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Puff puff...Come again?
Children and women; two most afflicted ‘tobacco employed’ groups
India has one of the largest bidi-rolling industries and markets in the world. Industry analysts concur that there are around 102 billion cigarette sticks sold in India every year (which accounts for 19% of the total tobacco consumption in India). It has simultaneously been estimated that against every cigarette, almost 8.5 bidis get consumed in India.
The unorganised bidi industry provides employment to around 40 million people, which includes tendu leaves collectors, bidi rollers and others. The main part of bidi manufacturing is bidi rolling. It is estimated that around 6 million people are involved just in bidi-rolling. The choice of employing children and young women is based on the fact that they demand less wages, create lesser labour trouble, are adept at their work, and cannot vociferously complain of inhuman conditions.
Interestingly, the proportion of women in bidi rolling industry was 72.4%, as per last estimates. Interestingly again, children gradually learn to roll bidis in the course of helping their parents, and later land as full time bidi rollers. Without any protection, they suffer the most, including afflictions like asthma and other respiratory diseases; and often even from posture-related problems and pulmonary diseases due to inhaling of nicotine. But worse is the fact that the workers, including women, get addicted to bidi smoking very easily, as obviously, the products are available off the shelf. One reason why this continues is because on an average, a bidi roller contributes 55.41% to the total income of his/her family. Is there an alternative? Well, if the government had an answer, we wouldn’t be writing this article...
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