Updated: August 16, 2021 2:25:06 pm
Former MLA Narsayya Adam, advisor of a trade union representing nearly 70,000 women workers associated with manufacturing of bidis from Solapur, recently moved an intervention application in the Bombay High Court against the court’s suggestion of a temporary ban on sale of cigarettes and bidis during the pandemic.
The application, filed by Adam and Mahamadgaus Shaikh, general secretary of the union, through advocate Sarang Aradhye last month, sought permission to intervene in the PIL by city-based lawyer Sneha Marjadi alleging improper Covid-19 management in Maharashtra.
This comes after the HC had sought to know from the state government its opinion on the steps to be taken on a report by experts that indicated that cigarette and bidi smokers are more vulnerable to Covid-19.
The application states that if any adverse orders are passed in the matter, “it will be impossible for the thousands of women workers to survive as their livelihood is solely dependent on sale of bidis”, and there is “absence of material including research about Covid-19 victims addicted to smoking”. Therefore, it was necessary to hear the petitioners before passing any such directions.
Suggesting a temporary ban on sale of cigarettes and bidis during the pandemic, a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni on April 22 had sought a response from the Centre and state government. The court had said it was of the opinion of consideration of such a ban by the governments as the Covid-19 virus affects the lungs and weak lungs are severely affected.
The applicants stated that the bidi manufacturing business started 150 years ago and in Solapur city alone, there are 70,000 women employees having exclusive mode of earning through the same, and there are nearly 5 lakh workers associated with the said business, who will get affected if such a decision is taken by the government.
“If any adverse action is taken and if sale of bidi and cigarettes is banned during pandemic, serious harm and prejudice would be caused to the workers whose bread and butter is dependent on said business… The court may direct the petitioner to implead the applicants as party respondent in the PIL,” the application said.
Intervention applications were also moved by Mumbai Bidi Tambaku Vyapari Sangh and Federation of Retailers Association, opposing a ban or prohibition on smoking and sale of cigarettes and bidis.
In June this year, the state government had submitted a June 15 report by Dr Rajendra Badwe, director of Tata Memorial Centre, which referred to several researches and worldwide studies indicating that smokers are likely to be more prone to Covid-19 infection.
However, the state had told the HC that it was not contemplating any such drastic step of ‘blanket order’ at present stage.
The HC will hear the plea in due course.
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