Beedi workers to take out protest march against COTPA amendments

Beedi workers affiliated to different unions in Dakshina Kannada will carry out a protest march on February 25 in Mangaluru against the proposed amendments to the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA).

Talking to reporters, Vasanth Achari from the South Kanara Beedi Workers Federation (CITU), said the proposed amendments to COTPA will make it more stringent and drastically cut down beedi business, which, in turn , will affect livelihood of lakhs of people.

Among the amendments proposed include barring smoking in public and increase age of cigarette smoker from 18 to 21.

Beedi brands will be barred from putting the logo on the cover and only have health warning on the cover. Shops selling beedi/cigarette traders should have licence to sell beedi and other tobacco products. It was proposed to drastically increase in the fines.

Mr. Achari said these amendments are proposed on the ground to prevent consumption of tobacco as it harms health. “We respect the concern for health. But you cannot allow these amendments that will stymie the lives of beedi workers,” he said. Beedi workers across the country are opposing the amendments and a signature campaign was presently on, he added.

Sitharam Berinje from the S.K. Beedi Workers Federation (AITUC) said more than 2.5 lakh people, including several women, earn their living by rolling beedis in Dakshina Kannada. “Earning from beedis is the only source for these people,” Mr. Berinje said, and added that without providing alternate employment to these persons the Centre cannot bring in amendments.

Beedi workers, traders and other related to beedis will take out a march from B.R. Ambedkar (Jyothi) Circle at 10.30 a.m. on February 25. There will be a public meeting at the Nehru Maidan at 11 a.m., Mr. Achari said.

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