CHIEF MINISTER Shivraj Singh Chouhan has assured all possible cooperation to the bidi rolling industry saying all measures will be taken for the welfare of bidi workers.
A delegation of bidi workers and representatives of the bidi industry from Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, New Delhi and West Bengal met the Chief Minister in Bhopal on Saturday and apprised him of the problems being faced by the bidi industry.
Chouhan said the State Government will take necessary steps after studying problems of the industry and rationalisation of taxes will be considered.
Later at a press conference in Bhopal All-India Bidi Industry Federation president Rajnikant Patel said if value-added tax (VAT) was levied on the bidi industry from April 1, 2007, the price of bidi will be hiked by Rs 20-25 per 1,000, whereas the cigarette industry will be benefited as it will be lowered by Rs 80-85 per 1,000. “The cigarette industry is trying to completely end this cottage industry. We should also be given concessions similar to them,” he added.
The Federation also alleged that due to Government machinery and plucking of tendu leaves by cooperatives, there has been deterioration in quality of leaves.
MP Bidi Udyog Sangh’s president Meena Pimpalpure said there had been mass exodus of bidi workers to other States and other sectors, due to which the production has gone down by 40 per cent in Madhya Pradesh. “Government should take action to save the industry, which feeds poor people,” she said.
Both federation and association have decided to go on strike, if Government fails to redress pressing issues of the bidi industry.
The federation also stated that there has no scientific evidence to prove that tobacco intake caused cancer. All-India Bidi Industry Federation, MP Bidi Udyog Sangh and Bidi and Tobacco Merchants' Association – all three bodies gathered here to discuss issues related to the industry and chalk-out a blue-print to present to the Government for immediate redressal. Rationalisation and waiving of taxes was one of the major issues discussed.