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Home / India News / 2007 / May 2007 / May 12, 2007
Hand rolled cigarette units shut shops in Tamil Nadu
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Hand rolled cigarette units shut shops in Tamil Nadu

Scores of workers involved in the making of beedi, a cheap cigarette substitute, are on an indefinite strike against government directives to print warning symbols on beedi packets.

Tirunelveli (Tamil Nadu), May 12 : Scores of workers involved in the making of beedi, a cheap cigarette substitute, are on an indefinite strike against government directives to print warning symbols on beedi packets.

Poor and impoverished workers, most of whom are women, say the ban on smoking in public places has already crippled the tobacco industry and following the directives would add to their woes.

"The Central Government's direction will cost us heavy. No one will come to buy the beedis. This is my only profession. I will be completely ruined if I have to leave this. We as it is earn a meager amount. So, the government should pay heed to our demands and withdraw the order," said Meeral, a worker.

"The Government has to withdraw this order. We are living a life of penury. How much do they want us to suffer? Like this, we will all die," said Davlath, another worker.

Abdul Kapoor, the Secretary of the Beedi Workers Association echoed the workers' concern.

"If we print these statutorily pictorial warnings, the beedi sales and production will come down. This will certainly affect the employment of rural people who are employed in the beedi industry in thousands, particularly in southern districts. In this, nearly 90 percent of the population are rural womenfolk who are earning their livelihood through this," he said.

Beedi units are the livelihood of many people, most of whom live in utter poverty and inhale vast amounts of tobacco dust that affect their respiratory system giving rise to ailments like asthma, tuberculosis and bronchitis.

For rolling 1,000 beedis, these labourers get about rupees 20.

A woman worker, in addition to her household work, can roll over 1,000 beedis a day, which adds to the family income.

The job is labour-intensive and is primarily dependent on the domestic market. Exports are mainly to the Gulf and other places that have a significant Indian population.

Measuring about two inches, each beedi is hand-rolled using the fragrant leaves of the tendu plant, which grows in forests, and filled with specially grown and cured tobacco. Seventy percent of tobacco smoked in India is in the form of beedis.

Additionally, the beedi industry also provides employment to farmers who grow the special tobacco and to people who are engaged in its marketing and distribution.

The beedi industry contributes 145 million dollars in terms of excise revenue.

India, with an annual tobacco production of 545 million kilograms ranks third after China and the United States. Out of the total tobacco output only one fourth is exported. Nearly 431 million kilograms is consumed domestically.

ANI

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