Beedi Workers Court Arrest in Mumbai

P R Krishnan

The participants came from different parts of Maharashtra, but a big majority was from Sholapur. On the conclusion of the sit-in dharna and demonstration, the participants courted arrest.

The dharna of the beedi workers was joined by members of Rashtriya Bal Kamgar Prakalp Shikshak Karmachari Sanghatana.

The demands of the beedi workers for which they staged the Dharna and courted arrests were (1) abolition of value added tax on the sale of beedies and tobacco, (2) minimum wage of Rs 200 for making 1,000 beedies, (3) increase in the grant-in-aid of Rs 1,50,000 for housing in accordance with the practice followed by the central government, (4) grant of pension at the rate of Rs 3,000 per month, (5) rectification of existing anomalies in the counting and sorting out of beedies and in the weighing of the tendu leaves, (6) provision for supply of 35 kilograms of foodgrains per month through fair price shops at the rate of Rs 2 per kilo for every family.

Earlier, on January 28, a delegation of the demonstrating beedi workers had met the state’s labour minister Hassan Mushrif and the Vidhan Sabha speaker Dilip Valse Patil. The leaders also had discussions with the labour department secretary Ramprasad and the labour commissioner Madhukar Gaikwad.

The delegation comprised CITU general secretary Tapan Sen, Maharashtra state CITU president Narsayya Adam Master, state CITU secretaries Advocate M H Shaikh, Vasant Pawar, Nasima Shaikh and Fatima Beig. The other leaders in the delegation were Kurmayya Mhetre and Sunanda Balla. The labour minister assured that the state government would take steps to revise the minimum wages for beedi workers before the coming parliamentary election. The minister further assured that he would organise a meeting of beedi employers to have a discussion and try to solve the issues raised by the delegation. The minister further agreed that he would take steps to supply foodgrains at the rate of Rs 2 per kilo up to 25 kilo per family per month.

The Coordination Committee warned the government that it would be forced to organise a 50,000 strong rasta roko agitation by beedi workers at Sholapur on February 12, 2014 or soon thereafter if their demands were not conceded by then, as assured by the ministers and government officials.

Earlier the demonstrators at Azad Maidan were addressed among others by Tapan Sen, Narsayya Adam master, Vasant Pawar, M H Shaikh, C P Narayanan (MP), Mukund Ranade and other leaders. Tapan Sen congratulated the workers for having organised and staged this militant dharna in Mumbai.

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