Bidi workers and tobacco farmers of Kushtia have urged the government to reduce taxes on bidi and fix fair prices.
Bidi workers and tobacco farmers of Kushtia held a human chain in front of the deputy commissioner's office in Kushtia on Wednesday to press home a 5-point charter of demands.
Tobacco is used in the bidi industry but due to conspiracies hatched by foreign multinational tobacco companies the government has imposed high taxes on bidi, forcing the factories to close down, workers said, adding because bidi factories are closing down, tobacco farmers are not being able to sell their produce.
Due to the increase in tariffs on bidis, unscrupulous traders are marketing bidis with fake band-rolls to evade tax. As a result, the government is being deprived of a huge amount of revenue.
The five demands are: bidi workers should have to work for six days a week, tax levied on bidi should be reduced, the 10 percent advance income tax imposed on the bidi industry should be withdrawn, fair price should be fixed for tobacco, and factories of counterfeit bidi should be busted.
The speakers further said that tobacco farmers are becoming helpless due to the aggression of foreign multinational companies. Held hostage by the foreign companies, farmers are being deprived of a fair price for tobacco. As a result, thousands of tobacco farmers and traders are suffering financially and they are in dire straits with their families.
The speakers called upon the government to address the problems of tobacco growers and bidi workers.
Golam Mostafa, labour affairs secretary of the Kushtia district of the Awami League, was the chief guest at the protest programme, chaired by Md Nazim Uddin, general secretary of Kushtia Zilla Bidi Sangram Parishad and vice-president of Bangladesh Bidi Workers Federation. Workers' leader Tarun Sheikh moderated the event.