 hectares of land” in Maharashtra. Ram and Seema work around 14 hours a day, cutting sugarcane in extreme heat. Their children, forced to migrate along with them, are unable to attend school. The comic spotlights the difficult working conditions on these fields, the lack of medical compensation or even proper sanitation facilities. It also sheds light on how the absence of toilets forces people, especially women and young girls, to bathe and relieve themselves in the open. 

The kids in this comic reflect the conditions, as stated in the Oxfam report Human Costs of Sugar, of the 0.2 million children (aged less than 14 years) who accompany their parents every cutting season. In a day, such children may carry 20 to 25 bundles of sugarcane, each weighing around 4-5 kilograms. The gruelling labour and paltry wages come at the cost of their education.

In 2022, as per the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, India became the world's largest producer and consumer of sugar. The comic illustrates the back-breaking labour of millions of migrant cane-cutters behind every spoonful of this household staple. 

Focus by Hiranmayi Purushotham.


Author: Rehaan Diaz

Illustrator: Farah Ahmad

Editor: Vishaka George


Rehaan Diaz and Farah Ahmad