Trade unions on Tuesday opposed the entry of FDI in the country's tobacco sector, considered the largest in the world, and asked the Government not to experiment in such "socially sensitive" areas.
In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, five major trade unions said it was of "immense worry" to learn that the Union Commerce Minister has been talking of allowing FDI in the tobacco sector and free entry to cigarette MNCs.
"The entry of foreign cigarette companies and MNCs will directly impact bidis and local producers of cigarettes. The MNCs will introduce cheap cigarettes and eventually take away bidi users through high-powered adversiting and sales," they said.
The trade unions--CITU, AITUC, HMS, TUCC and UTUC-- also rubbished the argument that the entry of foreign investors will increase exports of tobacco products and offer better value for tobacco growers.
"The Labour Ministry had done studies on the issue of entry of MNCs into tobacco sector and came to the conclusion that this will have a devastating effect of employment amongst workers, farmers and labourers in India," they said.
"Tobacco is a sensitive sector. It employs millions of poor people. Any negative impact will destroy their lives and government has no social security net to help workers and farmers," they added.
Observing that the spate of suicides by farmers and bidi workers should caution the government against experimenting in such socially sensitive sectors, they asked the PM to ensure that the Commerce Ministry does not create "imbalances" in the sector where millions of people have precarious employment.