Protest by Beedi workers in city urging beedi companies to resume production or that government should provide compensation to beedi workers till the companies resumed production.
Mangaluru: As said by Balakrishna Shetty-Secretary of South Kanara Beedi Workers Federation, affiliated to Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) during the press meet held at Mangalore Press Club that Beedi workers will stage a protest in front of the office of the Assistant Labour Commissioner, Kadri, (Opposite Bharath Beedi Pvt Ltd) here on Tuesday to urge the government to direct beedi companies to resume production, a large gathering of beedi workers were seen raising slogans against the government this morning in front of the ALC office-Kadri Rd.
“The All India Beedi Industry Federation has appealed to the Union government to amend the notification on pictorial warning for the beedi industry to safeguard the interest of lakhs of workers who have limited alternative employment opportunities. The industry has to abide by the October 15, 2014 notification necessitating printing of pictorial warnings on beedi packets covering 85 per cent of each side of the packet from April 1 onwards. However, it is practically impossible to print a warning in such a large area due to the curved shape of beedi packets and the production has been stopped” Shetty said addressing the media.
“Being a law abiding industry, there is no option but to stop production. Being a traditional industry, it cannot be closed down overnight. The government has been indifferent to the plight of the beedi industry despite repeated representations from various stakeholders. All the workers, mainly women in rural areas, have been rendered jobless overnight. Beedis manufactured in India are unique to the country. Beedi industry is the third largest employer after agriculture and construction by employing 80 lakh rollers, mostly women at their homes, another 5 lakh packers, who do packing manually, 20 lakh adivasis who pluck tendu leaves, 30 lakh farmers and thus supports more than 2 crore people directly and indirectly” added Shetty.
“The companies reportedly stopped production on April 6, 2016 pressing the Union government to amend the notification on pictorial warning for the beedi industry. According to the notification, printing of pictorial warning on beedi packets covering 85 per cent of each side of the packet was mandatory from April 1. While many beedi companies have stopped the production, in the meantime, the government should provide compensation to beedi workers till the companies resumed production. Nearly two crore beedis are produced just in DK and Udupi. There are nearly 20 beedi companies in the State, having about six lakh beedi workers of whom about two lakh workers are in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi. Kasaragod district has about three lakh beedi workers.”
“The beedi companies have argued that it was practically impossible to print a warning in such a large area (85% of the space on the pack) as they would get little space to print their brands. The beedi packets being of curved shape, it is quite hard to print the warning sign on 85% of the space, leaving not enough space to print the beedi brand name. So the companies have stopped producing their products, and due to this many beedi workers have been affected and left without jobs. The federation too believed that the companies were right in their argument as it was practically impossible to print a warning covering 85 per cent area of a packet. If the government did not settle the issue, the workers would intensify their agitation in phases” warned Balakrishna Shetty.
B Shekhar, Krishnappa and Mohammed Raffi, belonging to various workers unions were also present during the press meet.