Child workers in India's beedi industry
June 11th, 2012
06:18 PM ET

Beedi industry's child workers trapped in economic slavery

Editor's note: Davinder Kumar is an award-winning development journalist who works for children’s rights organization Plan International.

Five-year-old Aliya thinks it is a game she must master quickly to be a winner. From the time she wakes up, until she goes to bed, Aliya watches her mother and all the girls and women in her neighborhood consumed in a frantic race: Making beedis - traditional hand-rolled Indian cigarettes.

To create each beedi, the maker painstakingly places tobacco inside a dried leaf sourced from a local ebony tree; tightly rolls and secures it with a thread; and then closes the tips using a sharp knife.

For anything between 10 and 14 hours, regardless of how long it takes, Aliya’s mother and others must all roll at least 1,000 beedis to earn a paltry sum of less than $2 a day, paid by the middleman.

The beedi manufacturers, however, make billions of dollars.

The cigarettes are taken to the warehouses of large manufacturers, where they are packaged before being sold in the market for a much higher price.

Beedis are so popular that they make for nearly half of India’s entire tobacco market. but, behind the country’s unorganized domestic tobacco sector lie invisible millions trapped in modern day economic slavery.

Assembly line of workers

In Aliya’s town of Kadiri in Andhra Pradesh alone, hundreds of families have for generations relied on beedi rolling as their only means of survival.

The labyrinthine, congested lanes of Kadiri slums are home to an assembly line of humans functioning like robots: Young girls and women alike can be seen rolling cigarettes in groups out in the open. Some sway, some rock back and forth appearing entranced, while others have developed odd muscular motions as they push their work speed to the edge of human limits.

For most, if they do not roll enough beedis every day there simply will not be food on the table.

“The pressure to keep up with the speed and meet the target is so intense that many skip their meals and even avoid drinking water so they do not need to go to the toilet,” says Shanu, a community volunteer.

Almost all beedi workers in Kadiri, like the other beedi manufacturing pockets in India, are female and a large of number of them young girls.

Aliya has already started her lessons early and is practising rolling beedis using cuttings of plain paper. “I want to roll beedis and give money to my mother,” she says.

A study released nearly three years ago estimated a scandalous number of over 1.7 million children are working in India's beedi rolling industry. Children are knowingly engaged by manufacturers due to belief that children’s nimble fingers are more adept at rolling cigarettes.

Hazardous work

Under Indian law, beedi rolling is defined as hazardous work, but a loophole means children who help their parents in their work fall outside the legal framework.

“Formally, it is the women who take on the orders from the contractors,” says Anita Kumar of Plan India. “However, behind the scenes, the pressures these women face in terms of delivering on huge volumes, invariably children, mainly girls, get pulled into this to support their families in beedi rolling.”

As part of its global “Because I am a Girl” campaign, children’s rights organization Plan International has started a program focused on girl child labor in Andhra Pradesh, including girls involved in beedi making. The project will collectively impact 1,500 girls over 3 years. Children trapped in beedi work will need a rescue effort on a much larger scale.

“We are aiming to create a model by working with communities and the local government structures ensuring that children are prevented from falling into this cycle of labor,” says Kumar.

From unhealthy living conditions to exploitative wages, slave-like working conditions and severe health consequences - the situation of beedi workers involves violation of their fundamental rights and freedoms on many levels. The majority of girls are pulled out of education by the time they complete primary school to support their families’ income.

The youngest of four siblings, 11-year-old Salma dropped out of school last year when she had completed grade 4.

“I wanted to continue going to school but we are very poor and have been struggling to pay the rent,” she says as she struggles to draw breath.

Trapped in economic slavery

Salma is suffering from jaundice and is so frail she can barely sit up straight. Yet, she is tasked with rolling up to 1,500 beedis a day to support her family. Squatting on the floor, hunched, she rolls cigarettes for over 12 hours every day and still earns just over two dollars.

In addition to jaundice, Salma has also developed a ringworm infection on her wrist, common in the area due to poor hygiene and sanitation. She is in dire need of medical attention but visiting local hospital means a day off work due to long queues and a day’s wages to pay for transport - her parents cannot afford either.

The health impact on beedi workers is visible on all age groups. Tuberculosis, asthma, body pain and postural problems related with hips and joints are most common.

Continuous beedi rolling leads to absorption of high doses of nicotine directly through skin. The skin on the children's fingertips begins to thin progressively, and by the time they reach their 40s they cannot roll cigarettes any more.

Mahboobjaan, a mother of three girls, is in her mid-30s and is already losing sensation in her hands. ”My hands often swell up. I don’t know what I will do if I can’t roll beedi anymore,” she says.

The worst thing for beedi workers is the feeling that there is no protection, no welfare, no state support. They vote but have no power or effective representation. For all development indicators they remain at the bottom of the ladder all their lives.

And among them, the girls suffer the most. Throughout their life cycle their basic rights are violated; as children, as child brides, as young mothers, they continue to fight for survival with extreme labour and economic slavery.

In summer as the temperatures reach 45 degrees Celsius, the streets of Kadiri are engulfed in a stifling cloud of tobacco dust. Infants play among heaps of tobacco leaves.

Covered in a pool of sweat, young girls roll beedis with their eyes transfixed on their tobacco tray. Older women, who can no longer roll beedis themselves, help by trimming the ebony leaves. The work continues till late in the night just to secure the next day’s meal and to keep a roof above the workers’ heads.

The next morning, and for almost every morning for the rest of their lives, it is exactly the same story: The breathless race to 1,000 starts all over again with a single beedi.

[The children's names have been changed].


Editor's note: Plan International wants to provide vocational training to help girls and young women trapped in the beedi-making industry to find better paid jobs. To learn more about the "Because I am a Girl" campaign, or to help by making a donation to support the group's work, or by sponsoring a child, visit Plan International's website.


soundoff (213 Responses)
  1. bman

    I think we have enough poverty and worker mistreatment going on in our own country. Can't we focus on that for a few minutes? This kind of thing makes me wonder if someone somewhere is trying to make us think we still have some economic backbone left in us.

    June 12, 2012 at 8:49 am | Reply
    • Richard d

      Nice. Always thinking of others. Your worst day is better then their best.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:43 am | Reply
      • rob

        RIGHT ON!!!!!!! Richard d

        June 12, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
      • Noacommie

        China is damaging western economies with economic warfare - cheap labor to take the jobs, due to currency manipulation and slave labr. Otherwise our economies are fine thank you.

        Also you are not "we." Youre a chinese communist.

        June 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
      • Noacommie

        That was at bman.

        June 12, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
      • Welled

        Deal is forced labor is the same as debt labor. Usury is labor. Its the using of someones labor having them pay off a debt with their labor. Both get feed and housed. Cash think of them as little credits you get to go to one of their stores and buy food with. See you have a monetary system that is nothing but lending and loans. Everything that comes out of that monetary system comes out in the form of a loan. So whoever you work for may be way deeper in debt than you even and has to drive you really hard to pay their large debt off. So in essence the guy that works at the big house is no better off than the field hand. So all the labor flows back up the mountain to the people that everyone is in debt to. So you can build, maintain, service, transport etc all their assets.

        June 13, 2012 at 9:41 am |
      • Noacommie

        Welled is also a communist propagandist. Go jump off the foxconn building welled.

        June 17, 2012 at 11:33 am |
      • Hobojoejunk


        How can you compare china pegging their currency to our dollar warfare? They are executing fair practices to maintain a trade imbalance. We get cheaper goods, lower interest rates. China gets to build an industrial base. If we stopped blaming others for our economies problems we could look at the real issues.

        They should stop having babies if they don t want their kids to work. Or possibly wait until they can actually support them. The sons inherit the sins of fathers. Unfortunate but true. Either way it's not our problem.

        June 19, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • Angela Birch

      Compared to places like India we don't have real poverty. We also have child labor laws and a minimum wage. That is what mmakes us better off.

      June 12, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Reply
      • Ash

        India has poverty problem but western countries also has some other problems, which they don't see as a problem. I wouldn't waste my time to tell you all the problems, you know better if you look around.

        June 12, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
      • rob

        THANK YOU ANGELA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        June 12, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
      • Indian

        India also has child labor laws and a minimum wage..if these so called middlemen are caught they will be jailed...get educated dumb americans....

        June 12, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
      • Shiv Narayan Chandar Paul

        ASH: please accept it, Billion out of 1100 million in Endia living in miserable condition. There must be a reason thats 40000 Farmers alone commit sucide last year.

        June 13, 2012 at 8:26 am |
      • Welled

        This country is less that poor its people are all in debt. Your just digging your way back to poor from a life of grinding debt slavery.

        June 13, 2012 at 9:43 am |
      • Noacommie

        Welled, go work at a factory in china and then tell us we have it bad. They cant egen afford to buy what they make. Go jump off the foxconn building welled.

        June 17, 2012 at 11:35 am |
      • Hobojoejunk

        That actually doesn't make us better off. A minimum wage denies the right to work to many under qualified employees. What would happen to gang appeal children from poor households had the right to work for honest money. All those under qualified employees I mentioned earlier could build work histories, and learn skills they could actually use.

        June 19, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • bman

      My point stands. None of the replies reflect on my point.

      June 12, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Reply
      • Noacommie

        You and Welled should jump off the foxconn building together. Foxconn is the best worker job in china, but its a miserable existence. Go join them, they have nets to catch you now. Also you will need a lot more nets when we move our cheap labor operations out of your cheap labor communist country and to much more deserving coubtries. Know your boss bman, its us. But you will be fired soon enough. Hope your dear leader has a rice paddie for you to work on when the west pulls out of your craphole.

        June 17, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Welled

      You don't your country is 40 years past due. How they collect well.. These people don't want to be aware here. They take your labor with debt you don't have the strength to fight back. More importantly you don't have the strength to use your own labor for yourself. They don't take it seriously because they want to live in denial. This is just a story to deflect their troubles onto something else and keep it from becoming concious to them thats all.

      June 13, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Reply
    • Girl Band on the Run

      America has the same form of slavery its called underemployment. Need a example just walk into Walmart..were every person in there is underpaid..and what do they sell...items made by children chained by slavery. Yes, I agree with others, America has become weaker everyday.

      June 13, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Reply
      • Rory

        Yes...Walmart is a form of economic slavery...I would pay more for products, if I knew the employees inn those funny looking vest got paid more

        June 13, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
      • Hobojoejunk

        How can you possibly make a blanket statement that everyone of the thousands of wall art employees are underpaid. Assuming that all wall art employees are just as capable on average as the aggregate of the us labor force (which I doubt), then 8.5 % of them would have no job. That means that 8.5% of Walmart employees' opportunity cost is $0/hour. When their option is between that and Wallmart wages, I think you have to at the very least call Wallmart wages fair for that percentage of them. At least.

        June 19, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • The Hero Pablo Escobar

      IIndia is a rising giant economically....major US companies flock there...America is on the way down; and India well moving right past them. American's you allowed your country to become weak and corrupt..the crowning achievement was when your country invaded Iraq on a lie....tens of thousands of Children, Women and Men were murdered collateral we must pay for our sins..we will decline...we allowed those evil people in Washington to ruin a great country

      June 13, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Reply
      • Terry

        Dude you think Escobar is a hero?...well he did put allot of people to work...which is more than I can say about Obama

        June 13, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
      • Island Music

        To many he was a hero..gave so much of his money to help the poor..a true patriot of columbia

        June 13, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
      • Mercury Matrix

        IIf they make Pablo's Birthday a National Holiday, I would willing to take a day off from work, to celebrate.

        June 13, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
      • Harvey 12

        Mr. Escobar I agree with you 100 and 10 percent. The chickens are coming home to roost

        June 13, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
      • Hobojoejunk

        Iraq was our crowning achievement? Not defeating naziism? Marshal plan? Man on the moon? Micheal Jackson? Nuclear power? The "dream team"

        June 19, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Marvin "Beastman" Eastman

      II never realized how many Americans; don't believe in our country anymore. I can only tell you, I'm 34 I live in a beautiful home, drive a ICON Jeep and a BMW, live in a brand new 3300 SQ. Ft house on a private beach that would easily cost a Million in the USA, surf everyday and pay very little taxes...Life is great in Costa Rica!!!!

      June 13, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Reply
      • Donovan III

        After vacationing in Costa Rica, dude I'm jealous, people are really free there.

        June 13, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Johnny Drama, Jr.

      Can't we just take the money we spent in the evil incident called Iraq, and use it to help the less fortunate

      June 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Reply
    • Claire

      Agreed...concentrate on America first. CNN should focus on how we can help people right here in the weak USA..stop trying to convince us to invade Syria..and concentrate on the American Economy

      June 13, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Reply
    • csbalaji

      India is not yet liberated psychologically. Here, Education is only for the rich peoples, and the poor people are being used only for vote bank. As long as the difference between the poor and the rich exists, there is no salvation. India needs a leader who is completely corrupt free.

      June 17, 2012 at 11:42 am | Reply
    • rh

      And all these stories would be commonplace in the Great Depression. Let's get out of our own problems, feed 100% of our children, and then we can help others.

      One of the biggest ways to stop this is to stop pandering – and paying off – foreign powers. In these countries, the top politicians are always in bed with the top corporations (as in the US), so cut off the "political" aid unless they change work rules.

      The US could have a huge role in making the world better, but instead they make believe that playing nicey-nicey with the neighborhood bullies is the way to go.

      June 18, 2012 at 9:53 am | Reply
  2. Bitloo

    So, why does this matter?

    All these western countries tout their freedom but see where they are today.

    June 12, 2012 at 8:53 am | Reply
    • Krista

      Yes, let's see where the free western countries are today.... Our poorest laborers are a great deal better off than these children/women.

      June 12, 2012 at 11:40 am | Reply
      • Noacommie

        We brought you all the modern conveniences you take for granted. Your computer, internet, tv etc. we would be better off if we didnt trade with china. Dont bash unless you want to go back to your dynasty of civil wars and stupidity.

        June 12, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
      • Noacommie

        That was at bitloo.

        June 12, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
      • Shiv Narayan Chandar Paul

        Krista: Please shut up , what if they move all their call centers to some other place like Philipinnes. We will starve to death.

        June 13, 2012 at 8:27 am |
      • Proper Girl

        You are right...America invades and occupy's Iraq, so many lives Karma is coming back them..I am a American living happily in Beautiful Green Balbriggan, Ireland and have no plans of going back to the USA ever...they are no longer great

        June 13, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  3. Convoluted

    These articles highlight all the sad...why do they not show what we can do to help....a name, a number, an organization...why can't we come together as people to stop such foolishness? Why would we want more at someone else expense?

    June 12, 2012 at 8:53 am | Reply
    • bryonyjonescnn

      Hi Convoluted. Thanks for your response, I'm really pleased that Davinder's article has inspired you to want to do something to help. You can do so by getting involved with Plan International's "Because I am a Girl" campaign, by making a donation to support the group's work with children and young women trapped in the beedi-making industry, or even by sponsoring a child - for full details, follow this link:

      June 12, 2012 at 10:06 am | Reply
  4. Shiv Narayan Chandar Paul

    Thats the reality of common man is suffering in Endia each day. What endian media present is some thing different and can only be found with few miilions out of 1100 millions.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:07 am | Reply
    • iChoose

      Why are you using a fake Indian name porkie? Are too embarrassed of the fact that an estimated population of 1.8 million Pakistanis are held in debt bondage (dawn dot com/2012/01/23/the-age-of-slavery-returns) or the fact that poor porkies are eating donkeys now, literally (watch?v=XGVWsL6qTLE).

      June 12, 2012 at 9:31 am | Reply
    • AcclaimedMan

      Yes, in India they are working in an environment which hazardous to health, but in Porkistan, where you are from, sub-humans working in an environment which guarantees death by blowing themselves up into PIECES !!!

      See the big difference between the two, you DUMB POOR Porky?

      June 12, 2012 at 11:16 am | Reply
      • Dronaaa !!

        I agree that porkies recruit children to be suicide bombers !

        June 12, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
      • Shiv Narayan Chandar Paul

        I think they are calling it trining to use on Endia .

        June 13, 2012 at 8:37 am |
      • Shiv Narayan Chandar Paul

        Mr No Man , I am ENdian and u must be thankful to God that u are not a girl , if you were you must be killed by your father when you wer ein womb of your mom.

        June 13, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • Dronaaa !!

      Hey porkie !! Who begs from the US for Haraam AID ?? Pakbeggistan !!!!

      June 12, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Reply
      • Shiv Narayan Chandar Paul

        Donna they are not begging they are chokking at tyhe moment

        June 13, 2012 at 8:42 am |
  5. jorge

    This slavery must stop. The world must unite to stop a few from taking advntage of millions of humans

    June 12, 2012 at 9:10 am | Reply
    • Flight Time

      " the poor you will always have with you"

      June 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Reply
      • Brenda

        Possessing examine this I beeievld it absolutely was quite useful. I recognize you taking enough time and hard work to place this short article collectively. I when once again discover myself paying strategy to considerably time the two looking at and commenting. But so what, it absolutely was nonetheless worthwhile!

        August 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Hobojoejunk

      This is only pseudo-slavery. Don't get it confused with the real thing. Is everyone who hates their job, but doesn t want to quit a slave?

      June 19, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Reply
      • Anna

        This is not psuedo-slavery. It is real. When children must work to provide their own food because their parents cannot earn enough money, that is wrong. If you don't want to quit your job even when you hate it, that is a totally different situation. Exploiting children and preventing them from improving their lives is wrong. What this article describes is wrong. And, as people with better lives, we have a moral obligation to help.

        June 30, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  6. raika45

    A nation that claims to be the worlds biggest democracy, and a civilisation going back centuries is nothing but a nation of thugs, thieves and cast conscious society.A shameless conglomeration of jackals looking out for themselves instead of the nations future.This is a classic example of a democratic joke.A nation of fools.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:20 am | Reply
    • Karen in Redlands, CA

      Sir, in many ways you are right. I will tell you that the middle class here in the states is disappearing quickly, and if Obama is elected again we can all expect our tax bills to climb, because after all citizens are not smart enough to handle their own money.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Reply
      • Karen in Redlands, CA

        Yes Mam...right on Karen..were not smart enough to handle our own money, raise our children, pick what foods to eat etc..its really because the people in Washington are so much smarter than you or I, they are after all MASTER-MINDS

        June 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • True Patriot

      Your right!....America is weak and getting weaker...the rest of the World (and I am a American), laughs at the fat weakend whimpy America...everyone does as their told here by non-moral leaders

      June 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Reply
  7. murthy

    If western countries happen to look into the pictures, one can see 3-4 children surrounding a women. Unlike china having one kid per family, these bloody indians have 3-4 kids and the family stays below poverty line. Government announces free education for these kids, free ration for the family, reservation for their caste and religion creating imbalance in the economy. Only if every household stick to chinese rule of one kid, Indians could see better lifestyle.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:26 am | Reply
    • Sriraa

      And you are an Indian living abroad, I presume. You run away from the problem and live in someone elses country like a parasite....and talk about 'bloody Indians'. Speaks for itself!

      June 12, 2012 at 9:54 am | Reply
      • ABCD

        It isn't somebody else's country when we are born there. Why would we leave and run towards a country we are not a product of, a country that is breeding problems like this and has shown no progress or serious desire towards fixing them? It is telling when the educated citizens of a country are streaming out of it in record numbers in search of a better society.

        June 12, 2012 at 10:21 am |
      • Sriraa

        Well....the GDP of India has not become the 4th largest (PPP) because of people like you. Its because of people who were willing to put up with the bad conditions and work towards improving the country. We have come a long way from the 1950's when the British left us penniless. We will go much further in the coming decades. No doubt about that!

        June 12, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Lost

      Murthy, this one child rule you speak of, would this also mean that the male gender would be the preferred one? The one child rule also holds a major setback in societies that practice deep gender apartheid. From what I've learned so far, India already practices discrimination against females.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:22 am | Reply
    • deb

      Your solution is very shallow and reflects your ignorance. India is not a dictator country like China. India cannot thrust policy level initiative like one child norm on its people.
      India needs to speed up delivery mechanism to alleviate this problem.

      June 13, 2012 at 12:21 am | Reply
      • Adity

        There is an opt out proceeding in pcosers at the California Public Utilities Commission. I believe it will be completed within a few months to a year. Restoring the analog meters is one possible choice, but the Commission has not ruled on it. People have been restoring their own analog meters, with an electrician's help. To stay informed of this issue read the recent posts on the home page and sign up for our email list:

        August 2, 2012 at 4:10 am |
    • Mary Ann

      OMG stop drinking the Kool-Aid, do you really want the government telling you how many kids can you have? Maybe your one of those who needs the Government how to do everything, to include your reproductive freedom. Stop be a slave and be free..or at least think free, before America is gone for good

      June 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Reply
  8. Aj

    As someone said "work is worship", atleast nobody is forcing them to take it up. We are all slaves in one way or other.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:26 am | Reply
    • Lost

      This is true, Aj. Everyday people are bound by their mortgages, car notes, food and other living expenses and many earn a living from doing services for others or working for some company that they themselves do not own. We are all enslaved somehow, and working conditions and stress levels vary.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:27 am | Reply
    • Noacommie

      Dont bother trying to redefine slavery as work. Its a situation where you are forced to do things against your will. You can not pay your mortgage and get an apartment for example. Slavery is about no control of your life.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Reply
  9. cacalips

    Allah ackbar said in the koran that the west will lose power and the east will make them our slaves. Everything is going to plan. Alalallala akkbarrrrrr

    June 12, 2012 at 9:26 am | Reply
    • iChoose


      June 12, 2012 at 9:31 am | Reply
    • djhopkins

      allah ki bhain maki nakasaki

      June 12, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Reply
    • rh

      Sorry, but what does this have to do with the story?

      June 18, 2012 at 9:53 am | Reply
  10. Listener

    This is a sad story. However, I hope there will be changes soon.
    There are many ways to earn money for living but those in this article don't know any other ways except beedi rolling. I suppose the local authorities should pay more attention to provide education for children. They also have enough intelligence to create some different jobs with better earning for the citizens.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:46 am | Reply
    • bryonyjonescnn

      Hi Listener. Thanks for your response. Plan International hopes to be able to provide vocational training to enable these girls and young women to find better paid jobs than beedi rolling, but the high targets they face mean many of the people Davinder met while visiting this village had little time to spare from their day-to-day work to learn new skills. If you would like to help, you can do so by following this link:

      June 12, 2012 at 10:15 am | Reply
  11. Sriraa

    Oh please! Not the $2 a day nonsense again! $2 is equal to Rupees 110 a day....which is nearly Rupees 3000 per month. If a family of four earn Rupees 3000 each ...that's Rupees 12000 a month. That's not bad at all.

    In small towns and villages poorer people can get a meal for Rs.5 (10 cents)....and a tenement for Rs.500 ($10).

    I am not talking about the other conditions of work etc. That's probably as bad in any other part of the world for the poorer class. At least these people has a job and money to eat and live....and their living conditions are improving every day.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:49 am | Reply
    • hachimada

      My friend, there is no poorer "class" in any other part of the world. It's interesting that Indians are still obsessed to the class system.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:05 am | Reply
      • Lost

        Class systems exist everywhere!!! Wealth and poverty often dictates behavior and social structure within each class. It especially exists in the US.

        June 12, 2012 at 10:31 am |
      • Sriraa

        hachimada.....what do you mean 'there are no poorer classes in other parts of the world'? The most absurd statement I have heard.

        June 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Shubs

      I completely agree with Sriraa. Heck, I live in Bangalore and work in the IT industry. Even I can get by with $2 a day in this hyper-expensive city!! The point here is not the western perception of the lowly $2. It is the fact that none of these people are going to stop what they are doing just because an organization comes and tells them it's bad for their health. It will take a feasible alternative source of income which will provide them the $2/day or more. The $2/day number provides shock value for a western audience who cannot imagine people earning an amount which will not even get them a tall decaf latte at Starbucks. And that's ok, as long as it focuses attention on this very real problem. But readers should understand the concept of purchasing power.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:28 am | Reply
      • Krista

        Presumably the exchange rate takes into account purchasing power.

        June 12, 2012 at 11:45 am |
      • Sriraa

        How can the exchange rate take into account the puchasing power?! It fluctuates every day depending on trading and market conditions.

        June 12, 2012 at 11:58 am |
      • Shubs

        @Krista: Today, in urban India, you may need to pay almost the same prices for everyday items as you would in the US. BUT this is only true of internationally branded items. For example, if I were to buy a Nike t-shirt in Bangalore city, I would pay exactly the same amount that you woud pay. But step out into the real India, outside the glitzy malls, and you will find a hearty meal for Rs.40 (~$0.70) at every street corner, you can buy a week's worth of vegetables for Rs.250 (~$4.50), milk, in my city, costs about Rs.30/lt (~$2/gal), which obviously means it is much much cheaper in the small towns and villages, and especially when you consider the staple food of rice, suddenly the $/2 per day doesn't look that meagre any more, at least for basic sustenance. Now, of course, if you define poverty as not having a car, it doesn't work.
        I don't mean to dismiss the fact that a very large part of India's population lives in grinding poverty by any human standard, even today. But the $2/day qualifier, which is largely made up by the media, is just bogus.

        June 12, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  12. Mariam

    Individual liberty and freedom is what separates India from the West. This value provides the perfect foundation for the individual to think and stand up for self and not to be subjected to Cast, Tradition, or any other person including one's parents. As much as I hate to admit the value of "Self", it has its benefits.

    June 12, 2012 at 10:09 am | Reply
    • Shubs

      @Mariam: I don't think you know much about India at all, and I think you are pushing an agenda. Individual liberty and freedom are at the heart of Indian democracy. Even in this story, these workers and their families are not being opressed and forced into slave labor. They are doing this because this is what passes for economic opportunity where they live. If there was a viable alternative that would give them a similar level of income, I'm sure none of them would have any problems taking their children out of the workforce and putting them in school.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Reply
    • shifafire

      Having lived, studied and worked in both the US and the West, I have to say that personally, I find greater freedom in India. In the US, individuals follow the establishment too blindly. We are told where to walk, where to eat, where to walk one's dog. We were told to buy houses even if we had no income (welcome, mortgage crisis). We were told breast and prostate screenings were good, now we are finding out they caused more cancer than they prevented. Now we are finding out the much-touted improved fruit and veg (Monsanto lobbyists) looks and smells great but has less nutrition than the ugly natural food before.

      In India, everyone takes it as their god-given right to question what they are told. Public outrage counts for something. The police is very careful not to use excess force. Senior politicians go to jail for corruption (point one senior banker or pol in the US who went to jail for the mother of all financial crises). The media is not bought out by corporate lobbyists and pols.

      I could go on but you get the point. Yes, the West looks very free from afar but it was interesting to me when I went them how far from the truth that was.

      June 12, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Reply
      • Puma not Tiger

        You are 100 percent right! I am a American who does business all over the Middle East and on their worst day they are more free than Americans. We are told when, what and how do everything. I feel born again in the Middle East, imagine this as I write this on my IPAD I am sitting in the park, looking out over the ocean, smoking a wonderfully made Cuban Cigar, and get this...I'm not in a stupid smoking area..OMG imagine that..I better stop I may be offending God what's wrong with the USA..we have become a nation of whimps. Come to the Middle East and Breathe Free Air

        June 13, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  13. Lost

    Nebuchanezzar. (hope I spelled that right)

    June 12, 2012 at 10:15 am | Reply
  14. Raed

    It is hard to watch children work at such a young age, instead of being at school or playing. I am not saying beedi rolling by children is not a bad thing, but at least these children are engaged in something and sitting with there families instead of running on the streets, selling drugs, stealing or much worst. $2 day is little in some parts of the world but just enough in others and as the article shows it is not slave labor it is a choice to do it or not. i don't know why this article has been published now when this has been going on for many many years, is the beedi industry competing with the western tobacco companies.... if you give these people an alternative to earn an honest living that is not hazardous to them and will alow them to send there children to school i dont think they will say no... but i dont think that alternative exists to them right now.

    June 12, 2012 at 10:28 am | Reply
    • rh

      I am not sure what is so horrible about young children working. That happened in the Great Depression in the US, and still happens now. If your family will starve if you don't work, how else will you survive?

      The problem is that it is illegal to employ children in factories, so they use middlemen who make lots of money off the backs of others. If these kids worked in factories with education and food available took, they would get out of poverty. Instead the government makes believe they don't exist, so the cycle of poverty continues.

      June 18, 2012 at 9:56 am | Reply
  15. pparis

    Those are not workers. Call them "modern slaves".

    June 12, 2012 at 10:30 am | Reply
  16. akhenaton

    We are all slaves. We have been since the 18th dynasty of Egypt. Until people realize royal families are hiding information from people we will continue to be slaves in their make believe world..

    June 12, 2012 at 11:03 am | Reply
  17. Cassie

    I was suprised to see the negativity of folks on this site in regards to assisting these families. Yes, we still have problems in our own countries. But if we see an injustice somewhere, anywhere, should we not stand up and try to stop it? I am not blind to the problems around me, and I definitely don't drop my support to local assistance problems in my concern for international problems. If you folks are so concerned about the problems in our own countries, why don't you get your butts off your computers, and get out there to change it? Instead of telling people interested in solving this problem (Like the folks with the CCN Freedom Project) that they are focusing on the wrong problem, why don't you do something to fix the problem yourselves?
    Besides those above paragraphs, some information for anyone who is interested in making a difference: Another organization that you may be interested in if you are looking to contribute to the solution for the problem that these children find themselves caught in is World Vision. They have excellent child sponsorship programs that really does make a difference!

    June 12, 2012 at 11:05 am | Reply
    • Victor

      @cassie I believe there is some negativity but most of the people including myself think that the article presents a problem not in the right senseand also does not present a solution and also there is no way a camp or going to them and asking them to stop working as it is not good for your health will solve the problem, we have to come up with alternate sustanable living for them.

      June 12, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Reply
      • Cassie


        There is the solution, sir. Instead of sitting around, saying, "Well, yes it's bad for their health, but at least they're making money"...These are sustainable businesses that families can set up. If you click around on the website, you can find everything from sewing machines to goats to cows to mango trees, all things that can be used to sustain one's family What it comes down to is people being willling to buck up, spend ten days worth of Starbucks money on someone else, and actually help a family out.

        June 13, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  18. Jack R

    The Free Market in action. It's a beautiful thing.

    June 12, 2012 at 11:11 am | Reply
  19. guest

    This article talks about women and their girls.
    Where are the husbands? Aren't they supporting their families?

    June 12, 2012 at 11:49 am | Reply
  20. Sriraa

    As others have also least these Indian children are having a job and some money to live by. And their living conditions are not as bad as western countries project them to be. Also, the culture and social bonding keeps them happy and relatively stress free.

    The standard western notion that all children should be in school...then college and then at good corporate not workable. It is not working even in the west anymore. As poverty grows around the world.....all these highbrow ideas will vanish. Anything that helps people get by, will have to do.

    June 12, 2012 at 11:55 am | Reply
    • Shubs

      @Sriraa: Sorry, I don't agree to your point of view at all. Yes, it is a fact that most of these children are working because their families need the extra money. It is a fact, and also a tragic one. It does not mean that THAT is the reality that my country has to live with in this day and age. If we do not strive to change this status quo, India will never improve and pull itself out of this situation. We cannot say that having all children in school is an Utopian concept. It is NOT. School is where all children SHOULD be. Most countries in the world have managed to provide this basic right to their children. Shouldn't we do so too? Yes, we have the Right to Education law, we have free primary education on paper. All steps in the right direction. But look at the apalling quality of public schools, look at the shabby implementation of the Right To Education, this is not the condition I want my children to grow up and find their country in.
      And most important of all, we cannot and should not say that sorry, this is the harsh reality of life, live with it. We HAVE to have goals which take us to a better place. Otherwise we will never advance as a civilization.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Reply
  21. Sriraa

    Surprisingly...I am finding that Americans look at Indian conditions far more positively and with greater willingness to help....than Indian citizens who have run away from the problem. Thanks guys!

    June 12, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Reply
  22. Who me

    They should be thankful that they have jobs.

    June 12, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Reply
    • Dan

      Wow nice comment you must own your own business. Child labor and you could make some more money SWEET

      June 12, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Reply
    • Victor

      They are talking about the child getting dragged into a dangerous environment not cost cutting techniques for your business.

      June 12, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Reply
  23. Dan

    It will soon be the same in the USA if the big corporations get their way in the next election

    June 12, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Reply
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  24. John

    Although it's wrong, but the kids are getting that $2 to buy some food. Otherwise they will start to death.

    While the Indian govt spending billions on Nukes instead of education to educate the poor, the poor are dying and locked in a life of misery

    The indian govt wants to make sure these people stays poor. Unlike China, the made sure everyone had a chance. I

    June 12, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Reply
    • iChoose

      Look at chinese taking the higher ground on this issue. You have slave labour too, only your state controlled media will never report it. Besides, if your stats are better than India its only because you started liberalization in 70s compared to India which did the same in 90s. In time India will catch up.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Reply
  25. Alias

    It says these girls get paid $2 dollars a day while the companies make billions. Well ummmm, its about the same in this country almost. Most people in this country are only getting 7.25 an hour and the companies we work for make billions as well. Then you take the cost of inflation and that 7.25 is not worth but about 6 dollars if that. So im not saying what is happening over there is not right but this article makes it out to be like its only a problem over there, not any where else.. This country should already have a minimum wage of atleast $10, i mean come on that is so basic. Our Minimum wage is not keeping up with inflation at all. If majority would call up there local congressman and Senator and tell them we demand a minimum wage of atleast 10 dollars I promise you it would happen. Wake up people time to take back your country......

    June 12, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Reply
  26. grshopr

    A couple questions to ponder. I don't have the answers, just want them to be considered

    1. If they are so poor, why are their clothes so nice and so clean?
    2. Why do people who can barely feed themselves have children?

    June 12, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Reply
    • Sriraa

      Hi grshopr,

      These people aren't as poor as it is being made out. Please refer to my above post.

      In Indian rupee terms the children are getting Rs.3000 each, which is quite good. The cost of living is very cheap. You can get a meal for Rs.5 (10 cents). Clothes can be bought for Rs.100 ($1.8). Sarees can be bought for Rs.200 ($3.6)

      June 12, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Reply
  27. James

    atleast they have jobs and they are happy with what htey do. $2 can buy u food and water for the day

    June 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Reply
  28. Shubs

    First of all, the beedi industry in India needs to move into the modern world. It needs to bring in automation and modern management practices. That said, the number of workers that this would push out of the workforce would be enormous. At the very least, they should ensure that child labor is not employed. However, I feel the larger issue is one of perceptions. Whether the subject is Chinese workers, Indonesian 'sweatshops', Indian labor, the western press is more often than not, guilty of a form of ethnocentrism when it reports on these issues. While western readers find a bunch of people working in garment factory in Shanghai to be working in 'slave-like conditions', we from the said countries, find a bunch of American workers doing exactly the same work (or less, mostly less), taking home big paychecks (relatively speaking) and still whining about low pay, as overpaid, underworked prima donnas who don't know the first thing about hard labor. Yes, perhaps a wrong perception. But the trick works both ways. There are some universal truths, for example, children should be in school, not working to earn money; people should have the right to choose an employment of their liking. But in almost every case of reporting on this topic, we see the lack of local context, we see poorly understood social conditions being passed off as facts. I have even seen, on CNN, photos of children of construction workers playing around the construction site, labelled as child workers...children as young as 3 or 4, toddlers!!!!! This is extreme ethnocentrism, or complete ignorance of local conditions. Migrant construction laborers in India are very poor and usually live in shanties at the construction site itself. Their children live and play around the place all the time. Is this safe? Absolutely not. But are these children child workers? Absolutely not!! But impressions are set, and we move ahead with these falsehoods to our next story.
    A lot needs to be done about labor conditions in emerging economies. But please, please beware of sensational reporting by organizations like CNN, especially on slow news days.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Reply
  29. Clinton News Network

    $2 is actually pretty good for an adult Indian worker, and for a young child, not bad at all.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Reply
  30. Yo Mero

    The beedi industry in India needs to move into the modern world

    June 12, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Reply
  31. rebel

    Atleast these women and children work for food instead of lazing around and getting welfare money, these people are abused because of the corrupt politicians and police officers who favor the middlemen who makes huge profits. Indian politicians does not allow tescos or walmarts into the country coz a lot of middlemen will be wiped out as the poor farmer will benefit directly from them.

    June 12, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Reply
  32. djhopkins

    as bad as conditions may be in India, and they certainly have improved in the last decade, they are far worse in the land that is the biggest exporter or terror in the world i.e. pak-a-stain.

    June 12, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Reply
    • Bill

      exporter of terror?....ummmmm mostly that would be USA droppin bombs and flyin drones every where. I guess if a drone hits children workin in a sweat shop then it will be different than other civilians hit....5%..10%...acceptable too the USA as long as the 5-10% are some one elses children.

      June 13, 2012 at 12:51 am | Reply
  33. shifafire

    Let's stop sensationalizing. Yes, this is less than optimal. but $2 is Rs. 110. Rs. 110 can stretch to feed a family of 4 for 3-4 days in India (bare minimum food, no frills but food). No way you could even contemplate that with $2 in the US. It's called Purchasing Power Parity, CNN.

    Further, these kids need jobs in the absence of a viable system of education and mainstreaming. Don't "crack down" on the beedi manufacturers and leave these kids to die without food to slake your moral sense.

    If you want to do something, focus on HOW YOU, CNN, ARE GOING TO HELP THESE KIDS. Otherwise let 'em be, don't make money off them and make their lot worse in the process.

    June 12, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Reply
    • Ravi

      Ur right lankan soul' they are the world 2nd bigsget population but stil they can't produce best cricketers, example of best cricketers from small sri lanka= murali(1st project mystery off spinner,highst wicket taker in da world,introduced the Doosra),mahela(best logical captain,and asia cup 2008 best captain award winner),TM dilshan(the world best batsman alive,t20 2009most runs nd best player award winner and introduced new batting style DILSCOOP'),finaly ajantha mendis(2nd project mystery off spinner,asia cup2008 man of da trnmt inroduced the carram ball). (0)

      July 1, 2012 at 5:53 am | Reply
  34. Bill

    I would think a lot of this particular case has to do with the "caste" tradition in India as well. It is traditional for families to preform the same occupation for generations and people are not "upwardly moblie' as in north america, but remain in the caste into wich they are born. It is not quite the same as the more common child labour in Africa and other third world places that is mostly fueled by europe/north american greed for chocolate/coffee and other such luxuries. It would be quite difficult to fight this from outside India, the smokes are sold locally....can`t just boycott chocolate or whatever untill they change. Also without those jobs those families willl likely starve...that is the realitiy of poverty out side of our north american fantasy land, no welfare you must work or starve.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:38 am | Reply
  35. De Burka

    As sad as this story is, this is the story of our own history as well; as Americans and as Westerners. It is horribly sad, but as India and other developing countries continue to industrialize, so too will come worker's rights and improved living conditions. If history has taught us anything, it is that poor humanitarian conditions such as this are not sustainable.

    June 13, 2012 at 11:59 am | Reply
  36. alCourts

    June 13, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Reply
  37. barbarianofgor

    Too bad the New World Order decided to block them from this market. No EastAsia -> Oceana trade unless it's to bleed workers dry, not real innovative fair trade.

    We could have "fair trade Beedi" where they get more time, better equipment and we westerners pay more in exchange for quality and being assured (backup by camera/inspections) we pay for better quality/labor.

    Otherwise, what are you going to do, shut down their factories so they have to work illegally, even harder for less money and even less safety/stability?

    June 13, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Reply
  38. onestarman

    In the USA Children as young as the Ones in these Pictures follow their Parents into the Fields to Harvest OUR Food. Of COURSE it is ILLEGAL but it happens everyday and is actually ENCOURAGED because of the Payment of Workers is NOT under MINIMUM WAGE but under PIECEWORK PAY – Being Paid to Fill a 'Bin' of Produce for a Certain Amount of Money. So PARENTS (who cannot afford DAYCARE anyway) have the CHILDREN help them WORK.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Reply
  39. MrId

    How about they STOP HAVING KIDS!!!!!! If you make $2 a day, don't have 12 kids!!!!!!

    June 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Reply
  40. grassisbrown

    It's so very sad... I'm glad to be an American and live in a country where there are parks, fresh air and employment to take care of my family so my children won't have that burden. God bless them all.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Reply
    • capnmike

      We have these things because we aren't breeding like rats.

      June 16, 2012 at 9:09 am | Reply
  41. krm1007 ©™

    Every news that comes out of India is nothing but repulsive.

    June 15, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Reply
  42. Jkc

    Those who write that India or the Middle East enjoy a higher level of freedom than their Western counterparts are not speaking or thinking objectively. I have worked in both regions extensively and it is complete foolishness to suggest US citizens are slaves to any system, particularly on a relative basis. While capitalism does have periods of contraction, the USA has accomplished more in it's short history economically than the majority of the world. With that said, it's shortsighted to apply our value system to other countries. Embrace different cultures in the proper context and it becomes easy to love thy neighbor.

    June 17, 2012 at 11:14 am | Reply
  43. Ashutosh Chaudhary

    Sir this is reality of India.. Struggle for survival..

    One dies while other earns on his dead body, the situation is worse than africa..

    June 17, 2012 at 11:37 am | Reply
  44. AroundYou

    Can humans just stop and read the words beings used in the comments for a second? "Bloody Endians", "shut up", "dumb Americans", etc., etc., etc. Can you adult humans hear yourself? What a shame.

    There are a billion other horrific stories all over the world. What are you doing about just one in your neighborhood without the Government's help? If humans can think and act without being selfish all the time and take actions to solve problems in the immediate vicinity around them, this world will become a better place.

    June 17, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Reply
  45. Ujwala

    It is a sad reality of life and a vicious cycle that people in poverty are trapped in. Earning for survival is of the highest priority. When people are dying because of lack of food and water, putting legal frameworks in the system doesn't do any good. Placing age restrictions on child labor is effective only when authorities keep a check on it. Now, it just feels that the law on child labor is there on a piece of paper, for the sake of it, but is not practised in reality.

    For a country to have strict labor laws and in turn get citizens to abide by them, it is important for the authorities to have checks carried out in warehouses/factories where child labor is prevalent. In addition, the government should come up with schemes that will enable adults to earn a decent amount so that they don't force their kids to slog for a living. For this to happen, authorities/government officials need to ensure that middlemen are not exploiting the labor. There has to be a standard set of rules on the working hours and pay scale. It is a complicated set of affairs but unless the government does something about it, child labor is here to thrive.

    June 18, 2012 at 12:48 am | Reply
  46. Hobojoejunk

    This is only pseudo-slavery. Don t confuse it with the real thing. Is everyone who hates their job, but won't quit a slave? If so the 13 th amendment needs some serious editing. Come on people, think for a second.

    June 19, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Reply
  47. apuri

    Can someone at least give them gloves????

    June 20, 2012 at 11:29 am | Reply
  48. JimJ

    If the kids are making $2/day then they are doing pretty good. 18-30women work 10-12/day 6 days per week in textile mills in Bangladesh for $37/month. All so you can save $1 on that pair of jeans by buying them at WallMart.

    June 25, 2012 at 6:37 am | Reply
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  50. writerershad

    Bangladesh scenario is also same with India. Teen girls are engaged for bidi manufacturing and they are extremely less paid. Government is happy with revenue from Bidi industries.

    July 25, 2012 at 11:04 am | Reply
  51. olivia

    It's just sad certain people in the west get happy of the thought that other countries are so much worse off 🙁

    July 26, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Reply
  52. olivia

    You think slavery of Indians only happens in Inda?
    Go to any random gulf country and witness SLAVERY IN PLAIN SITE!!! There are about a million people from south asia and south east asia tricked into practically slavery there building shiny sky scrapers, cleaning dirt or being personal slaves to oil rich arabs or rich westerners.
    But the west doesn't do anything because its companies are profiting from it!! Zero labour costs building shiny sky scrapers or oil drilling or cleaning etc etc...
    EVERYONE who has been in these countries knows this is slavery but no one who can change things complains because it's too easy using these slaves!

    July 26, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Reply
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