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Warangal: Covid-19 smokes out beedi rollers livelihood

Warangal: Covid-19 smokes out beedi rollers livelihoodRepresentational image
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Warangal: A deep sense of despair was writ large on the faces of over 60,000 women, whose means of subsistence is dependent on rolling beedis. Wilting ...

Warangal: A deep sense of despair was writ large on the faces of over 60,000 women, whose means of subsistence is dependent on rolling beedis. Wilting under the higher slab rate structure of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) in addition to the stiff competition from the mini cigarettes, the beedi industry is already in doldrums before the coronavirus lockdown dealt a further blow.

It's been more than a month since the beedi companies pulled their shutters down. Warangal is the fourth largest beedi producer in Telangana next only to Nizamabad, Karimnagar and Adilabad districts. In all, there are more than 8 lakh beedi workers in the State.

It's not exaggeration to say that at least one woman in almost all the households in some pockets of Warangal city roll the beedis, adding a sort of supporting income to their families. This apart, a sizable number of women in Hasanparthy, Geesukonda, Shayampet, Jangaon and Bachannapet mandals are also eking out a living in a hazardous way. It may be mentioned here that beedi workers, who have to handle tobacco dust and roll it into tendu leaves, are exposed to diseases such as tuberculosis, ulcers, cancer etc.

Majority of them collect tobacco, tendu leaves etc from the beedi units and roll them in their homes. At an average, each of them roll beedis anywhere around 1,000 a day. The remuneration they get is between Rs 150 to Rs 190 per 1,000 beedis. Those who work for unbranded companies get a pay of Rs 120 to Rs 150 per 1,000 beedis. Warangal, which has Chakkar, Photo, Coolie, Diamond, Desai etc beedi companies had a few years ago provided livelihood to more than one lakh workers.

"The beedi industry has been at a crossroads ever since the government enforced 85 per cent graphic health warning – skull and crossbones – on beedi packets. It not only impacted the beedi company managements but also hit the employment.

The workers were hardly getting 10 to 12 days of work in a month," CITU Warangal General Secretary Ragula Ramesh, who has been working for the welfare of the beedi works, told The Hans India. He demanded the government to provide Rs 7,500 a month for the beedi workers who have been without work due to lockdown.

Ramesh said that of the 60,000 odd beedi workers, just around 12,000 are eligible for the provident fund cards and ESI.

Ghousia of LB Nagar in the city said: "I lost my income and I am waiting for the lockdown to be lifted in the near future by the grace of almighty."





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