NEW DELHI: A Ministry of Labour initiative to train and rehabilitate beedi workers has proved to be a woeful failure. Of the 48.1 lakh beedi workers across the country, merely 2,871 have been trained and only 307 have been placed in other jobs in the past four years.
Among the labour welfare organisation regions, Raipur’s performance is the best with 95 of 174 trainees being placed in other jobs. Only four regions — Bengaluru, Bhubaneswar, Kolkata and Raipur — have been successful in rehabilitating more than 10 workers. Nagpur region, which is home to 1,88,550 workers, has trained only 301 workers of which only not even a single worker has been placed in an alternative job. Ranchi and Tirunelveli regions have not trained even a single worker.
Ministry officials attribute the dismal state of affairs to a lack of interest among the workers themselves. “We have done our best to implement schemes for their rehabilitation. We are even providing scholarships to the workers’ children to discourage them from taking up work in beedi factories, but the reluctance of their parents is hurting our efforts,” a ministry official said.
Experts agree with the ministry’s claims. Narsayya Adam, former MLA from Solapur City and activist fighting for beedi workers’ rights, says even non-governmental efforts to convince workers to quit the work hardly bears fruit. “Solapur, which is considered a hub of the beedi industry, has around 40,000 workers. In my 20 years of working, I have hardly seen 20 per cent of the workers shift to a new profession,” he said.
Under the scheme, a cash assistance of `1 lakh is provided to the men; `2 lakh to women and child workers and children rescued from forced labour or organised/forced begging; `3 lakh to the differently-abled, physically challenged, trafficked, commercially sexually exploited, transgender and other severely vulnerable or bonded labourers.
Assistance provided to all bonded labourers like beedi workers includes allotment of land for house and agricultural land; land development; provision of low-cost dwelling units; wage employment; enforcement of minimum wages etc. Supply of essential commodities under the public distribution system and education for children is also provided to the workers under the ministry’s rehabilitation scheme.