Ray of hope for beedi workers as govt talks of an alternative life

Ray of hope for beedi workers as govt talks of an alternative life

Submitted by alvin on Thu, 2016-09-29 10:13 Bengaluru: Tasleem, who is in her 30s, has been making beedis for the past 14 years. A mother of four, she wants to quit yet she can’t. Her husband’s income simply isn’t sufficient to meet the household expenses. “I get knee pain, but cannot complain as I have been doing [rolling tobacco leaves] for the past 14 years. If some training is provided in alternate professions along with financial support, we can think of switching over,” she says.Similar is the case with Parveen Taj. A widow in her 60s, Parveen has been rolling tobacco leaves for the past 30 years, and she too is fed-up. “I lost my husband who was also in the same profession,” she says. “I am still continuing in the same profession. I got five of my children married, but they are also in low-profile jobs. As I had no option I could not improve,” she says.Beedi workers Tasleem and Parveen may have spent most of their lives in the harsh world of beedi industry but their younger counterparts may not have to go through the same cruel drill. The state government is showing some urgency in implementing a central government scheme which aims at rehabilitating beedi workers by providing them alternate means of livelihood.The Regional Welfare Department for labour in co-ordination with the Regional Vocational Training Institute for Women is all set to start courses for beedi workers in Karnataka, most of whom are women. The proposal might help about one lakh beedi workers scattered all over the state.According to K V Subramanium, Regional Welfare and Cess Commissioner, the courses can save workers if beedi industry shuts down. “Workers may panic if the industry shuts down. Hence, we want to help workers to learn other professions such as beauty care, tailoring, embroidery, craft making, mobile repair and other electronic goods repair” says Subramanium.The commissioner, who has plans to start courses for about 500 to 1,000 beedi workers, has asked the Deputy Director of RVTIW to give an estimation of the cost for raw material, infrastructure and tuition fee.“The government of India is spending crores for rehabilitation of beedi, mining and agarbatti workers. Since the RVTIW offers over 100 alternate professions, I will have to send a proposal to higher authorities. Once the clearance is given, officers will be sent to Mysuru, Mangaluru, Yadgir and other places where poor people takeup beedi work as profession,” he says.No ESI, pensionA worker rolling 2,500 beedis per week earns about Rs130. And they have no ESI, pension and are not covered under any health schemes. “We make about Rs1,500 per month. But most of that amount goes into medicines as most of us suffer from joints, wrist and neck pain. Few have lung infections too,” says Parveen.Dr Sashidhar Buggi, Director, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Disease, says that workers may also suffer from chest diseases, eye infections, asthma, bronchitis, pulmonary disorders and other nasal complications. “A 50-year-old worker, whom I had come across a few years back, suffered from lung infections and also developed cancer,” says the doctor. Dr Ramesh C, Professor and Head, Epidemiology and Bio Statistics, KIDWAI,  feels that the revenue incurred by the state is vastly outnumbered by the miney spent by the state on tobacco related diseases.“Tobacco seems a money churner but in reality it is not. As per one survey, Rs10,000 crore is earned from tobacco sales but the expenditure incurred by the state is Rs 30,000 crores due to its ill-effects,” says Dr Ramesh.