An Evening to Honour Atmanirbhar Women Beedi Workers
The Mysore Beedi Mazdoor Association released a book ‘A Study on the Lack of Alternate Employment for Women Beedi Workers’ at the India International Centre (IIC) in the capital city, New Delhi, recently. The book, written by Mrs. Vibha Vasuki and Dr Siva Prasad Rambhatla, is an in-depth study of the lives of women beedi workers and the adverse effect of the proposed Amendments to COTPA on their livelihoods.
The event was graced by various renowned dignitaries. Shri Rameshwar Teli, Hon’ble Union Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Labour and Employment & BJP MP from Dibrugarh, His Excellency Mr. Alejandro Simancas Marin, Ambassador of Cuba to India, Shri Sushil Kumar Modi, BJP Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha & Former Deputy Chief Minister, Bihar, Shri Praful Patel, NCP MP and former Minister of Civil Aviation & Heavy Industries, Ms. Dola Sen, MP Rajya Sabha and TMC Trade Union President, Dr. Ashwani Mahajan, National Convener, Swadeshi Jagran Manch, Mr B. Surendran, All India Organizing Secretary, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh.
25 Members of Parliament from across party lines graced the entire evening with their presence. Seven Women Beedi from Karnataka and Telangana travelled to the capital to make their voices heard, felicitate the dignitaries and launch the book with them. The evening which was dedicated to all Women Beedi Workers, was moderated by Ms. Priya Sehgal and the opening welcome given by Author and Journalist Rasheed Kidwai to a packed audience of 150, comprising of trade union leaders, workers, and journalists.
Beedi is Swadeshi, Organic, perhaps less carcinogenic, but the implementation of the Amendments to the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) will further increase grave unemployment situation in India, so there is a separate law needed for the Beedi industry. These were the views of the dignitaries present at the launch of the book on women beedi rollers.
Probably it was the first time that a cross section of people met at the national capital not only to launch a book on India’s women beedi workers—’Study on Lack of Alternate Employment for Women Beedi Rollers’ but also to discuss the future of the Beedi industry since implementation of Amendments to Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) will leave millions of Beedi Workers unemployed.
Why an indigenous product Beedi could not be promoted like a Cigar?
The book launch event began with the opening speech by author and journalist Rasheed Kidwai, who pointed out that it is not just a book release function but about the issue of the livelihood and welfare of 30 million beedi workers, that too women, which and why a country like Cuba can showcase its Cigar at a global platform. “Cigar brings fame, fortune and money to Cuba, but here we have a very indigenous thing which contributes 25 billion rupees to GDP, which is a very staggering amount, but getting step-motherly treatment.”
Gives employment at remote areas of India
Former union minister and NCP leader Praful Patelhighlighted the Beedi industry and its importance. “Beedi industry gives employment to people in remote and far-flung areas where there is no other source of work. It has more than 50 per cent labour component and money goes directly to the hands of people. Such industry needs governments support not neglect” said Patel.
Why 28 per cent GST on a Swadeshi product ?
Ashwani Mahajan, national co-convenor, Swadeshi Jagran Manch, who wrote the forward for the book talked straightforwardly. “Earlier there was no tax on beedi, neither excise duty nor sales tax applied on it. They reasoned that it gives huge employment. It gets made in nine states and goes to the entire country, so beedi, sugar and textile used to be exempted. When GST was being implemented, he had thought either there will be no GST on beedis or it will be 5 per cent, but highest GST has been charged on it,” rued Mahajan.
WHO report is itself questionable
All India organizing secretary of Bharatiya Majdoor Sangh, B. Surendran claimed that The World Health Organization (WHO), which reported that 12 lakh people die every year from Tobacco in India on whose basis COTPA is being amended, is itself questionable and that they have asked in their Court Petition that let the data of every hospital, every block should be submitted by WHO, then only they will support it. He also mentioned that Beedi is organic and less nicotine gets used.