Indumati More has been rolling bidis for the last 18 years. The 48-year-old registered bidi worker from Parbhani, Marathwada, is becoming increasingly frustrated and angry with no revision of wages and dearness allowance (DA) in the last seven years despite an official order.
“We protested in Parbhani a few months back to demand the sanctioned hike in wages. But neither the bidi companies nor the government has helped us,” said Indumati. She is one of the 2,500 bidi workers who had petitioned the state labour department only to not have a single meeting for almost two years.
Maharashtra has 4,00,000 registered bidi workers who are paid by 16 companies and some local contractors. In 2014, the state labour department raised their wages to Rs 210 for every 1,000 bidis made and DA.
“A worker making 1,000 bidis per day should be paid a daily wage of Rs 210 plus Rs 102.50 DA, totalling Rs 312.50, according to the 2014 wage revision,” HM Shaikh, co-coordinator of Maharashtra Bidi Kamgar Joint Action Committee, told Newsclick.
However, the bidi workers are paid only Rs 179 only per 1,000 bidis and no DA. “We got official assurance after our protest. However, when our wages were not increased, we filed complaints with various divisions of the labour department. But we haven’t been heard even once,” Shaikh added.
Union leaders had also met the labour minister and the secretary, who had promised to implement the 2014 pay scale.