Jangipur: Workers in eastern India`s largest bidi industry here in Murshidabad district are hoping that whoever is elected from the Jangipur Lok Sabha seat do something to address their grievances.
Employing more than 10 lakh people, 90 per cent of whom live in the Jangipur constituency area, the industry is crying to be granted a cottage industry status and for withdrawal of VAT on bidis exported to other parts of the country.
The workers are also suffering from poor wages for a long time.
Out of an electorate of 13.87 lakh, as many as eight lakh are employed in the bidi industry.
"The wages given to the workers are much lower than the rate fixed by the state government," Nizamuddin Ahmed, a member of the Bidi Mazdoor Union, said.
According to Nizamuddin, the official rate of wages for rolling 1,000 bidis is Rs 170 whereas they are handed a paltry Rs 100 for rolling the same number of bidis.
During the Left regime, the wage was Rs 55/1000 bidis. After the change of guard in the state in 2011, the wages were revised twice to Rs 100.
"Most of the owners of the bidi industry even do not pay our per day existing wage in time. It is either delayed or postponed to next week. The government should look into it," said Sadikul Mollah, a bidi worker."
The owners of the industry, however, feel that there should be a uniform wage.
"The wages should be uniform throughout the country. In Bengal it is Rs 100, in Jharkhand it is much less.
In other states it is either more or less. It creates a lot of problem for us," Zakir Hossain, owner of the Shib brand Bidi, said.
The bidi workers also feel that proper steps should be taken to weed out irregularity in the distribution of Bidi Workers Welfare Identity cards.
"Fifty per cent of the Bidi workers have got it while the rest 50 per cent are yet to receive them, althought cards have already been allotted to those who are not involved with the industry," Nizamuddin, a member of INTTUC, Trinamool Congress labour wing, said.