People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 03

January 20, 2013




Beedi Workers Pledge Participation in Feb Strike


Md Nizamuddin


THE recently concluded sixth conference of the All India Beedi Workers Federation (AIBWF) wholeheartedly and unanimously adopted a resolution about its participation in full strength in the February 20-21 all-India strike.


The conference of the AIBWF, held in Warangal on January 5 and 6, 2013, was hosted by the Andhra Pradesh state committee of the federation with full vigour. On the occasion of the conference, the whole Warangal city demonstrated enthusiasm. The city was decorated with the CITU flags and chain flags. A notable feature of the conference was that the beedi workers of the city of Warangal were so much willing to make the conference a success that they of their own contributed Rs five lakh from their wages. Another Rs five lakh were collected from other sections of workers and employees. The success of the conference was the result of relentless toil of more than 140 women and men volunteers from all mass organisations of the city deployed for the conference.


The conference proceedings took place at Swarna Palace (rechristened as Comrade M K Pandhe Nagar) while the dais was rechristened as Comrade Tanulal Mandalwar-Comrade Kamalapati Tripathi Manch.


A total of 288 delegates and observers from different states participated in the conference.


On January 5, 2013, the conference commenced with flag hoisting by one of the AIBWF vice presidents, Fatima Farida Baig, and with floral tributes paid at the martyrs column by the leaders, delegates and observers of the conference. B Madhab, Abul Hasnat Khan, K P Sahadeban, M P Ramchandran and Fatima Farida Baig constituted the presidium to conduct the conference.


On January 4, 2013, prior to the conference, an open session was held at Pochcha Maidan at Warangal where beedi workers and other sections of democratic minded people turned up in large numbers. This session was presided over by S Rama, secretary of the A P Beedi Workers Federation. CITU vice president Basudeb Acharia, Rangareddy, Md Nizamuddin (general secretary of the AIBWF), Narsiya Adam (CITU Maharasthra president) and Veeriah addressed the meeting.


The delegates session was inaugurated by CITU president A K Padmanavan who, in his address, scathingly criticised the anti- working class decisions of the central government as were evident from its permission to FDI in retail trade, disinvestment of almost all profit making public sector undertakings, periodical hikes in the prices of petroleum product including cooking gas, withdrawal of subsidies on fertilisers and other agricultural inputs etc. He explained how these decisions were having a catastrophic effect on the life of the common people of the country. The end effect of these decisions was the trend of abnormal rises in the prices of all the essential commodities. As a result, more than 77 per cent of the people of the country were living with paltry income of Rs 20 per day which rendered them BPL (below poverty line). He emphasised that it was the responsibility of the working class of the country, including the beedi workers, to defeat the policies of the central government through a united movement. He said the central trade unions and the federations in the country had organised a national convention at Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi on September 4, 2012 to discuss and decide about how to combat these anti-people decisions of the central government. The unanimous resolution of the convention was to observe a series of programme, including a 48 hours strike on February 20 and 21, 2013. He urged upon the beedi workers to take the responsibility of ensuring the success of the strike.


Padmanabhan also emphasised the necessity of realising the beedi workers’ demands, viz, common minimum wage of Rs 200 per day, DA, identity card, pension gratuity, increase in the housing grant, medical benefits etc. He urged the delegate to be prepared for a fight for realisation of these demands. He particularly referred to the loss of jobs of beedi workers because of the policies being pursued by the central government and demanded that the government must arrange alternative jobs or compensation for those who were victims of job losses.


Basudeb Acharia also spoke in the delegates session.


Md Nizamuddin, while placing the general secretary’s reports, drew the attention of the delegates particularly to the weakness of the organisation of beedi workers. The report depicted at length the international and national political situation prevailing today and the beedi workers’ problems in that perspective.


The report said beedi workers constitute the biggest section of the working class in the unorganised sector. They are also the most deprived class of the country, having no ensured minimum wage, no facility of pension, provident fund and other benefits. Whatever welfare schemes have been granted them are not available in reality because of the redtapism at the welfare commissioner’s office. To ameliorate the problems in favour of the beedi workers we need long drawn sustained struggles jointly with other unions. But to develop such sustained struggles we need a matching organisational strength of beedi workers. Unfortunately we have a meagre numbers of beedi workers in our federation compared to the total number of 90 lakhs beedi workers in the country. Our experience shows that the results were good wherever the CITU centre nourished the state units of the Beedi Workers Federation and wherever the state CITU units nourished the district units of the federation. The report therefore urged upon the central and state CITU leaderships to take care of this aspect for better organisational functioning.


A total of 18 delegates discussed the general sectary’s report. While summing up, Md Nizamuddin profusely congratulated those who contributed for the success of the conference, whereafter the report was adopted unanimously.


The conference also adopted resolutions on participation in the coming February strike; against FDI in retail business; on a common minimum wage of Rs 200+DA and realisation of the 11 point charter of demands, on the demand of ensured security of women in the country, on the demand of restoration of law and order and restoration of democracy in West Bengal, and on the demand of pension for the beedi workers. The conference called upon the beedi workers to observe the All India Demand Day on April 24, 2013.


The conference elected a working committee of 73 members, including 20 office bearers. The committee then re-elected B Madhab as president and Md Nizamuddin as general secretary.