Haath Se Haath Jodo: Congress Promises All Support to Beedi Workers

• Shabbir Ali holds interactive session with Beedi workers, thekedars in Kamareddy
• ‘Haath Se Haath Jodo’ Abhiyan receives a tremendous public response on Day-2

Hyderabad : Former Minister & ex-Leader of Opposition in Telangana Legislative Council Mohammed Ali Shabbir has assured the Beedi workers that the Congress party would provide all required assistance to protect their livelihood, health and survival. As part of ‘Haath Se Haath Jodo’ Abhiyan, Shabbir Ali held an interactive session with Beedi workers, thekedar and others related to the industry at Kamareddy District Congress Committee office on Sunday.

Speaking on the occasion, Shabbir Ali said that nearly seven lakh workers were employed by 14 major Beedi industries in Telangana State. However, he said that the BJP Govt at the Centre and BRS Govt in the State did nothing to eradicate poverty among Beedi workers or address their health concerns. Referring to a recent study done on the condition of Beedi workers of Telangana, he said the workers were getting poor wages, facing exploitation by middlemen and they have no social security. He said lakhs of workers were forced to continue with the Beedi industry as they do not have any alternative means of livelihood.

Shabbir Ali said the workers, mainly women, were dependent on Beedi rolling for their livelihood. He said most of the Beedi workers were suffering from serious health problems. However, he said they have no access to medical facilities. At least there is no ESI hospital for Beedi workers anywhere in the country, including Kamareddy.

The Congress leader slammed the BJP Govt at the Centre for imposing 28 per cent GST on the Beedi industry. He said that the move was intended for crippling the entire industry although it employs lakhs of people. Further, he said that the Modi Govt was proposing to enact a new law to shut down the Beedi industry. He alleged that the Modi Govt was targeting the poor Beedi workers in the name of discouraging tobacco. He asked why BJP and BRS Govts were not discouraging the consumption of cigarettes and liquor in the same manner.

“Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, had a detailed interaction with the Beedi workers to understand their problems. He had promised that the next Congress Govt will remove the GST from the Beedi industry,” he said adding that the next Congress Govt would also assure a better future for the children of Beedi workers.

Shabbir Ali said that the Beedi workers work hard for nearly 19 hours hour every day to earn their livelihood. Despite so much hard work, due to rising inflation, most of them do not even get a proper meal every day. A majority of Beedi workers are suffering from health problems like anaemia, nervous weakness, cancer, tuberculosis and respiratory diseases. However, the BJP and BRS Govts are doing nothing to address these issues, he alleged.

The Congress leader said that the Central Government collects about Rs. 100 crores annually from the Beedi industry in Telangana state in the form of cess. But there are no schemes to help the workers when they are in trouble. He demanded that the Center fix proper wages for the Beedi workers and provide PF cards to all workers attached to the Beedi industry. He said the Minimum Wages Act should be implemented and the wages of Beedi workers should be increased. Central and state governments should take steps to ensure that beedi workers get employment for at least 25 days in a month, he demanded.

Shabbir Ali said under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, houses should be built for all Beedi workers and one ESI hospital should be built in every Mandal in the Beedi zones. Health cards should be given to all beedi workers. Health camps should be organized for all Beedi workers in every Beedi factory once a month, he said.

On this occasion, many Beedi workers spoke about their problems. They complained that their lives were ruined after KCR became the Chief Minister. They said that the BRS Govt has encouraged liquor consumption to the extent that many men were wasting most of their earnings on alcohol and also falling sick.

Kamareddy DCC President Kailasa Srinivasa Rao, Youth Congress leader Mohammed Ilyas, Chandrakant Reddy, Pandla Raju, Anwar Ahmed, S Godigula Srinivas, P. Ravi Prasad, Mohammed Sheru, Sudarshan and other Congress leaders and activists participated in the meeting.

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