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  • Book launch: A Study on the lack of Alternate employment for Women Beedi worker

    Published on December 15, 2021

    New Delhi : The 200-year-old Beedi is the original Swadeshi product of India, and was considered as such on par with Khadi during the Freedom Movement. The centuries old Beedi Industry is in a unique position to deliver on the Honorable Prime Minister’s vision to create sustainable livelihoods across India’s diverse socio-economic landscape, in keeping with his initiatives of ‘Make In India’ and ‘Go Vocal for Local’ to foster a proud AtmaNirbhar, Swadeshi Bharat.

    1.      Beedi, a proudly hand crafted, natural, indigenous product that epitomizes ‘Swadeshi’ :

    • Beedis are manufactured with a Desi Tobacco, grown from a non GMO, native seed. This tobacco is not treated with any sugar, chemicals or synthetic additives, and is distinct from Virginia Tobacco used in Cigarettes.
    • The Beedi is wrapped in ‘Tendu’ leaf, a forest produce, wholly controlled by the Government of India which is a huge seasonal revenue creator, and a major employment generator for our Tribal population in remote areas.
    • The ‘Suta’ used for tying the Beedi is also made of indigenous cotton thread.
    • Beedi rolling is a skill acquired over time and passed on from generation to generation in the family and compliments the agricultural income of many households.

    2.      Beedi Rolling is in complete synergy with P.M’s ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharat’ vision in the employment it generates pan India for 2.3 Crore workers : The industry

    • Employs 85 Lakh rural, home- based Bidi Rollers, of which 84% are women
    • Employs 5 lakh Packers, Checkers, Bhattawalas for natural curing, Record Keepers etc. in the remotest parts of India
    • Employs 40 lakh Adivasis and other Tribals engaged in the seasonal plucking & drying of Tendu leaves from the forests.
    • Supports and provides employment to 30 lakh Farmers and Farm Workers engaged in the cultivation of Beedi Tobacco.
    • Supports over 75 lakh people pan India in the retail and micro retail sector

    3.      Beedi Rolling, a skill based livelihood, sustains the financial independence of 65 lakh home based, rural Women BeediRollers and promotes the ‘BetiBachao, BetiPadhaoAbhiyaan’ and helps their next generation get a formal education:

    The industry

    • Is amongst the highest employment providers for women in the country
    • Employs 65 lakhHome-Based Women Beedi Rollers
    • Generates an income for Women BeediRollers which is an essential source of livelihood to their families
    • Provides additional employment benefits which cover :

    a)      Basic Wage & Dearness allowance

    b)      Provident Fund contribution.

    c)      Bonus, Leave with Wages & National Festival Holiday Wages.

    d)      Housing loan and subsidy

    e)      Comprehensive benefits under the Labour Welfare Organization including specialized medical treatment, Scholarships to Beedi Workers children, and financial assistance for construction of homes.

    The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, proposes to amend COTPA 2003. The Ministry has put a draft of the said Bill on their website for comments/views.

    Most of the proposed amendments are directly going to affect the livelihood of 2.3 crore workers currently employed in the Beedi Industry. They have no alternative employment. Providing employment for 2.3 Crore workers overnight is highly improbable, considering the present rate of unemployment.

    The proposed harsh and punitive COTPA amendments are unreasonable and need to be re-considered so as not to strangulate the Beedi industry.

    It is critical to segregate Beedis from Cigarettes and Chewing Tobacco and to reformulate separate Rules for Beedies under COTPA 2003, while finalizing the proposed amendments and save this indigenous, high employment generating, totally Swadeshi industry. In the interest of the livelihood of 85 Lakh Beedi Workers, 40 Lakh native Adivasis and Tribals engaged in Tendu leaves plucking, 30 Lakh Beedi Tobacco farmers and workers who are directly dependent on the Beedi industry COTPA amendments should not be applied to the Beedi industry.

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