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Beedi Manufacture in Bundelkhand

 
  Most beedi rollers work from home and are women, assisted by other members of the family

Beedi manufacture is a large but spread out industry in MP, employing nearly 15 lakh people at different locations. In MP Bundelkhand, a large number of people, including over 20% of the main workers, are engaged in this activity in Sagar and  Damoh districts.

There are also many beedi workers in all other MP Bundelkhand districts, and Jhansi in UP Bundelkhand. (See Main industries in Bundelkhand in Terms of Persons Employed).

Beedi making is a cottage industry based entirely on a manual manufacturing process that requires special skills of rolling tendu leaves around tobacco.

Beedi 'rollers' are provided the raw material by contractors. Generally, a beedi roller is provided with 575 to 700 grams of tendu leaves and 225-280 grams of tobacco for rolling 1000 beedis; the quantities vary according to quality of leaves and size of beedis to be rolled. Most beedi rollers work from home and are women, assisted by other members of the family; the latter are not registered and are thus not even eligible for any labour law benefits.

Some people, mostly males, are employed as sorters, checkers, packers and clerks; they come under the category of beedi workers.

Rollers and packers are usually paid on piece rate basis - the wage unit for rolling is 1000 beedis and for packing it is 100,000 beedis.

While a beedi roller on an average rolls 1000 beedis a day, a 2003 survey by the Labour Bureau, Government of India, in Sagar and a few other MP districts found that average number of beedis rolled per day by a roller was 2057; the excess is accounted by helping dependents, including children, at home.

According to the survey, the average daily earnings of beedi rollers worked out to Rs.22.04 only; helping dependents got an average of Rs. 16.62 only daily. 'All the beedi rollers displayed complete ignorance about the prescribed rates of minimum wages and enforcement machinery', the survey noted [Labour Bureau, chapter VIII].

Reference:

  • Labour Bureau, Government of India, 'Report on evaluation studies on implementation of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 in bidi making establishments in Madhya Pradesh': May 2003

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