8 Million Women beedi workers to land in peril due to COTPA Act

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Over 44,000 Women Beedi Workers from Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are in peril due to the proposed amendments to the Cigarette & Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003.

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The womenfolk engaged in beedi rollings have staged 55 all women rallies decrying the proposed amendments to COTPA 2003.

They appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to exclude Beedi from the proposed amendments which threaten to wreck the livelihoods of over 80 lakh beedi rollers across the country, most of them women working from home.

StateCityNo of RalliesNo of women beedi workers participated
JharkhandPakud, Sahibganj, Deoghar203000
Madhya PradeshSatna, Tikamgarh, Katni, Sagar, Damoh, Chattarpur, Banda, Bina147000
TelanganaNizamabad, Siddipet, Medak, Jagithyal, Karimnagar, Sircilla, Kamareddy, Nirmal, Metpally, Jharmoor1221000
BiharJamui83000
Tamil NaduVellore13000
KarnatakaMangalore, Belthangadi and Udupi.37000

The Ministry of Health, Government of India, on January 1, 2021, has proposed to add several stringent new amendments to the already harsh rules of the ‘Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act’, 2003, popularly known as Cigarette & Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA).

The 200-year-old ‘Hand-Made in India’ beedi industry, an indigenous cottage industry, faces overnight closure should the amendments become law, putting the livelihood of over 30 million workers associated with this industry in grave peril.

There are around 8 million home-based beedi rollers across India, of whom 6.5 million are women mostly Homemakers, mothers and grandmothers. These multi-generational women earn their livelihood through rolling beedis from home while their husbands go out to work and their children attend school.

With no viable, alternative employment available these women beedi workers, an icon of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, fear destitution and penury, should the COTPA amendments be applied to their industry.

At the rallies, disconsolate women workers entreated the government to segregate beedis from cigarettes and chewing tobacco, which does not generate this scale of employment, and reformulate separate rules for beedis under COTPA 2003 to save this indigenous, high employment-generating, Swadeshi industry.

They urged the government to reconsider the proposed amendments in the interest of the livelihood of 80 lakh beedi rollers, 5 lakh packers, 40 lakh women and tribal Tendu leaf pluckers, 30 lakh bidi tobacco farmers and workers, and 75 lakh small retailers dependent on the beedi industry.

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