The protest was staged using a human chain organized in front of the National Board of Revenue
Bangladesh Bidi Sramik Federation yesterday protested duty policy proposed in the budget for the fiscal year 2019-20 and voiced their six-point demand that includes the imposition of Tk14 as tax on every thousand Bidies.
The protest was staged using a human chain organized in front of the National Board of Revenue (NBR), according to a press release.
At the end of the program, the leaders of the federation submitted a memorandum to the NBR chairman.
Thousands of the workers joined protest. Joint secretary of the federation Harik Hossain presided over the program while president MK Bangali, executive president Amin Uddin BSC, general secretary Abdur Rahman and publicity secretary Shamim Islam, among others, addressed the human chain.
MK Bangali said, "In the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2019-2020, discriminatory duty has been slumped on Bidi industry where millions of workers including helpless and poor people earn their livelihood. Bidi’s duty has been increased by 24.2% while the duty on the low-cost cigarettes has been hiked only by 5.71%. While Bidi's supplementary duty has been increased by 5%, multinational companies do not see duty spike on any types of cigarettes. This policy is unfair when compared to cigarette industry."
He said, “The previous Finance Minister has set the timeline for closure of the Bidi industry by 2030. But cigarette industry has been given time till 2040. Such policy is unjust and inhumane for a domestic industry like Bidi.”
Acting secretary Amin Uddin BSC said, “Smoking is injurious to health. We are not pro-smoking. As long as there is smoking in the country, Bidi will remain. The conspiracy to terminate only the Bidi industry will not be tolerated in any way. We will form a rigid movement to force the government to give in to our demands if needed.’’
Abdur Rahman, general secretary of the federation, said, “Our neighboring India is protecting Bidi industry by announcing it as a cottage industry. Considering the employment of the poor people, the tax on Bidi in the neighboring country is tolerable. In India, duty on every thousand bidi is only Tk14 where we have to pay Tk313.60 in Bangladesh. That is conspiracy to terminate our industry.”
He warrants ‘pro-workers’ prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s attention to reduce duty on Bidi.
To end the human chain, the leaders of the federation submitted a memorandum to the NBR chairman. The memorandum reads six-point demand that includes (1) lowering low-end Bidi price to Tk10 from Tk14, (2) cutting supplementary duty on Bidi following India, (3) the supplementary duty must be increased on low-end and expensive cigarettes and higher prices for expensive cigarettes, (4) Advance income tax on Bidi must be revoked, (5) Bidi industry should immediately be declared as "Cottage Industry" following the policy of Bangabandhu and (6) integreted taxation for both the lower and middle end cigarettes.