Save bidi workers, urge analysts
The government's plan to raise the prices of bidi in the next fiscal year would send the industry of hand-rolled cigarettes on the verge of collapse, analysts said yesterday.
The price hike will take a heavy toll on the businesses in the bidi industry, who are now struggling against the spiralling costs of production, said Prof Mesbah Kamal, chairperson of Research and Development Collective, a research organisation.
Kamal spoke at a seminar on the national budget and bidi workers, organised by the research firm at The Daily Star Centre in Dhaka.
In the proposed budget for the next fiscal year, the government set the price of a 25-stick pack of non-filter bidi at Tk 6.14, up from Tk 5.35 now.
The price of a 20-stick pack of filter bidi was raised to Tk 6.94 from Tk 6.05.
A worker can make nearly 6,000 sticks of bidi a day and earn Tk 28 from every 1,000 sticks, said Kamal, who is also an economics professor at Dhaka University.
Around 25 lakh people are now engaged in 90 bidi factories in the country, while there were 218 such factories in 2001, he said.
More than 127 bidi factories faced closure in the last 12 years and 27 lakh workers became jobless.
“Any type of tobacco is injurious to health. If the government wants to ban tobacco, it can do that,” said Monirul I Khan, chairman of the sociology department at Dhaka University.
“But the government must protect the bidi workers until alternative employments are created.”
Bidi workers face various health hazards, but the government neglects their interests, said Advocate Delwar Hossain Khan, general secretary of Bangladesh Labour Federation.
MK Bangali, general secretary of Bidi Sramik Federation, and lawmaker Kazi Rozi were also present.