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Beedi workers fear their future may go up in smoke

Staff Reporter


Protest against lack of amenities and insufficient wages

Workers demand scholarship for

their children


BANGALORE: Staging a protest does not give these workers the luxury of having a day off, as their nimble fingers continued to make beedis even as they participated in the Raj Bhavan Chalo programme here on Wednesday to protest against the lack of basic amenities and insufficient wages.

Beedi workers from Bangalore, Anekal, Doddaballapur and Hoskote, under the banner Bangalore Jilla Beedi Mazdoor Union (CITU) — majority of them being Muslim women — gathered at the Mahatma Gandhi statue and participated in a procession from Mahatma Gandhi Statue to the Raj Bhavan. The leaders of the union submitted a memorandum to Governor Rameshwar Thakur.

Addressing the gathering, K.N. Umesh, general secretary of CITU, Bangalore district committee, said beedi workers were working for over past 20 to 30 years without sufficient social security measures and proper wages. Increased cost of living and inflation has worsened their standard of living. They were denied arrears of Rs. 4,500 by the employers, which was agreed to previously. Beedi workers should get the scholarship of their children which is pending for past two years, he said.

He urged the Government to consider their demands, which included provision of housing facility, issue of identity cards and log books to all beedi workers, and to provide mobile ESI dispensary facility.

Fiaz Unnisa (45), a resident of Yakoobnagar in Bangalore, whose husband is a coolie, said she earns Rs. 300 a week by rolling 10,000 beedies. Majority of the earnings goes to rent. Shabana (35) is waiting for scholarship amount of her children. Her 55-year-old mother-in-law has been working for more than 25 years.

Wages

Many women complained that the beedi contractors do not pay the wages in time, and they get between Rs. 20 and Rs. 40 for every 1,000 beedis instead of Rs. 60 per 1,000. They were not given the log book, which had to be provided by the beedi manufacturing companies through contractors. In the case of Farah Unnisa (40), her log book has not been entered by the contractor for past four years.

Jaleel Khan, president of the Bangalore Beedi Mazdoor Union, and Ms. Basamma, general secretary of the union, spoke.

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