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March 19, 2012
Indian girl trapped in life of cigarette rolling
DHULIYAN, India (AP) -- Sagira Ansari sits on a dusty sack outside her uneven brick home in this poor town in eastern India, her legs folded beneath her. She cracks her knuckles, then rubs charcoal ash between her palms.
With the unthinking swiftness of a movement performed countless times before, she slashes a naked razor blade into a square-cut leaf to trim off the veins. She drops in flakes of tobacco, packs them with her thumbs, rolls the leaf tightly between her fingers and ties it off with two twists of a red thread.
For eight hours a day, Sagira makes bidis -- thin brown cigarettes that are as central to Indian life as chai and flat bread.
She is 11 years old.
Sagira is among hundreds of thousands of children toiling in the hidden corners of rural India. Many work in hazardous industries crucial to the economy: the fiery brick kilns that underpin the building industry, the pesticide-laden fields that produce its food.
Most of the children in Sagira's town of Dhuliyan in West Bengal state work in the tobacco dust to feed India's near limitless demand for bidis.
Under Indian law, this is legal.
(10 images)



tobacco_roller_01.jpg
Sagira Ansari, 11, right, rolls bidi tobacco with her family at their house in Dhuliyan, in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. Sagira is among hundreds of thousands of children toiling in the hidden corners of rural India, many working in hazardous industries crucial to the economy: the fiery brick kilns that underpin the building industry, the pesticide-laden fields that produce its food. Sagira and nearly every other child in the town of Dhuliyan works through the tobacco dust to feed India's near limitless demand for the thin, tight cigarettes. Sagira and her family earn 75 rupees ($1.50) for every 1,000 bidis rolled which brings in about 7,500 rupees ($150) a month. AP / Rafiq Maqbool


tobacco_roller_02.jpg
Eleven-year-old Sagira Ansari watches a man weigh tendu leaves which will be used to roll tobacco, outside her house in Dhuliyan, in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. AP / Rafiq Maqbool
tobacco_roller_03.jpg
A woman rolls bidi tobacco as an infant lies on the ground next to her in Dhuliyan, in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. AP / Rafiq Maqbool
tobacco_roller_04.jpg
Eleven-year-old Sagira Ansari rolls bidi tobacco at her house in Dhuliyan, in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. AP / Rafiq Maqbool
tobacco_roller_05.jpg
Eleven-year-old Sagira Ansari, center, rolls bidi tobacco with her mother, Alea Bibi, and brother at their house in Dhuliyan, in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. AP / Rafiq Maqbool
tobacco_roller_06.jpg
Eleven-year-old Sagira Ansari holds up bundles of bidi tobacco cigarettes that she rolled at her house in Dhuliyan, in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. AP / Rafiq Maqbool
tobacco_roller_07.jpg
Eleven-year-old Sagira Ansari, who earns a living by rolling bidi tobacco, combs her hair during a break from work at her family's home in Dhuliyan, in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. AP / Rafiq Maqbool
tobacco_roller_08.jpg
Eleven-year-old Sagira Ansari, right, eats a meal as her mother Alea Bibi tends to her brother at their house in Dhuliyan, in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. AP / Rafiq Maqbool
tobacco_roller_09.jpg
Sagira Ansari, 11, rolls thread used for tying bidi tobacco cigarettes, at her house in Dhuliyan on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. AP / Rafiq Maqbool
tobacco_roller_10.jpg
Sagira Ansari, 11, left, and her father Mahmood Ansari count bidi tobacco that has been rolled at their home in Dhuliyan, in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. AP / Rafiq Maqbool

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