Days after cigarette manufacturers halted production in the country, beedi makers followed suit. The move came after the union government ordered for mandatory pictorial warnings covering 85 percent on cigarette and beedi packs, effective from April 1.

“It is not possible to print the warnings, as stipulated”, All India Bidi Industry Federation (AIBIF) said in the statement today. According to AIBIF, it is difficult to print such warnings on reasonably large area of beedi packs which have curved areas and wrapping paper edges. Describing the government’s proposal “too harsh”, a Parliamentary Committee on Subordinate Legislation earlier suggested pictorial warnings on 50 percent of the area of one side of beedi packs.

“The practical impossibility implies that the beedi industry cannot implement the new warning rules in its present form. Therefore it is not possible to produce beedies without violating the law”, R.P. Patel, president, AIBIF said.

The Rs 7,500 crore beedi industry in the country supports 20 million people, directly or indirectly, including 2 million Adhivasis who pluck tendu leaves from forest areas.  Mandatory pictorial warnings on beedi packs were first introduced in 2008 and currently the packs have 40 percent of the area on one side covered by such warnings.

According to AIBIF, halt in production may directly impact 8 million beedi rollers, mostly women, apart from 5 lakh packers who pack beedi manually. The industry Beedi is prepared by rolling tobacco inside tendu leaves, unlike cigarettes which are rolled inside thin paper strips. Beedi industry usually maintains 60 days of inventory.

Earlier on April 1, cigarette manufacturers, including ITC and Godfrey Phillip, stopped production due to ambiguity over the size of such warnings that are required to be printed on packs.

“The Industry makes a sincere and humble appeal to the Government of India to save the Jobs of lakhs of workers who have limited alternative employment opportunities. The Government should amend the new notification on Pictorial warning as applicable to the Beedi Industry, so as to restore production of beedies as also the jobs of millions of beedi workers”, Patel said.