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Solapur bidi workers seek hearing on suggested ban on cigarette, bidi sale amid Covid

ByKAY Dodhiya, Mumbai
Aug 15, 2021 11:41 PM IST

A union of bidi worker filed the intervention application after the HC, in a previous hearing of the PIL, had sought to know the stand of the Centre and state government in the face of reports by experts that smokers were more prone to contracting Covid-19 as their lungs were weakened due to smoking.

A union of bidi workers, which represents around 70,000 women who work in bidi manufacturing units in Solapur, has approached the Bombay high court (HC) through former MLA Narsayya Adam, seeking to intervene in a public interest litigation (PIL) pertaining to improper Covid management during the pandemic. The union filed the intervention application after the HC, in a previous hearing of the PIL, had sought to know the stand of the Centre and state government in the face of reports by experts that smokers were more prone to contracting Covid-19 as their lungs were weakened due to smoking.

The union sought to be heard before an order is passed in the matter. (HT FILE)

The application by Adam and general secretary of the union Mahamadgaus Shaikh, filed through advocate Sarang Aradhye, stated that in light of the HC bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni suggesting a temporary ban on sale of cigarettes and bidis during the pandemic, bidi workers were seeking permission to be heard before any adverse orders, that would prejudice the union workers, were passed.

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The application stated the bidi manufacturing business in Solapur has been going on since more than 150 years and the source of livelihood of around 500,000 people is solely based on bidi manufacturing and the business associated with it. The applicants said if any decision is taken by the government in this regard, it will affect all such persons.

The application further stated there is absence of material including research about Covid-19 victims addicted to smoking, and hence it was necessary to hear the applicants before any orders or directions are passed.

“If any adverse action is taken and sale of bidi and cigarettes is banned during pandemic, serious harm and prejudice will be caused to the workers whose bread and butter is dependent on said business, as due to the ban, bidi manufacturing will be completely stopped... The court may direct the petitioner to implead the applicants as party respondent in the PIL,” it stated.

Similar intervention applications have also been moved by Federation of Retailers Association and Mumbai Bidi Tambaku Vyapari Sangh, opposing the suggested ban on smoking and sale of cigarettes and bidis.

In June, this year, the state had submitted a June 15 report by director of Tata Memorial Centre Dr Rajendra Badwe which referred to several research and global studies indicating that smokers are likely to be more prone to Covid-19 infection. The state had, however, informed the HC it was not contemplating any blanket ban till there was conclusive proof.

The application is expected to come up for hearing in due course.

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