MP Assembly Polls: Will The Crippled Bidi Trade Affect BJP’s Fate?

Video Editor: Vishal Kumar, Mohd Irshad Alam

“I have been making bidis since 50-55 years yet our poverty just doesn't end,” said 70-year-old Nanhi Baai and went back to rolling bidis that helps her earn a meagre Rs 30 every day. Smoking is injurious to health but the health, condition and financial state of those in the bidi trade are worse.

MP Goes to Polls on 28 November

Assembly elections will be held in Madhya Pradesh on 28 November. Our poll yatra has reached Sagar. Kakaganj in MP’s Sagar ranks among the highest bidi producing hubs in the country. One can find women rolling bidis outside every other house. From the owners of the bidi factories to workers, there is widespread anger against the govt.

17-year-old Janki Gawri dropped out of school after the 8th standard for lack of finances.

"“We earn Rs 60 for making 1,000 bidis. My mother and I roll nearly 6,000 bidis in a week for which we earn close to Rs 400 every week.”" - Janki Gawri, Worker, Bidi factoryWhy Do Bidi Workers Earn So Less?

Bidis that are sold under big brands are rolled in these households. Bidi companies give contracts to traders who provide the women folk with raw material for bidis. The women then roll the bidis and give them back to the traders who then deliver the bidis back to the companies. The companies then package the bidis under their brands and release them in the markets.

The partnership between the traders and the companies is to blame for these women getting paid so poorly. Since the companies don’t directly deal with the workers, they are forced to roll bidis at nominal rates. Also, they blame the govt’s indifference for their condition.

"“Our business will close down and this govt also doesn’t listen to us. They make tall promises when they win elections, but we end up getting nothing.”" - Nanhi Baai, Worker, Bidi factory GST To Blame For the Crippling Bidi Trade

In order to get a clearer picture on the condition of the bidi trade, The Quint visited the Pradeep Kumar-Sanjay Kumar bidi company. The owner of the company Tika Ram was enraged when we asked him about the state of the bidi trade.

"“Because of GST the sale of bidi has reduced by 40%. We have to pay 18% tax on Tendu leaves that is Rs 18 on Rs 100. And we have to pay 28% tax on the bidis which are ready to be sold.”" - Teeka Ram, Owner, Bidi factoryWill GST Impact the Poll Results?

When we asked the owner of another bidi company on whether GST will impact the poll results, he said it definitely will.

. Read more on Madhya Pradesh Elections 2018 by The Quint.RSS & BJP’s Nehru-Netaji ‘Cosplay’: Irony Dies a Thousand DeathsMP Assembly Polls: Will The Crippled Bidi Trade Affect BJP’s Fate? . Read more on Madhya Pradesh Elections 2018 by The Quint.