Govt to hold tripartite talks over pictorial warnings on bidis on April 21

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Labour Ministry has called for tripartite consultations on Thursday to assess the impact of the mandated larger pictorial warnings covering 85% of packaging space on the livelihood of 1.50 crore bidi workers.

A senior government official said the ministry has called for tripartite consultations on the notification and its impact on bidi workers on April 21.

A notification by Health Ministry on September 24, for implementation of the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labeling) Amendment Rules, 2014, came into force on April 1. These prescribe larger pictorial warnings, covering 85 per cent of packets on tobacco products.

“We have been pursuing this issue with the government for the past few days. This notification will impact about 1.50 crore beedi workers and around 5-6 crore family members or dependents,” RSS-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) General Secretary Virjesh Upadhyay told PTI.

Confirming the consultations, Upadhyay added this issue needs to be understood at various levels. One, bidi is hand made and hand packaged. Second, it is less harmful than cigarettes.

Also, there is an issue of practicability. How is it possible to print pictorial warnings on a bidi packet, which is round, he questioned.

“We will take up all these issues at the consultations and will also ask about why is the Dinesh Gandhi Committee report on bidi workers not being implemented,” he said.

This is a serious issue of livelihood and even if it the notification leads to closure of the bidi making units, what are the government’s plans for the rehabilitation of the bidi workers,” Upadhyay added.

BMS had earlier said if the government fails to take into account these issues and does not find solutions for them, the trade union will be forced to go on a nationwide protest from May 10.

Earlier this month, All India Beedi Industry Federation, a body of over 240 manufacturers controlling over two-third of total branded beedi production, said the loss due to stopping production will be around Rs 200 crore a day.

The overall bidi industry in India is estimated at around Rs 7,500 crore, with members of AIBIF members contributing around Rs 5,000 crore.