Kendrapara, July 29 (LocalWire): Women beedi binders from the seaside villages of Mahakalapada and Rajnagar blocks in Kendrapara district work from dawn to dusk for a meager amount and are in turn riddled with diseases from the hazardous work.
‘We get threads, Tendu leaves and tobacco from the Beedi companies and make 1,000 beedis for Rs 80,’ said Gitanjali Biswas of Kharinashi village.
60-year-old Dipali Haldar started rolling beedis when she was 25. Today she is a cancer patient and inspite of repeated warnings from doctors not to engage in beedi making, she continues rolling beedis.
‘I know of no other job. That’s why I kept working as a beedi roller and earn Rs 80 per day by rolling 1000 beedis,’ she said.
Competition is also stiff in rolling beedis. Age does not matter.
It is a struggle for survival.
15-year-old Mamata Mandal competes with 42-year-old Malati Haldar to roll beedis in Ramanagar village.
‘We used to catch fish and crabs in the rivers and creeks. But the forest officials banned fishing to protect crocodiles.
Fishing in the rivers and creeks near Bhitarkanka national park is also a dangerous way to make a living due to crocodiles and so I have been rolling beedis since the last twenty years,’ said Manasi Manna of Sailendranagar village under Rajnagar block.
‘Working daily with tobacco is hazardous.
Most beedi workers suffer from chronic respiratory problems, skin problems, asthma, TB, eye ailments and chronic backache.
Most develop problems in knee joints as they sit cross-legged for the large part of the day,’ said Jagagiban Das, a trade union leader from Kendrapada.
Women constitute the largest number of workers in the beedi industry.
Most of these women hail from families living below the poverty line and have no choice but to involve their children in this work, added Das.
Middlemen often exploit the women and children who roll beedis, taking advantage of their illiteracy and lack of awareness for their rights.
Beedi rollers get Rs 80 whereas beedi companies make huge profits by selling one thousand beedis at Rs 250. They were also not provided with identity cards, which is compulsory, added Das.
Ramachandra Nayak, the district labour officer said, ‘We provided identity cards to around 2000 beedi workers who bind beedis in their houses.
As per Beedi Welfare Cess Act, 1976, all the Beedi workers are entitled to get free medical facilities and house building loans.
Their children also get scholarships to read in schools and colleges.
We are trying to detect unorganized beedi workers.’