Shutting down the Rs 8,000-crore bidi industry in the country will lead to rise in naxal violence as most employed are tribals and from Left wing extremist states, RSS-affiliate trade union Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) said on Friday.
“Bidi is a cottage industry and is in states affected by left wing extremism (LWE). Crores of people depend on it for their livelihood, mostly tribals. If this industry is impacted or shut down, this will lead to rise in naxalism,” BMS General Secretary Virjesh Upadhayay told reporters here.
Referring to the upcoming COP7 for FCTC (Conference of Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Controls), he said that though the Indian government is responsible for health of its citizens, it is also responsible for the livelihood of crores of people working in the bidi industry.
Over 4.5 crore people in the country depend on the bidi industry, of which around 0.9-1 crore are tribal women and another 1-1.2 crore are poor Muslim women, he added.
India has around 6,000-8,000 bidi companies with the industry spread over 17 states, including Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
“The forthcoming international summit of COP7 for FCTC has also raised many apprehensions, fears and doubts among the dependants of the bidi industry. In this connection, we feel that the government should work out a comprehensive policy for bidi,” Upadhayay said.
India is hosting the health summit on FCTC, scheduled to be held in the national capital from November 7-12, 2016, in association with the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Akhil Bhartiya Bidi Mazdoor Mahasangh General Secretary Umesh Viswad said: “The COP 7 FCTC Summit should also consider issues such as Tribal Rights Act implementation as well as employment issues, particularly for vulnerable sections.”
The central government should take a flexible approach appropriate to Indian conditions, he suggested.
Upadhayay said the government should explore provisions like CBDR (common but differentiated responsibilities) rights for the bidi industry, as in the case of environmental issues where the provisions of CBDR rights are used to safeguard national interest.
“We have also requested for multi-ministerial consultations as the issue of bidi industry is not limited to just one ministry. It involves ministries of home, finance, health, labour, commerce and agriculture,” he added.
COP7 for FCTC has stoked concerns among the dependants on the bidi industry and BMS feels that the government should work out a comprehensive policy for the sector as it supports tribal and poor people, Upadhayay said.
“We welcome the government’s efforts with regard to cancer patients, but the same approach is also needed for the tobacco farmers, tendu leaf pluckers and bidi rollers. If bidi products are banned in the name of protecting health, there will be chaos in the country,” he added.