Lives rolled up in a corner
In spite of the perilous nature of the job, women from the deprived families of Korutla mandal roll beedies to earn a living. All the hard work put in by the women gets rewarded by a paltry sum of Rs 100 per day apart from developing diseases such as cancer. The women also experience chronic back and neck pain due to the long periods of time they spend on rolling beedies.
Jagityala: In spite of the perilous nature of the job, women from the deprived families of Korutla mandal roll beedies to earn a living. All the hard work put in by the women gets rewarded by a paltry sum of Rs 100 per day apart from developing diseases such as cancer. The women also experience chronic back and neck pain due to the long periods of time they spend on rolling beedies.
It is a common sight in Korutla mandal where a group of women gather at a place to roll beedies. In fact, if a girl is born in a deprived family of the mandal, then she is made to learn the art of rolling beedies at an early age to support the family. The women after finishing their household chores gather at a place and start rolling beedies, which commences early in the morning. The group of women consists minor girls to senior women all busy rolling beedies without wasting any time.
An elderly woman of Bandla Lingapur in Metpalli mandal earned a meager amount of Rs 1.50 lakh through rolling beedies for eight hours a day over a period of 30 years. In addition to the amount she also developed chronic back and neck pain. Sirisha, of Lingapur, lost her mother Hemalata to cancer acquired by exposure to tobacco for more than 10 years.
The young girl, who had lost her father earlier, was rendered orphan with the death of her mother. She lives with her grandparents and dropped out of school after matriculation to support and take care of them. She took beedi rolling as her profession to earn a living. The beedi companies take advantage of the unfortunate situation faced by the women and pay each worker a measly sum of Rs 165 per day.
The raw material supplied by the beedi companies is enough to roll only 700 beedies but the target set is 1000 beedies. Therefore, the workers shell down money from their pockets to make up for the difference. To top it up, some beedi companies loot the workers’ of their provident fund money. The companies do not give work to the women daily but only for a period of 10 or 15 days a month. The scheme to award them Rs 1000 a month towards pension is not applicable to all women because of their inherent rules.
Some women to earn extra money attend NREGS works in the mornings and roll beedies in the evening. The mobile health centre sanctioned by the government became a one-day wonder as it is only on papers rather than a reality. The government had set up a hospital to promote institutional deliveries in government hospital about 30 years ago but not a single delivery was conducted in the hospital. Another bane for the women is the cashless system introduced by the Centre as they suspend work to visit banks and ATMs. Therefore, the beedi workers have been demanding that the government disburse wages through Tekedar like in earlier system.
Sasikala, a beedi worker, said that the company she is currently working for is not imposing a cut in the wages towards PF remittance. When questioned, the company comes out with one alibi or the other. She further added that the mobile van is not visiting the villages to test the beedi workers and the hospital bills are exceeding the wages she earns. Since there is no alternative occupation for us, rolling beedis has become a profession for many of us in the mandal, she said.
According to Beedi Workers Trade Union Leader Ghouse, the beedi companies are exploiting the poor workers and have been collecting the labour license free from them unauthorised. Payment of minimum wages was denied to the workers and the companies have been duping the workers in remittance of provident fund. He demanded that the State government take an urgent action against the beedi companies.
By Ch Gopalakrishna