Vibrant Bengal Brands Poised to Stub out the Local Beedi Sector
By K R Ranjith | ENS | Published: 14th December 2013 09:01 AM |
The already-shrinking traditional beedi manufacturing sector in the state is under a new threat posed by its North Indian counterparts, especially from West Bengal. The ‘migrant brands’ might stub out the local beedi workers putting at stake the livelihood of around 1.5 lakh workers in the sector. The companies here have started feeling the heat as they are fast losing ground to the brands popularly known as ‘Bengal Beedi’. Roughly, the local brands have lost 25-30 per cent of the market share to these inter-state brands, according to sources. The local brands rolled out by the highly paid workers here find it hard to win over the popular yet cheaper Bengal beedis that arrive in large numbers through the border checkposts in Palakkad and Thiruvananthapuram. Morever, the companies there offer hefty commission and attractive perks to the sellers, while enjoying the tax-free air in Kerala. Popular among interstate-migrant workers, the ‘Bengal beedis’ is steadily wooing local smokers who wish a stronger and cheaper puff. Most of the local brands, including Dinesh, Sadhoo, Yogi, KMR and telephone brands are at the receiving end of the tough competition. Over 7,000 workers are engaged in rolling beedis for Dinesh Beedi alone. The workforce of other companies are also going to be drastically affected, said a beedi roller P P Sreedharan who is also the district leader of Beedi Workers Union (CITU) said. The government should immediately restrict the free flow of migrant brands, he demanded. C Rajan, chairman of Kerala Dinesh Beedi Workers Central Cooperative Society, fears the crisis might worsen if this trend stays. “Dinesh beedi has lost over 10 percentage of its market share; a dip in monthly sales to the tune of `40 lakh. We cannot compete with them as they are produced in sweatshops in other states. Here, we pay `175 plus fifty percentage of benefits to the worker for 1000 beedis. But in Murshidabad in West Bengal, one of the major beedi production centres, they work for `75-80 a day. They do not pay any other benefits to the workers. Besides, they evade Central excise duty fixed at `16.60 per 1,000 beedis,” he explained. ‘‘When we sell 17 beedis for `10, the migrant variants cost anywhere between `6 to `8 for 20 beedis,’’ Rajan said.