Beedi workers in Ghurpur, UP, earn less than the minimum wage and have no access to schemes set up for them.
Beedi-making is an exhausting job. Beedi workers work for long hours, at a hectic speed. They produce up to 1000 beedis per day, and usually work in extremely bad conditions – closed, filthy rooms, lacking light and proper ventilation systems. Hence, many of them suffer from serious ailments – neck problems, due to their uncomfortable work positions and the very high speed of their tasks, as well as TB and breathing problems.
In an attempt to improve their condition, the Central Government of India has been taking various measures. It has sanctioned a minimum wage for beedi workers, amounting to Rs 120 a day and has launched schemes aimed at providing them with houses, educational scholarship for their children, and medical assistance.
But in Ghurpur village, near Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, the private companies producing beedis disregard the law. Ajeet described the situation: “numerous villagers are working in beedi factories, for Rs 15 to 40 a day. These workers do not benefit from the programs that target them, because of the corruption of local civil servants. It starts with the medical officer, who is in charge of distributing benefit cards to the workers. He demands Rs 500 to provide one card.”
For workers earning a miserable salary, this represents a tremendous amount of money that they cannot afford. Hence, Ghurpur villagers have to cut all their expenses. They cannot send their children to school, and usually eat very meagre meals. Since all workers are paid on daily wage, going on strike or protesting is also very difficult.
Ajeet hopes that people will take action after watching his video, and force the medical officer and local employers, to follow and implement the law.