The Swadeshi Jagaran Manch on Thursday said that the government should conduct a scientific study to find out the health impact of beedi consumption and keep it separate from other tobacco products while deciding taxation.
In a select media interaction along with the All India Beedi Industry Federation, co-convenor of the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch Dr Ashwani Mahajan said that it is the duty of the government to constitute a scientific study to find out the impact of beedi consumption on health instead of following the narrative without a scientific study.
“The government must go for a scientific study instead of following narratives and policy must be framed on the basis of the findings of the study,” Mahajan said.
Mahajan pointed out that earlier beedis were exempted from sales tax and excise duty but after implementation of GST it is taxed at the highest rate of 28 per cent.
Mahajan urged the government to keep beedis separate from other tobacco products and for taxation and protect small sellers from the proposed COPTA Act. “It is necessary to protect the livelihood of people especially women associated with beedi rolling and tendu leaves till the time an alternative employment opportunity is created for them,” Mahajan said.
Mahajan added that the beedi industry is under severe stress and putting more burden on the industry will lead to unemployment of large numbers of people associated with the industry.
“Unemployment will be a threat to national security as the majority of people associated with beedi rolling or tendu leaves collection are from naxal affected areas,” Mahajan said.
He suggested that the industry also switch to other products with higher revenue return.
“Industry also tries to switch into other new products in place of beedi with export values,” Mahajan suggested.
All India Beedi Industry Federation Joint Secretary Arjun Khanna said, “The impact of this policy change was seen in overall levels of employment in beedi manufacturing in the organised sector with a surge in manufacturing moving from the organised to the unorganised sector, adversely affecting the employment and income of beedi workers.”
“Amendments being proposed to the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) if passed will adversely affect the livelihood of millions of women engaged in beedi production work even further. Existing anti-tobacco legislation today have already led to a decline in the beedi industry and will continue to make it harder for the beedi industry to survive,” Khanna added.