Crisis in salt sector hits livelihood of lakhs of people in Gujarat
- The salt industry is facing huge challenges in meeting the demand and in tackling the realisation crisis faced by salt farmers.
- Salt, being the cheapest commodity, is getting the least attention from the government,
- Workers have warned the Centre that if the neglect continues, India could lose its position as the world’s third largest producer of salt.
Historical perspective & Current demand of workers
- Mahatma Gandhi fought against the tax on salt.
- Even after 75 years of Independence, the laws that govern this industry are framed by the British.
- One hundred and twenty years ago, Britishers got salt from Mandi in Himachal Pradesh by mining.
- Therefore, the British put salt production as mining.
- Hardly 0.5% salt is produced by mining. 99.5% salt is produced either from the sea water or from the sub soil water and the entire process is done by seeding, cultivation and harvest.
- Demand: It is a seasonal industry and it should be considered as agriculture
- All the laws pertaining to the industries are applicable to salt production even though the production is done through simple solar evaporation as it is listed as a mining industry.
Constitutional position of Salt & Demand for a New Salt Act
- Salt is a Central subject listed as item No. 58 of the Union List of the 7th Schedule of the Constitution.
- The industries demand that there should be a nodal agency with common rules and regulations.
- Salt is a Central subject and land is a State subject so it is generally ignored by both centre and states
- Responsibility has to be fixed on governments and manufacturers.
- A new Salt Act should be framed as a common policy for entire country
Current position of Salt industry
- About five lakh people work in the salt industry directly and indirectly.
- The prices of salt keep fluctuating.
- Gujarat produces about 28.5 million tonnes of salt per year, which is more than 80% of the country’s total production.
- While farmers are facing low prices as there is no minimum support price, workers are also in distress due to a lack of a proper system for wages and social security.
- There are about 12,800 salt processing units in Gujarat’s coastal belt, out of which only 119 are considered as medium and large.
- Currently demand and supply are almost the same. Nearly 36 million tonnes of salt is produced and the demand, including for export, is 31.5 million tonnes. In future, if the government doesn’t take care of this industry, it will definitely be in trouble. As the demand is rising at the rate of 8% and the production increase is just 3%.
- Schedule 7
- Civil disobedience movement
- Salt tax
- Chemical composition of Salt
Q. Discuss about the Crisis in the salt sector and demand of the salt industry workers.