The proposed amendment to the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) will negatively impact the livelihood of millions of women in India, says a study. The measures if taken will be extremely harsh for small vendors who do not have other source of income.
The study – “A Study on the Status of Alternative Employment Schemes for Women Beedi Rollers” notes that most of the beedis are sold from microshops set up under trees and on pavements, which are not recognized by the municipalities. The new insertion (Section 10A(3)) makes it mandatory for persons to obtain licences, permissions and registrations for manufacturing, selling and distributing any tobacco product.
“This insertion, if implemented, will be an extremely harsh measure for small vendors who do not have the competency or financial means to obtain such licence,” said the study by human rights lawyer Vibha Vasuki and senior professor of anthropology Siva Prasad Rambhatla. “Tobacco products are mostly sold by small vendors and hawkers who have a small scale set up for selling tobacco products.”
It says the entire sale of beedis will come to a grinding and abrupt halt and as such, the entire beedi industry will come to a halt. The study delves into the impact this COTPA amendment will have on millions of women beedi rollers in the country. It recognized the fact that until skill-building and alternative employment is provided on a large scale for their livelihood, beedi rolling is the only viable occupation for millions of women across India.
The study highlights that beedi dominates tobacco consumption in India. About 7.7% of adults in India smoke beedis which have a market share of 85% of all smoking products in India. The study says any anti-tobacco legislation largely impacts the beedi industry.
Moreover, it points out that the manufacturing process is highly labor intensive. The over hundred-year old cottage industry employs workers in mostly the unorganized sector comprising mainly of home-based women workers from poor households. 96% of the total beedi workers are home-based while only 4% work in factories. The majority, that is 84%, of home-based workers are women while only 16% are men.
Furthermore, the study drew attention to the fact that beedi workers are among the most marginalized communities in India. Until skill-building and alternative employment is provided on a large scale for their livelihood, beedi rolling is the only viable occupation for millions of women across India.