Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Jamadiul-Awwal / Jamadiul-Akhir 1423 H
August 2002
Volume 15-08 No:188

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Community Development


Working for a New Dawn
Incentive Schemes for Beedi Workers
Grooming the Human Element


Mandya Beedi Workers Society

Working for a New Dawn

Beedi workers are being organised in the small town of Mandya in Karnataka
to change the way they live and earn their livelihood

By Maqbool Ahmed Siraj

Mandya Beedi Workers Society

A small group of determined workers is set to change the way the beedi workers live and earn their livelihood in the small district town of Mandya, 100 kms. south of Bangalore. Having planned a housing colony for 1,500 of the beedi workers families, they have organised the nearly 10,000 beedi workers and their womenfolk into small self-help groups (SHG) in order to raise the required finances, procured 50 acres of land from the government, planned a layout and working in tandem with several government agencies to translate their dream of giving a better deal to the workers.

Though quite close to Bangalore, Mandya is an obscure district headquarters on the railway line to Mysore. It was only two years ago that social workers led by Mohammad Zabiulla were prodded into forming the Mandya Taluka Beedi Workers Multipurpose Society Limited by then Deputy Commissioner of Mandya district L. K. Atheeq. The Society organised the 5,000 and odd beedi workers, nearly 90 per cent of them Muslims in the town living scattered in several localities, carrying out their vocation in thatched hovels along the open sewage drains amid all round poverty. Though they earned Rs. 40 to 50 a day by making around 1,000 beedis daily, their life was bereft of hope. There was no one to look after their kids’ education, Beedi contractor collecting finished products at is godown.health, marriage or fulfil their need for loans. A house of their own was a dream. All that they knew was to collect raw material from the beedi contractors in the morning and deliver the finished product at the end of the day. Normally three to four members of the household roll beedis and the income is considerable. The work began with the Deputy Commissioner and the local Congress MLA M. S. Atmananda who called a meeting of the 15 beedi contractors of the town and sounded them about the housing project.

Two years later, the Society is about to launch the construction of a 1,500-house colony at a 50-acre site in the dried bed of Chikkamandya tank in the outskirts of Mandya town. The land has been allotted to the Society by Rajiv Gandhi Rural Housing Corporation Limited under a Karnataka government scheme. The land development which includes laying of sewerage, drainage, roads, water supply, electricity, etc will cost the society nearly Rs. 3.70 crore. Of these, the 1500 house allottees have already contributed Rs. 75 lakh. The Government of Karnataka has contributed nearly Rs. 7 lakh for the development under Ashraya housing scheme. Some amount will be raised from local area development funds assigned to the MLA and the MP. Some sites set aside for shops and commercial establishments too would contribute considerable sum towards the development of the layout.

The 1,500-house colony will be organised on the basis of a cluster of four mutually joined houses forming a unit and five such clusters being banded together and separated by neatly laid roads. A 100-bed hospital would come up on a 2-acre plot. Three parks, several playgrounds, a shadi mahal (marriage/convention hall), three schools, a college too would come up on reserved areas.

Zabiulla, President of the Co-op Society in Centre, Secretary Akram Pasha on his left and one of the Directors of the Society Nasreen Taj on the right with a model of Foreground.Each house would cost the beedi worker around Rs. 82,500 as it is worked out by the PWD. But the Society’s secretary Akram Pasha expects that it would come down to Rs. 75,000 going by the vast magnitude of the work. Of these, Rs. 20,000 would come as a subsidy by the Central Government Labour Welfare Department under a special scheme meant for beedi worker’s housing. Another Rs. 40,000 would come from Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) in the form of a loan to be repaid with 11 per cent interest in 15 years in 180 equal monthly instalments. In monthly terms, a house allottee would need to pay Rs. 460 a month to own the house.

Says Zabiulla, “the challenge lies in organising the beedi workers. The beedi workers enjoy several benefits under central and state government schemes. One only needs to tap them and work as a catalyst to take them to the doorstep of the beedi workers who are a disorganised lot.”

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Beedi workers

Incentive Schemes

Worker busy with her jobThere are several incentives and benefit schemes for the beedi workers. Due to lack of organisation and awareness, most beedi workers do not benefit from the same. Here are few:

* All beedi workers are issued identity cards in order to ensure fair wages.

* Raw material has to be delivered and finished products have to be collected by the owners at the doorstep of the worker.

* Under Central Govt’s labour welfare scheme, beedi workers’ kids receive stipend for studies which is as follows: Rs. 250 per year for students from Ist to 4th standard, Rs. 400 for 5th and 6th std., Rs. 700 from 7th to 10th std. Rs. 1000 for PUC Ist and IInd year, Rs. 1,500 for degree level and Rs. 5,000 each year for BE/MBBS or any other professional course.

* Girl children of beedi workers get a cash incentive at the rate of Rs. 2 for each day’s attendance if the attendance is for more than 200 days in the previous class. After SSLC, this scheme shifts to performance. For example, a girl student would receive Rs. 750 in Ist PUC for attaining 60 per cent marks in SSLC. Amount varies for later stages.

* Mobile dispensaries are supposed to visit the localities of beedi workers twice in a week under the Central government’s health scheme under labour welfare.

* Each beedi worker’s family can avail of a loan of Rs. 40,000 and a subsidy of Rs. 20,000 for a 20 feet by 30 feet house.


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Grooming the Human Element

Physical facilities like housing and loans are likely to be wasted if the human element is not injected into such schemes. This needs training, education and skill development.

Women Members discussing their mutual loan needsWhile the work on housing society for beedi workers is going apace in Mandya, the Vikasana Institute for Rural Development is grooming the beedi workers with its social education programme inculcating into them saving habits, health and hygiene, environment consciousness, nutrition, shramadan (contributing labour for social needs), family counselling etc. Within six months of commencing the work, they have organised nearly 11000 women beedi workers into 55 self-help groups(SHG). The groups collect at a point once in a week and discuss their mutual issues, collect money for their mutual fund and entrust it to a group leader for depositing in the bank.

When this correspondent met Bibi Fathima SHG in Sadathnagar slums, Vikasana project coordinator, Jayaseela, an M.A. in Sociology, was seen discussing with 14 women members their mutual loan needs. The group which was formed on February 2 this year has so far raised Rs. 5,329. The funds come handy for petty loan needs of the beedi workers who are thereby saved from going to private moneylenders. Similarly, the women members of Ghousia Mahila SHG had collected Rs. 7,890 while Yarasool SHG and Dada Hayath SHG had raised Rs. 650 and Rs. 2248. Says Nasreen Taj, a councillor in Mandya City Municipality, the amount thus saved by the women would be utilised for repaying housing loans to the HUDCO in future.

According to P. M. K. Namoodiri, Project Director for Vikasana Insititute, the SHG groups were formed for the purpose of socio-economic empowerment of beedi rolling women.

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