Workers in different bidi factories formed a human chain in front of Jashore customs office to protest the ‘discriminatory policy’ against the country’s bidi industry and press their demand for measures to save it.
Several thousand workers joined the event organised by the southern region chapter of Bangladesh Bidi Workers Federation in the district town on Wednesday, according to a press release received in Dhaka.
Speaking at the programme, they said the authorities have imposed more duty on bidi than on cigarette to destroy the bidi industry, which employs lakhs of workers hailing mostly from poor rural families.
They demanded withdrawal of the discriminatory policy.
The workers submitted a memorandum, which includes their four-point charter of demands, to the Jashore customs commissioner to be forwarded to the chairman of the National Board of Revenue.
The memorandum says the bidi sector saw a 61 percent increase in the duty in the last one year whereas the duty on cigarette increased only by 21 percent.
It says the price of premium brand cigarette was cut down in 2014-15 fiscal year and their manufacturers are still enjoying that low price, exposing local bidi industry to the risk of extinction.
The memorandum says bidi workers are now passing their days with great anxiety.
The demands of the Federation are equal treatment of bidi and cigarettes industries, declaring bidi a cottage industry like in India, fixation of customs duty at Tk14 for per thousand of bidis, and waiver of tax for bidi factories that produce less than 20 lakh sticks.
Federation’s southern region chapter convenor Fazlur Rahman, worker leaders Alamgir Hossain, Noor-e-Azam, Maya Khatun and Khodeja Khatun, among others, spoke at the human chain programme.
The workers shouted different slogans in favour of their demand at the event.