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Beedis are cheap cigarettes used in India. They are made from tendu leaves rolled up with with tobacco inside (tobacco is made from dried tobacco leaves). The beedis are tied with cotton and the tips closed. The tray they make beedis on is called a murram and the knife is called a suri knife. The process is all done by hand – from cutting the stems and trimming the leaves to folding the tips of the beedis.

A young girl prepares leaves for making beedis
A young girl prepares leaves for making beedis

Beedi-making is a big child labour industry in India. Visit any village and children are working alongside their parents – even children as young as three. Some children are just helping out, but others have to work full time so their family can earn enough money to survive.

The children may also work in small factories, overseen by a boss who enforces production and long hours of work. All day these children roll beedis and inhale the tobacco dust, known to cause cancer. Children complete a set quota of beedis each week. Closing 3,000 beedi tips per day earns 25 – 40 rupees a week. Children who can roll 2,000 beedis per day earn 60 – 100 rupees a week. Children can complete 3 – 4 beedis a minute and must sustain this speed to fulfill their quota each day.

The finished beedis are packaged and branded with the company label ready to sell.