Mangaluru, April 16, 2020: The future looks uncertain for Beedi workers, who earn their daily income by rolling Beedis, in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Kasargod districts.
Ever since the government announced lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19 pandemic, more than two lakh people, who are directly or indirectly dependent on the Beedi industry for their survival, in these three districts have survived on their savings and food grains provided by government and donors.
The workers are paid Rs 180 for rolling 1,000 Beedis. After deducting EPF, they get around Rs 160 to Rs 170. The raw materials are supplied by the factory owners through agents.
South Kanara Beedi Workers’ Federation General Secretary Balakrishna Shetty told DH, “The Beedi industry has stopped functioning after March 22. A few workers had a stock of ‘tendu’ leaves and tobacco for rolling Beedi. But are now worried a lot as the over rolled beedis are getting damaged. It turns black after a few days of rolling without processing it.”
There are nearly 1.5 lakh workers in Dakshina Kannada and 60,000 in Udupi, who are dependent on the Beedi industry for their livelihood.
A majority of them are women, who were supplementing the income to the family. A few families that solely depend on the Beedi for their livelihood have been hit hard, he said.
“I used to roll around 600 to 800 Beedis per day and was earning Rs 500 to Rs 600 per week, which was helpful in the purchase of grocery items. Without Beedi, I am jobless now. Though I have received rice through PDS, I am worried over future,” said Revathi, who rolls Beedis for a living.
The government and owners of Beedi industries should come to the rescue of the workers, who are facing hardships.
The Beedi workers should be given an allowance of Rs 200 per day. The workers’ committee should be constituted at taluk level and compensation should be disbursed at the earliest, he said.
“We have also appealed to the Beedi industry owners to supply food kits to the labourers, who are in distress,” said Balakrishna.
S K Beedi Workers’ Federation DK and Udupi unit General Secretary V S Berinja said the Beedi workers were still waiting for the implementation of minimum wages.
The Beedi owners should announce compensation of not less than Rs 5,000 to the workers. The Beedi industry is prevalent in 23 districts of Karnataka with around 8 lakh to 9 lakh workers depending on it.