SAMBALPUR : Rolling kendu leaf into beedis is the backbone of rural economy across Western Odisha. Women in almost every poor household in the region roll beedis and contribute to family income. However, ever since demonetisation was announced, beedi companies have stopped operation and this has pushed the beedi rollers to the brink.
Sources in District Labour Office said there are about 1.45 lakh registered beedi rollers in the district and majority of them reside in Rengali block. There are many unregistered beedi rollers who work for 11 registered beedi manufacturers in the district. They receive Kendu leaf and tobacco from the companies and get ` 90 for every 1000 beedi rolled on weekly basis.
Phauri Oram along with her two daughters Sabitri and Anjana were rolling 3000 beedis daily in their house at Orampada in Baraipali. They received wages at the rate of `90 per 1000 beedi rolled. Today, they are left with no work.
In Rengali, old beedi companies like Dayalal Meghji & Co and Manilala Dayalji & Co have shut operations hitting the poor tribals below their belt. Even the largest selling Meghna Beedi has closed operations in Sambalpur, Rengali and Jharsuguda. The few, who are manufacturing beedi, have scaled down production following demonetisation.
Refusing to be identified, owners of the some Beedi companies said problems arising out of payment to beedi rollers forced them to shut or scale down operations. They said since they cannot withdraw more than `50,000 weekly and the payment to rollers runs into `5 lakh to `7 lakh every week, they had no other way out but to stop operations.
Beedi rollers said even though every beedi roller has PF account, which makes it mandatory to have Aadhaar Card and a bank account, they refuse to accept cheques as visiting banks and depositing it in their accounts is a cumbersome process. Although some tried to deposit it by sending the cheque by post, it took weeks together for the amount to get credited.
General secretary of Sambalpur Beedi Shramik Union, Mitrabhanu Poadh said there are 80,000 beedi rollers in Rengali block of the district and they are the worst affected.