Beedi workers' bundle of miseries roll on...

99 percent of beedi workers in Kolar district are women

Beedi workers' bundle of miseries roll on...

Beedi industry which saw rapid expansion in the 1930s driven by expansion of tobacco cultivation at that time became a highly competitive industry in the middle of the 20th century. Several new brands were created at the height of beedi’s popularity. Due to increased regulation in the 1940s, 50s and 60s there was a decline in factory-based beedi production, reducing it to the level of cottage industry with a home-based women work force.

Women employed in the beedi industry in the district which has more than 15 beedi godowns. are not restricted to rolling of beedis alone but are actively engaged in all spheres of beedi making. Also, they face more employment-related problems than men. They do not get due compensation for their work. Education, housing, good health, life insurance continues to remain elusive to them.

In addition, women have to bear the burden of domestic chores, food management, education of their children, repayment of loans etc. As beedi-rolling is a home-based industry, the women are accompanied by children and youth in rolling beedis.
There are more than 10,000 beedi workers in Kolar district and 99 percent among them are women.

In Kolar city alone, there are more than 3,000 beedi workers.
Beedi workers roll beedis day and night at Noor Nagar, Rehamat Nagar, Millat Nagar, Beedi Colony and other areas in the city that have a predominant Muslim population.
As per norms, 2,400 beedis can be rolled from a kg of tendu leaves. According to the rules of The Mysore Beedi Mazdoor Association, for every 1,000 beedis rolled, the worker should be paid Rs 98.90. However, the owners pay Rs 70 after several deductions that includes the cost of tendu leaves, thread, tobacco etc. In most cases the amount paid is much lesser.

When the Deccan Herald reporter visited the houses of beedi workers, they talked about their woes, even as they rolled beedis one after another.

“We have been deprived of several facilities as the owners of beedi godowns do not provide accurate information about the workers,” observed the women.
Special facilities provided by the Minorities Development Corporation to children of beedi workers is not reaching the intended. People with fake cards are availing the facilities meant for the true beneficiaries. However, the Labour Department is not initiating stringent action against violators despite repeated appeals, said Najeebunnisa, manager at The Kolar Beedi Workers’ Welfare Association.

Beedi workers who suffer from serious diseases are unable to avail medical treatment due to high cost at private hospitals, women beedi workers added. Also, beedi workers are still unable to avail benefits from the revised housing scheme of 2007.

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