When salt is an essential commodity and salt makers are not

Asia's Tech News Daily

#Commodities, #Current Affairs, #India, #Mongabay, #salt, the 2011 census, 1948, study


On the last Monday of the monsoon month in September 2021, 48-year-old Gunawant Ramji Koli left for the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK) to place idols in a mud puddle. During the monsoon, waters of 11 rivers and many nullahs drain here and mix with the tidal waves from the Gulf of Kutch. The water recedes in September-October. Then, the puddle in which Koli placed the idols would have massive saltpans around it.

Koli belongs to Agariya, a traditional salt-making community in the Western Indian state of Gujarat. The Agariyas, like farmers, pray to their gods every year through such rituals for a bumper harvest and for no natural calamities. Koli’s prayers now include protection from man-made calamities too. Surplus water from the Narmada canals floods their saltpans, destroying salt worth several hundred thousand rupees.

The 60,000-odd Agariyas at the Little Rann produce 30 percent of India’s inland salt but they have no legal rights over the land on which they have been making salt for centuries.

The LRK is an area where no human being stays. Agariyas make salt in three percent of this land but the 2011 census indicates that a population of 1.75 million from nearby areas is dependent on it – the fishers, truck drivers, labour to load salt and packaging units.

The 5,000 square kilometres region was notified as a Wild Ass Sanctuary (WAS) in 1973, to protect the equine species. It is part of India’s largest National Biosphere Reserve and one of the few nesting sites for lesser flamingos and the endemic prawn species, Metapenaeus kutchensis. It attracts endangered cranes and other migratory birds and supports unique salt-tolerant plants and grasses.

But now an ambitious water infrastructure project threatens to permanently wipe out their traditional occupation and way of life.

Called Rann Sarovar, the project aims to turn Little Rann into the biggest freshwater lake in Asia. In 2019, Jaisukh Patel, who is the managing director of the Ajanta-Oreva Group that makes the Ajanta brand of wall clocks, had proposed to the central government, to build a freshwater lake in the LRK called Rann Sarovar. The idea was to dam the creek to prevent seawater from entering the Rann, creating a vast freshwater lake that can be used around the year.

The central government referred the proposal to the Central Water Commission (CWC) in early 2019. After a series of meetings with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), the CWC recommended that the Gujarat government should form a committee to study the proposal, as water is a state subject. The state and union governments are currently studying the proposal.

“This blockage of seawater and movement of freshwater will in the long term, push the sub-surface salinity towards the sea and improve groundwater recharge,” Patel told Mongabay-India.

The project, however, has invited criticism on account of technical viability, socio-economic and ecological impact. The CSIR said that the project is a “huge techno-economical challenge” because the LRK has an arid climate and is seismically active. “Extensive evaporation from the lake will lead to humidity that will destroy the cumin, castor and cotton crop that grow in the dry Saurashtra region,” Bharat Somera, an Agariya, associated with the NGO Agariya Hitrakshak Manch (AHRM) that works for the rights of salt workers, told Mongabay-India.

Asked about the livelihood of the Agariyas, Patel said that he has proposed to the government that the Agariyas should be given 10 acres of agricultural land where they can be rehabilitated. “Inland salt making is a dying profession. The Agariyas are the poorest people in Gujarat. I have proposed that they be employed to run the water-sports and boats when the Rann Sarovar comes up,” he said.

Presently, Gujarat’s water resources department has asked the Centre for Salt and Marine Chemical Research Institute (CSMCRI), Bhavnagar to study how long will it take to remove the inherent salinity of soil in the LRK.

“If it takes 2-3 years to turn the saline water fresh, it is worth it, but if it takes 20 years, then we can’t spend public money on it. Also, the government has to consider the sanctuary and livelihoods issue,” M.K. Jadhav, Secretary, Water Resources, Gujarat government told Mongabay-India.

Unique landscape and livelihoods threatened by man-made floods

The Agariyas can obtain rights through India’s wildlife protection law and the landmark Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006. But the local community members allege that the state has either slowed down or rejected their claims under these laws. “One can bear the wrath of nature, but the indifference of the administration is really exhausting, for it refuses to recognise our existence,” Koli, a third-generation Agariya, told Mongabay-India.

Once the water recedes in winters, it leaves behind an expanse of cracked land. This is when Agariya families from 102 villages within 7-45 kms of the LRK migrate inside with their water pumps, tools and household stuff and set up temporary huts for the next eight months. They pump sub-soil brine from underground wells and spread it on large prepared pans called ‘Agar’. Evaporation leaves behind white crystals of salt.

“Except pumping brine from the wells, everything is done manually. From extreme winter to blazing sun, we bear it all. And end up with grave injuries by constantly handling salt,” said Dhana Koli from Patdi, whose saltpans are 35 kms from his village. They earn about Rs. 0.30 for a kilogram of salt that is later sold at a premium in the retail market at about Rs. 20 per kilogram, he said. However, the pata (pans) are under threat from man-made floods.

“It takes 40-45 days to prepare a pata (pan) so that when we spread brine on it, it does not seep into the ground. We trample upon it until it hardens. All this effort is reduced to zilch in a day when the Narmada waters flood the pans like it happened this January. Sometimes, the water is released in May, flushing down the entire harvested salt,” laments Sehdev Bhai, from Kudagam village in Kharagoda. He lost salt worth Rs. 80,000 this year.

“Every year, there is a loss of Rs. 20-25 million (Rs. 2-2.5 crores) due to these manmade floods,” salt trader Hingor Rabari, who is also the president of the Kharagoda Iodised Salt Manufacturers Association, told Mongabay-India.

Somera, of Agariya Hitrakshak Manch, observed that the instances of the Narmada canals releasing surplus water have gone up since 2015. “In 2017, 136 Agariya families were affected when they released water from Madia canal, 10 kms from the LRK. We conducted a survey and pleaded for compensation to the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) in Gandhinagar. Their team visited the LRK and approved a compensation of Rs. nine million (Rs. 90 lakhs). But it has not been disbursed yet. Every time it happens, officials visit, appeals are made, but nothing happens,” Somera told Mongabay-India.

In 2015, the command area of the Narmada dam’s canals got completed. Since the LRK is the lowest point in the topography, excess water drains here. “Low-quality material has been used to construct the canals and their capacity is also lower than the amount of water released. Besides affecting the saltpans, this is gross wastage of the Narmada waters,” Rabari clarified.

However, Vivek Kapadia, director of the Sardar Sarvovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL), one of the largest water resources project in India, said that good rainfall in the last seven years and the completed drainage network of the Narmada river are only contributory reasons for flooding.

“The three fringe channels from north Gujarat, Saurashtra and Wagar are natural formations along the LRK that would carry water from the river catchments to the Gulf of Kutch. But they are choked up now due to siltation, leading to the horizontal spread of water towards saltpans. The solution lies in excavating these channels,” he said. But Kapadia’s report on the issue is yet to be accepted by the state government.

About compensation to Agariyas, Kapadia told Mongabay-India that, “Compensation is a revenue matter and the Agariyas stay in a wildlife sanctuary and don’t even have a lease to make salt. It is legally difficult to establish their right to compensation.”

Rights of community ignored

According to the AHRM estimates, the Tauktae cyclone in May 2021 washed off about a million tonnes of salt worth Rs. 360 million (Rs. 36 crores). The administration did not conduct a survey or announce compensation.

“When natural disasters happen, farmers can claim insurance/compensation for crop loss. Not Agariyas, because salt making is considered illegal. No bank gives them loans because the Agariyas have no documentary evidence of tenure. Even when the Agariyas made the environment-friendly move of using the solar pumps instead of crude oil to pump brine, they did not get any loans from banks,” said Harinesh Pandya, managing trustee of the AHRM.

In 1948, in order to ensure self-sufficiency in salt, the newly independent Indian government allowed salt farmers operating on less than 10 acres to produce salt without any licenses. “Such salt producers came to be known as ‘unrecognised’. Most of the Agariyas in the LRK fall under this category, and hence have no documentary evidence of their salt farms,” according to Yet to be Freed, a 2008 study on the Agariya salt workers by Charul Bharwada and Vinay Mahajan.

In 1973, the Wild Ass Sanctuary was notified under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Under the law, after the first notification for a wildlife sanctuary, the state forest department begins a settlement process to identify land rights of individuals and communities within sanctuary limits. The settlement process for the WAS began only 24 years later in 1997. The government came out with a notification to file land claims within 60 days.

But this was not publicised enough so most Agariyas did not file claims, alleged Pandya. The government also did not conduct any survey to get the exact number of Agariyas dependent on the Rann, he said.

In November 2006, in the middle of the salt season, the Agariyas received eviction notices from the state’s forest department, stating that their claims had been rejected. “Most Agariyas were shocked and clueless because they had never made claims in the first place,” said Pandya.

The AHRM conducted radio programmes to inform people about their rights. New claims were filed, but the forest department rejected them on the ground that the time period was over.

Now, as of September 2021, the settlement is still not complete, 48 years after the sanctuary was first notified. Earlier, the government used to issue short-term leases to Agariyas and renew them. They stopped renewing these after the settlement process began.

“As per the procedure, we cannot renew the lease for Agariyas till the settlement is done but we are not stopping them from earning their livelihood. The process has taken a long time because the LRK fell within the jurisdiction of five districts earlier, making coordination difficult,” said Prabhnesh Dave, Deputy Conservator of Forests, WAS. The LRK now falls in the Kutch district of Gujarat.

“Since then, we have been living in constant fear. The forest department says that the Wild Ass is in danger because of Agariyas and wants to evict us but their own numbers show that the wild ass population has gone up from 700 in 1976 to 5,000 now,” claimed Tejal Makwana, an Agariya from Patdi village.

A case for the community to claim rights

The AHRM and Agariyas have also tried to obtain rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest rights) Act, 2006 (FRA) under a provision that allows communities to claim “seasonal community rights.” Agariyas are categorised as a de-notified nomadic tribe but have been living in the Rann for more than 75 years so can qualify as “other traditional forest dwellers” under the FRA.

The AHRM has been trying for a Forest Rights Committee at the gram sabha (village council) level for filing claims but it hasn’t happened so far. In 2017, the state-level monitoring committee on FRA said that the FRA is not applicable to the WAS.

An official in the Gujarat Tribal Development Commissioner’s office, while wishing anonymity, told Mongabay-India that the matter was dismissed on two grounds: ownership of land in WAS is still a contentious issue between the revenue and the forest department and that salt does not count as forest produce but a mineral.

However, the experts working on the interpretations of the FRA claim it is incorrect.

“[Under the FRA], the community can access any resource in the forest, including water, fish, place of worship, etc. In this case, the Agariyas hold seasonal use of water in the desert to farm salt,” Pushpanjali Satpathy, a forest rights expert from Vasundhara, an NGO based in Odisha, told Mongabay-India.

According to the FRA, rights can be recognised on any ‘forest land’, which includes sanctuaries, and does not depend on the land’s ownership by the revenue or forest department. “In March 2007, the additional collector, WAS granted fishing rights to nearby villagers during the monsoon recognising their customary right. If fishing rights can be granted, why not the right to make salt by the traditional small producers?” questioned the Bharwada and Mahajan report.

Formal recognition of rights is crucial as it can help direct social welfare schemes towards the Agariyas. “They can package their salt better and market it through the Tribal department offshoots like TRIFED,” says Satpathy.

Internet Explorer Channel Network
Asia's Tech News Daily
News Related


S&P keeps India's GDP growth forecast unchanged at 9.5% in FY22

S&P Global Ratings on Tuesday kept India’s economic growth forecast in the fiscal year to March 2022 unchanged at 9.5 per cent but raised its predictions for the subsequent year ... Read more »

Failure at Rabobank with app and internet banking

Photo: ANP Rabobank is experiencing a malfunction with its app and internet banking. Customers are unable to log in. According to a spokeswoman, employees of the company are working hard ... Read more »

Sachin Bansal's Navi Technologies posts Rs 71 crore profit in FY21, revenue up 143% YoY

Picture Courtesy: Chandra R Srikanth Sachin Bansal-led Navi Technologies turned profitable in the financial year 2021, posting a consolidated profit of Rs 71 crore, according to the startup’s regulatory filings. ... Read more »

Bharat Biotech studying if Covaxin shot will work on Omicron

Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin India’s Bharat Biotech said on Tuesday it was studying if its Covaxin shot would work against variants of coronavirus such as Omicron, after the CEO of drugmaker ... Read more »

Altria can't sell Iqos in the U.S. as Biden administration opts to not intervene in patent dispute

Philip Morris International shows an iQOS electronic cigarette, which heats tobacco sticks but does not burn them.Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images Altria and Philip Morris International are no ... Read more »

EU medical agency says vaccine revisions for omicron could be approved in 3-4 months

A traveller receives a test for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a pre-departure testing facility, as countries react to the new coronavirus Omicron variant, outside the international terminal at Sydney ... Read more »

New COVID-19 guidelines: Delhi airport ready with arrangements for up to 1,500 international passengers

File image: Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi The Delhi international airport has made arrangements to accommodate at the airport up to 1,500 international passengers at a time, including those ... Read more »

Q2 GDP: Gross fixed capital formation rate rises in July-September despite COVID-19 second wave

India’s gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) expanded 11 percent year on year to Rs 11,429.07 billion in July-September FY22, according to the National Statistical Office’s estimates. The rise in India’s GFCF, ... Read more »

Elizabeth Holmes accuses ex-boyfriend, Theranos partner of forced sex

Much of Holmes’ defense has focused on the idea that Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani was really the one running the company. Yichuan Cao/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images Elizabeth Holmes — the ... Read more »

Stocks making the biggest moves premarket: Regeneron, Moderna, Dollar Tree and more

Check out the companies making headlines in premarket trading. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN) — Regeneron shares fell more than 1% in the premarket after the company said its Covid-19 antibody cocktail ... Read more »

Facebook must sell Giphy from British regulator

The British Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is demanding that Facebook sell the GIF platform Giphy. The competition authority announced this on Tuesday. The CMA believes the acquisition could harm ... Read more »

TRAI releases consultation paper to discuss pricing, modalities for auction of 5G spectrum

Telecom regulator TRAI on Tuesday released a detailed consultation paper to discuss modalities for auction of 5G spectrum bands, including pricing, quantum and related conditions. The Telecom Department has asked ... Read more »

TSB to close 70 more branches - is yours one of them?

The closures next year will leave the bank's network around a third of the size of when the brand returned to the high street eight years ago. Read more »

Putin orders to ensure protection of personal data during digitalization processes

According to the head of state, the process of digital transformation, which involves the introduction of new technologies in all areas of life, should have a serious impact on national economic development, leading to a rise in productivity and people’s incomes Read more »

Q2 GDP data | Private consumption, government spending rise sharply

Representative Image Household consumption rose in the second quarter (July-September) of FY22 despite the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, boosting hopes of a quicker recovery in consumer demand in ... Read more »

Zara founder's daughter to lead parent company Inditex in surprise reshuffle

MADRID (REUTERS) – Marta Ortega, daughter of the founder of Spanish fashion retailer Inditex, will replace chairman Pablo Isla, who led the company’s global expansion for more than a decade, ... Read more »

RBI appoints advisory committee to assist Reliance Capital administrator

Reliance Capital is part of Anil Ambani-headed Reliance Group (File image) The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on November 30 said it has appointed an advisory committee to advise the ... Read more »

Oil prices plummet in November due to concerns about Omikron

Photo: ANP Oil prices fell sharply in November, mainly due to concerns about the new Omikron variant of the corona virus and its possible impact on oil demand. Prices have ... Read more »

Edelweiss Financial Services' board approves fundraising up to Rs 1,000 crore via NCDs

Representative image Edelweiss Financial Services’ board has approved a public issue for raising up to Rs 1,000 crore through non-convertible debentures, half of which will be mopped up in the ... Read more »

What year is it? Here's why everyone is talking about Microsoft stock again

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) recently became a hot topic after CEO Satya Nadella sold more than half of his shares for about $285 million on Nov. 22 and 23. According to ... Read more »

Q2 GDP: Indian economy grew 8.4% in July-September quarter

Representative image India’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the second quarter of the fiscal year 2021-22 grew at 8.4 percent, official data released on November 30 showed. The numbers mark a ... Read more »

Taking Stock | Sensex down 196 points, Nifty below 17,000; consumer durables and FMCG gain

Sensex | Representative image Indian equity benchmarks ended lower amid volatility on November 30 as concerns over the Omicron variant of the coronavirus weighed on the market even as IT and healthcare ... Read more »

Maruti Suzuki hikes prices of Eeco van by Rs 8,000

Maruti Suzuki Eeco Maruti Suzuki India on Tuesday said it has increased prices of all non-cargo variants of its Eeco van by Rs 8,000 owing to the introduction of passenger ... Read more »

India's parliament passes bill officially repeals controversial farm laws after year of protests

India’s parliament passes bill officially repeals controversial farm laws after year of protests The Indian parliament has officially repealed the controversial farm laws that triggered the longest-running protest in the ... Read more »

UK regulator orders Facebook to sell Giphy

Source: Reuters A British regulator on Tuesday ordered Facebook to sell Giphy, assessing that its acquisition of the animated graphics startup would hit competition and advertising. The Competition and Markets ... Read more »

Explainer| Why Kerala is upset with the RBI on regulation of cooperative banks

Kerala Legislative Assembly On November 22, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued a circular that warned cooperative societies about using the word ‘bank’ in their names and accepting deposits from ... Read more »

Eight core industries growth rises by 7.5% in October

Representational image The combined output of eight core industries has surged by 7.5 percent in October, as compared to the same period last year, showed the official data released on November ... Read more »

'I can't even afford to buy a cart of groceries': Spiraling inflation leaves some grocery workers struggling

The gap between hourly wages and the cost of food means many grocery workers often face the daily experience of being around food they can’t afford. Read more »

Omicron already playing havoc with travel and tourism

The latest Covid-19 variant has introduced new concerns and restrictions into travel plans. Read more »

Barbados bids farewell to British monarchy, becomes republic

The Associated PressBarbados’ new President Sandra Mason, center right, awards Prince Charles with the Order of Freedom of Barbados during the presidential inauguration ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados on Tuesday Nov. ... Read more »

Inflation fears and corona concerns are pushing stock markets into the red

European stocks plunged into the red again on Tuesday after the rebound a day earlier. Concerns about soaring inflation in the eurozone and fears that existing vaccines will not work ... Read more »

Goldman downgrades Dollar Tree to neutral, says company's improvements are priced in

People walk past a Dollar Tree store on November 23, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.Mario Tama | Getty Images Shares of Dollar Tree are getting too expensive and investors should ... Read more »

Kremlin hopes there will be no threats to completion of Nord Stream 2 certification

Dmitry Peskov emphasized that the certification and launch of Nord Stream 2 are in the interests of all European consumers Read more »

Reuben property billionaires plot £180m deal to fund Admiralty Arch hotel project

The Reuben family is on the verge of a £180m deal with Prime Investors Capital that would see it become a significant shareholder in the redeveloped Admiralty Arch site, Sky News learns. Read more »

Eight core industries growth rises to 7.5% in October

The growth of eight core industries has surged by 7.5 percent in October 2021 as compared to the same period last year, showed the official data released on November 30. ... Read more »

Go Fashion shares close 81% higher on debut despite market volatility

Go Fashion India IPO Shares of Go Fashion, the operator of Go Colors brand, remained strong throughout the session, and closed 81.5 percent higher on the day of the stock’s debut amid ... Read more »

Credit growth to industry picked up in October, shows RBI data

Representational image. Credit growth to industry picked up to 4.1 percent in October 2021 from a contraction of 0.7 percent in October 2020, according to the latest data from the ... Read more »

What is known about new Twitter boss Parag Agrawal?

Read more »

Volvo Cars built 50,000 fewer cars due to chip shortage

Photo: ANP Swedish car maker Volvo Cars has built 50,000 fewer cars in the third quarter compared to a year earlier due to chip shortages that have plagued the global ... Read more »

STI falls 2.5% in single largest decline in a year amid Omicron variant fears

Decliners outnumbered advancers 338 to 172, with 3.22 billion shares worth S$3.89 billion changing hands. SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) – The Straits Times Index (STI) saw its largest single-day decline ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic