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West Bengal: GST Hits Bankura Bidi Workers As Sales Drop; TMC MPs Didn’t Raise Their Issues in Parliament

Excise duty increased from Rs 13 to Rs 116 for 1,000 bidis.

It is difficult for bidi workers in West Bengal to get work three days a week as several factories were forced to shut down after GST was implemented. For binding 1,000 bidis, the workers get Rs 180. Previously for 1,000 bidis, the excise duty was Rs 13, now it’s a whopping Rs 116. Hence, tobacco prices have gone up and bidi prices are also up and sales have plummeted.

Madhusudan Chatterjee writing for Ganashakti reported that Bishupur in Bankura, West Bengal hosts thousands of bidi workers. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) MPs from the area have not spoken about the workers’ plight in the Lok Sabha. On the contrary, police have raided the bidi shops and forcibly shut them down. The state government has not taken any step or action to help the workers.

Read More: Periodic Labour Force Survey: 4.3 Crore Jobs Lost in Rural India Between 2011-12 and 2017-18

The report added that during the previous CPI (M) rule, bidi workers used to receive money to build houses, and subsidised electricity. The welfare board used to provide money for education and maternity benefits. The situation, however, is different now. Bidi worker Mamoni Garai told Ganashakti that she didn’t receive maternity benefits even after applying for it. They don’t even receive support to educate their children.    

Former Bishnupur CPI(M) MP Basudeb Acharia raised the issues of the bidi workers in Lok Sabha and worked to provide them provident fund and minimum pension scheme. Various welfare schemes suggested by Acharia have helped bidi workers across the country. Now, welfare schemes for bidi workers have all but disappeared, as per reports. 

On Tuesday, bidi workers from Bankur co-operative and 552 factories recounted their persistent harsh problems to Bankura CPI (M) candidate Amiya Patra. Patra said people are unemployed in every household. He said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and TMC are making unemployment the butt of their jokes.

Ganashakti quoted him as saying, “Far from talking about bidi workers, Bankura and Bishnupur MPs have not taken part in any discussion in Parliament. They need to be held answerable for that.” Actress Moon Moon Sen is the TMC MP from Bankura. She has an attendance of 69 per cent and took part in just one debate and asked zero questions.

Saumitra Khan is the Bishnupur MP. He has contested 2014 elections as a TMC candidate but switched to the BJP for 2019 polls. He has an attendance of 65 per cent and has taken part in 12 debates and asked 15 questions. He is currently embroiled in several court cases.

Read More: Rural Distress, Unemployment: MGNREGA Jobs Demand at 8-year High in 2018-19

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