New welfare measures for beedi workers

HYDERABAD OCT. 10. The Union Labour Minister, Saheb Singh Verma, today announced a slew of measures for beedi workers, including uniform wages, raising the subsidy amount on housing, handing over dispensaries meant for them to the ESI, increasing the insurance coverage to Rs. 1 lakh and a new pension scheme.

The Central Advisory Committee on the Beedi Workers Welfare Fund (BWWF), held under the chairmanship of Mr. Verma, here took these decisions. A major decision was on ensuring payment of uniform wages in all the States to end the disparity in cost of production, for which a letter is being written to all Chief Ministers.

Addressing a press conference, Mr. Verma said these decisions taken to enhance social security coverage would benefit 40 lakh beedi workers all over the country, including six lakh in Andhra Pradesh. The subsidy amount from the fund for building houses for these workers was raised from Rs. 9000 to Rs. 20,000 per unit. In areas where the State Government allotted land for creating a new village for beedi workers, the subsidy amount could go up to Rs. 40,000 unit, he added.

Another major decision was to hand over dispensaries and hospitals, now run under the fund, to the Employees State Insurance (ESI) for better management. With this, the beedi workers possessing identity cards would have access to all the ESI dispensaries and hospitals outside their areas. Facilities in all these were being improved and 16 hospitals were being upgraded at a cost Rs. 300 crores in a phased manner. The Minister said that in an innovative approach, the insurance amount due to a beedi worker dying in accident was being raised to Rs. 1 lakh by bringing about a convergence in a variety of insurance schemes offered to him. It included the Janashri BhimaYojana for accident victims.

He said the new pension scheme of paying Rs. 500 a month to indigent beedi workers had been approved by the Union Cabinet Sub-Committee. It was expected to come up before the next Cabinet meeting. In the event of the death of the worker, dependants would get the same amount a month.

Other welfare measures included the payment of Rs. 5000 each to two daughters of the widow of a beedi worker for conducting their marriage and Rs. 100 each a child per month for meeting the expenditure on education.

A certain amount would be earmarked from the fund for research on making beedis less harmful.