Living As Child Labourers Young Girls In West Bengal’s Murshidabad Are Denied The Right To A Future
- IWB Post
- October 11, 2019
In India, 2.66 million child workers, in the age group of five to 14, work in the pan, bidi and cigarette sectors as per the Children in India 2012: A Statistical Appraisal report. As per unofficial estimates by trade unions and various researchers, 25% to 40% of the bidi industry workforce is made up of child laborers.
And that’s the life story of almost every young girl in the Murshidabad district, rolling bidis for 12 to 14 hours a day, making somewhere close to Rs 120 and skipping meals, water and education to earn the amount.
Murshidabad district of West Bengal became India’s largest bidi-rolling center and also a center of child labor when in the 1990s the industry here moved from factories to homes. According to a 1999 survey by the office of the Deputy Labour Commissioner it was found that of the estimated three lakh to four lakh bidi workers in Murshidabad, 90% are women and children working from home.
Here daughters are taught how to roll a bidi from the age of five by their mothers. Though some girls do take admission in school they drop out after primary school to support their family. The girls contract tuberculosis and asthma and suffer from frequent chest pain, cough, dizziness, eye infections and headaches because of the constant exposure to tobacco. From a very young age, they are instructed to be a good bidi worker so that they can have a better chance of getting a groom.
But here too, patriarchy plays its part as, by some unwritten rule, daughters are destined to roll bidis and sons are free to play.
H/T: The Hindu