Fund for it is raised through a welfare cess levied on the beedi producers

The All India Beedi Workers' Federation has issued a statement “strongly opposing” the Centre's decision to withdraw the scholarship given to children of beedi workers studying between class one and eight.

In a statement, Centre of Indian Trade Unions-affiliated federation national president B. Madhava said the children of beedi workers who were studying between class one and eight should be provided scholarship. A recent circular issued by the Centre had removed children studying between classes one and eight from the list of beneficiaries of the scholarships.

Mr. Madhava told The Hindu on Thursday that when he asked the Commissioner for Beedi Workers Welfare Fund the reason for this circular, he was told that it had been done because the Right to Education Act would make education for children up to class eight free and compulsory.

However, Mr. Madhava said the Government should not withdraw the scholarship for two reasons. First, it was a welfare fund raised through a welfare cess levied on beedi producers. Therefore, it was a welfare measure that benefitted the beedi workers directly from the manufacturers while the funds were only routed through the Government. “The Government is not spending a single paisa (on the scholarship),” Mr. Madhava said.

Second, although education was made free and compulsory under the RTE, there were other costs to education such as transportation and books which were not provided by the Government, he said.

Mr. Madhava said children who did not complete their education up to class eight would not make it to classes IX and above.

Mr. Madhava said the Beedi Workers Welfare Fund Act of 1976 and the rules framed under it had made it possible for lakhs of beedi workers to send their children to school. Had it not been for this scholarship, lakhs of children would have been child labourers, he said.