Beedi workers to hold 'B'lore chalo' on July 25

Opposing the move of the Labour department, to withdraw the scholarship given to children of beedi workers studying between class one and eight, Karnataka State Beedi Workers Federation will hold Bangalore chalo, on July 25. A memorandum will be submitted to the Commissioner of Welfare Board.

Addressing a press meet here on Friday, Federation President B Madhava said that Beedi Workers Welfare Fund Act was passed in 1976. Based on 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 scholarship, lakhs of children would have been child labourers, he said. 

However, the Labour Commissioner has not started the process of receiving applications from the beedi workers to avail the scholarship. When he asked the Commissioner for Beedi Workers Welfare Fund the reason, 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.

He said “welfare fund was collected in the form of welfare cess from the beedi producers. At present, a sum of Rs six is collected from the producers for every 1000 beedis rolled. It was a welfare measure that benefitted the beedi workers directly. The Government is not spending a single paisa on the scholarship,” Madhava said.

Though education is made free and compulsory, there were other expenses incurred while educating a child, which is not provided by the government, he said.

He said the government should have discussed the issue on withdrawing scholarship in the Central Advisory Committee meeting. Unfortunately, the committee meeting has not been convened for the last three years. It has taken a unilateral decision on withdrawing the scholarship and has done an injustice to the children of the beedi workers, he added.

The Federation will also urge the Centre to announce uniform minimum wages for the beedi workers. All the beedi workers should be included in the list of BPL and identity card should be issued to them. The financial assistance given for constructing houses should be increased to Rs 1.5 lakh from Rs 40,000. More number of Beedi workers dispensory unit should be started. All the beedi workers should be brought under the umbrella of PF, he said.

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