Academic journal article UTMS Journal of Economics

Socio-Economic Status of Women Beedi Workers in Bundelkhand Region of Uttar Pradesh: An Empirical Analysis 1

Academic journal article UTMS Journal of Economics

Socio-Economic Status of Women Beedi Workers in Bundelkhand Region of Uttar Pradesh: An Empirical Analysis 1

Article excerpt


In India Beedi making is an age old industry and one of the largest job providers for women in the unorganized sector. The Indian market for smoking is dominated by beedi. "Beedis or "Beedis" are hand rolled, unfiltered cigarettes. A beedi consists of about 0.2 gram of processed sun dried tobacco falkes, rolled in a tendu leaf or temburni leaf and then tied with cotton thread. The tobacco rolled in beedi is different from that used in cigarettes.

The beedi rolling activity is primarily carried out by workers having weaker socioeconomic status in the society. Most of the beedi making work is carried out in rural and semi-urban areas where it is one of the major sources of livelihood for many families. The work of beedi making is primarily carried by Schedule Castes (SC) and Muslims OBC who lost their traditional source of livelihood (weaving, potteries etc.) due cheap industrial substitutes and changing consumer preference. Beedi making is viewed by these families as an additional source of income to cover-up the shrinking income. Muslim women dominate the beedi work because due to religious stricture they are not allowed to go out to work. Thus home based work is widely acceptable among them (Bhatty 1980, 1985; Koli 1990; Mohandas 1980; Gopal 1997). The participation of Scheduled Castes is high in certain centres of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh (Labour Bureau 1996; Prasad and Prasad 1985). Children of beedi workers get involved in this work at a tender age; as a result cases of school dropouts are also reported in large number.

Socio-economic empowerment is essential for self-respect which cannot be achieved without economic independence. It has been widely reported that women beedi workers have poor socio-economic condition. Further, in spite of many legislations and efforts of trade unions, the conditions of beedi workers continued to deteriorate; forcing them to entertain child labour.


There is no definite information as to when and how manufacture of beedis started in India. Tribal people of ancient India used to smoke tobacco in a pipe made from leaves of trees, from where the practice of wrapping tobacco in a leaf probably originated. Beedi smoking was mentioned as early as 1711. Beedis first appeared along the east coast of India in the early part of the eighteenth century and were sold in bundles of 20 to 30. Though beedi is of Indian origin it is widely used in other Asian countries also such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia.

The first formal production of beedi started in 1902, although the rural people were known to have made beedies for their own consumption much before this date. Madhya Pradesh, the largest producer of tendu leaves in India, is one of the first states where beedi manufacturing began in 1902 in Jabalpur district. In 1915, a beedi rolling unit was established by Abdul Noor Mohammed in Sagar. According to a report of the Labor Investigation Committee appointed by the Government of India in 1946, merchants from Gujarat introduced manufacture of beedis in Madya Pradesh in the first decade of the twentieth century. The Court of Inquiry into Labor Conditions in Beedi report published by the Government of Madras in 1947 says the oldest beedi-making unit was established as early as 1887 (Chauhan 2001). This agrees with the International Labor Organization's estimate that the Indian beedi industry started around 1900 (Kumar 2003). Sagar, Damoh and Jabalpur districts in Madhya Pradesh accounted for nearly half the country's production of beedis until the late 1980s, reaching a peak of 77 billion sticks in 1984. By 1997, the beedi production from Madhya Pradesh reduced to 52 billion sticks owing to a rise in labor costs. This lead to emergency of other epicentres of beedi rolling in the poor pockets of West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, where labor is cheaper and workmanship was found to be better (Pasad and Prasad 1995). …

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