Mangaluru: Beedi Industry and workers Protection Committee Karnataka held a press meet at Hotel Woodlands here on February 9. The press meet was later followed by a protest at the Jyothi Circle by the Beedi Workers.
Addressing the mediapersons, President, Centre of Indian Trade Unions BalaKrishna Shetty said, “There are 30 lakh farmers engaged in the cultivation of tobacco, 20 lakh adivasis are engaged in leaf plucking and 80 lakh beedi workers are rolling beedis in their homes. None of the 1.3 crore workers have any alternate means of earning their livelihood. They are already facing threat because of the anti-tobacco policies. It is important to protect their livelihood through a well thought policy framework rather than the adoption of unproven policies.”
He further said,”Rules like COTPA Amendment and 85% Graphic Health warning share is looming to take its victim in the beedi industry. We will have to eventually shut down the industry if this 85% warning is introduced. These will lead to large scale unemployment and social unrest in the state. The children of beedi workers will not be sent to school as the source of their fees will be terminated. We urge the government to protect this indigenous industry and immediately recall unproven and unsubstantiated rules.”
“There is a lot of misinformation and false propaganda against the Tobacco industry. Government needs to gather accurate facts and data before framing policies with mass and sweeping adverse effect on crores of rural workers. We urge the labour minister to help us put our case to the Union Government. We will March to Delhi along with mass protests and stirs if demands of the industry are not met.”he added.
Sitharam Berinja from the All India Trade Union Congress, HV Rao, Mohammed Raffi,Secretary, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, Abdul Khader Union of Beedi Contractors were also present at the press meet.
After the press meet a mammoth rally comprising of 25,000 beedi workers was held from the Jyothi Circle. The rally was held to submit a memorandum to Bandaru Dattatreya , Union Minister for labour and Employment.
The demands are as follows:
1.Government should provide viable alternative employment opportunities to beedi workers and rollers before any anti tobacco policy is adopted, to prevent mass social unrest.
2.Industry representatives should be consulted and tripartite meetings held before passing any rules against the industry.
3.Withdrawal of proposed COTPA guidelines including the notification seeking 85% of the beedi label to contain a warning.
4.Penalize false propaganda and misinformation by health activists against the indigenous beedi and tobacco industry.
The rally culminated at Nehru Maidan near RTO ,Mangaluru.