I came across this research by Healthbridge who have conducted fieldwork into the issue of the Bidi-rolling in India.
To access the full report, just follow this link: http://www.healthbridge.ca/tobacco_poverty_Appendix%205%20India%20Final%20Research%20Report.pdf
The tobacco industry often boasts that tobacco growing generates employment and provides positive economic benefits to farmers and others. But the actual facts are quite different. Though a labour intensive industry, its wages are one of the lowest in the country at Rs 17,898 per annum. A large part of the industry also comes under the unorganized sector where wages are often fixed arbitrarily and where unending flow of unskilled labour keep wages low.
The majority of the profits, therefore, remain with the large manufacturers. Farmers often believe that tobacco will prove to be a profitable cash crop; however they often find themselves caught in a cycle of poverty and debt. Serious health risks, hard working conditions, contractual arrangements, the use of children in tobacco growing, and the environmental practices of tobacco growing have negative impacts on human capital and land, the two crucial assets for rural livelihoods. There are also many occupational hazards faced by those working in the tobacco fields, including health hazards such as green tobacco sickness, pesticide exposure and nicotine poisoning. And, while tobacco farming is not unique in its use of child labour, the particular hazards posed by tobacco cultivation places these children at increased risk of injury and illness. The production of bidis (small, inexpensive, hand-rolled cigarettes made from cheap tobacco and rolled in tendu leaf, commonly smoked in India) involves intensive labour: growing tobacco, plucking/collecting tendu leaves and rolling and packaging the bidis. While no accurate statistics are available, the Central Tobacco Research Institute (CTRI) has estimated that in India more than 6 million farmers and 20 million farm labourers are engaged in tobacco farming, spread across 15 states. Bidi rolling provides employment to an estimated 4.4 million people, in addition to 2.2 million tribal workers involved in tendu leaf collection. Further, nearly 4 million people are engaged in the wholesale and retail sale of tobacco.
Bidis harm not only those who smoke them; everyone connected with bidi manufacturing faces various health and occupational hazards. Bidis are mostly rolled at home where rollers expose their entire family (including newborns and children) to harmful tobacco dust and fumes. Most bidi workers suffer from chronic respiratory problems, skin problems, green tobacco sickness, asthma, TB, eye ailments and chronic backache. Bidi workers are largely illiterate and live below the poverty line, struggling each day to earn enough to feed their families two meals. They do not have health cards and therefore cannot access treatment at hospitals. Instead of paving a way out of poverty, bidi work simply allows for subsistence at the most marginal level. Most of the workers are women and children, already vulnerable and exploited groups, with no access to educational or other career opportunities. Deprived of a normal childhood, it is not only their size which is typically stunted; these children become the core of a repetitive cycle of systemic poverty.
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