The Kerala government on Monday set aside a sum of Rs 20 crore to help rehabilitate the state's beedi workers, who are going through tough times, by helping them to start their own small ventures.
The Kerala Beedi & Cigar Workers Welfare Fund Board, which looks after the welfare of the nearly 80,000 beedi workers in the state, has been entrusted with the job of channelling the Rs 20 crore to the workers to start their own ventures in poultry farming, stitching centres, mobile recharge centres, fancy shops and such ventures.
This new programme was charted out after State Labour Minister TP Ramakrishnan and trade union leaders had a discussion. According to the new scheme, 3,970 new jobs will be created for erstwhile beedi workers in the first phase.
"As much as 80 per cent of the total cost of the venture will be borne by the Welfare Fund Board with the rest to be brought in by the beneficiary. The scheme also envisages the supply of 300 laptops to the students of beedi workers studying in engineering colleges. 300 students of beedi workers studying in high school will be given cycles and 50 physically challenged students will get a tricycle," said a top Labour Department official.
Kannur, Kozhikode and Kasargode - the three northern districts of the state - are the places where a huge chunk of the now almost displaced beedi workers reside and a decade back when the industry started losing out to the cigarette industry, there was diversification that was undertaken then, when beedi workers started new ventures like umbrella making, food units and even readymade units.