Mangaluru | Thousands of beedi workers from Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts in Karnataka and Kasaragod in Kerala staged a protest here against the Centre’s proposed bill to amend the anti-smoking law to provide for radical changes, including ban on sale of loose cigarettes, saying it would kill the beedi industry.
The beedi workers marched from Town Hall to the Deputy Commissioner’s office demanding withdrawal of the ‘Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) (Amendment) Bill 2015′. If enacted, it would kill the beedi industry, the protesters under the banner of CITU and AITUC said in a release here.
The trade union leaders said there were 10 lakh beedi workers in the three districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Kasargod, who depended on the industry for their livelihood. The beedi industry also helped the economy which in turn contributed to setting up of schools, hospitals, banks and other business firms, the leaders said.
Addressing the protest rally, CITU leader Prasanna Kumar alleged that the Union government was trying to destroy the beedi industry in the region. The proposed amendments would kill the beedi industry and the government was moving forward with this step without considering the guidelines issued by World Health Organisation, he charged. If the government was earnest in its attempt, they should make alternative arrangements to rehabilitate beedi workers who would be left jobless with the act, he said.
Kumar also mentioned that the decision to provide around Rs 6,000 crore as pension to beedi workers had not yet been implemented. AITUC state secretary Seetharam Berinje said beedi workers were a respected lot during the time of elections, but once problems cropped up, nobody cared for them. We condemn the government stand and demand that the Bill be withdrawn. The protesters later submitted a memorandum to the Union government through Deputy Commissioner A B Ibrahim.
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