The Association of Trade Unions, an umbrella organisation of various trade unions fighting for the rights of beedi workers, on Tuesday urged the Union government to protect the livelihood of over 1.3 crore people as they are dependent on the beedi industry before adopting any anti-tobacco policy.
Comprising representatives from All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) and Beedi Contractors Union, the association also announced a Delhi Chalo, if the demands are not met by the Union government.
Balakrishna Shetty, president of CITU, Dakshina Kannada, told presspersons here on Tuesday that the Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment should intervene in the matter against “extreme threat to livelihoods being felt by over 1.3 crore beedi workers, in the wake of unfriendly and unproven anti-tobacco policies of the government”.
He said, “Over 30 lakh farmers are engaged in cultivation of beedi tobacco; 20 lakh Adivasis are engaged in Tendu leaf plucking and 80 lakh beedi workers are rolling beedis at their houses. They are facing threat because of anti-tobacco policies.”
Sitharam Berinja from AITUC said that the anti-tobacco policies have already created a thriving parallel tobacco smuggling industry in the country. Now, the COTPA amendment and 85 per cent graphic health warnings are looming over the beedi industry. The industry would eventually have to be shut down, he feared.
K. Abdul Khader from the Union of Beedi Contractors said that the tobacco control policies are conceived in the West and recommended by foreign-influenced health NGOs. There is considerable misinformation and false propaganda against the indigenous tobacco industry. The government should gather accurate facts and data locally before framing policies, he said.
Later, hundreds of people involved in the beedi industry took out a rally and submitted a memorandum to the Union government. The memorandum urged the government to provide viable alternative employment to beedi workers and rollers before adopting any anti-tobacco policy; to consult industry representatives before adopting any such policy and to withdraw proposed COTPA guidelines.