Salt Sector Crisis


    In News

    • Recently, the crisis in the salt sector has hit almost 5 lakh people in Gujarat.

    Key Points

    • The salt industry is facing huge challenges in meeting the demand and in tackling the realisation crisis faced by salt farmers.
    • Farmers initially were getting ? 17/per tonne, and the price went up in the first years to ?27 per tonne and touched up to ?70 by 1991. This was the expansion of cooperative development.
    • Gujarat production: Gujarat produces about 28.5 million tonnes of salt per year, which is more than 80% of the country’s total production. 
    • Salt is a Central subject listed as item No. 58 of the Union List of the 7th Schedule of the Constitution.
    • Input cost and output: The input cost for labour is about ?1 lakh in a season. Moreover, projects such as the Ran Sarovar, a project to build a freshwater lake in 5,000 square kilometres of this area, will make about 50,000 people jobless.

    Salt Industry

    • The main sources of Salt in India are:
      • Sea brine
      • Lake brine
      • Subsoil brine 
      • Rock salt deposits
    • Major Salt Producing Centers:
      • Sea water is an inexhaustible source of salt.  Salt production along the coast is limited by weather and soil conditions.  The major salt producing centres are
      • Marine Salt works along the coast of Gujarat (Jamnagar, Mithapur,Jhakhar, Chira, Bhavnagar, Rajula, Dahej, Gandhidham, Kandla, Maliya, Lavanpur), Tamil Nadu (Tuticorin, Vedaranyam, Covelong), Andhra Pradesh (Chinnaganjam, Iskapalli, Krishnapatnam, Kakinada & Naupada), Maharashtra(Bhandup, Bhayandar, Palghar), Orissa (Ganjam, Sumadi) and West Bengal (Contai)
      • Inland Salt Works  in Rajasthan using lake brine and subsoil brine viz. Sambhar Lake, Nawa, Rajas, Kuchhaman, Sujangarh and Phalodi
      • Salt works in Rann of Kutch  using subsoil brine viz: Kharaghoda, Dhrangadhra; Santalpur
      • Rock Salt Deposits at Mandi in the State of Himachal Pradesh


    • Farmers are facing low price 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.
    • Cost of living has not changed much but pricing has changed for negative. About five lakh people work in the salt industry directly and indirectly. At the moment, a farmer earns about ?250 to ?300 for a tonne of salt he or she produces. The prices keep fluctuating.
    • Political issue: Salt, being the cheapest commodity, was getting the least attention from the government. If the neglect continued, India could lose its position as the world’s third largest producer of salt.
    • Mining or Agriculture: 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. 
      • It is a seasonal industry and it should be considered as agriculture
    • Laws imposed: The production units and farmers say that 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 mining industry.
    • Subject: Salt is a Central subject and land is a State subject. Salt has two parents and no one is taking care of salt.
    • Lacking documentation: Workers and farmers are being pressured by big salt producers to vacate the land. Most of them do not have proper papers, though the government allotted 10 acres for us to cultivate salt.
    • Climate change: Unseasonal rains and floods are also creating problems here.

    Way Ahead

    • The demand is rising at the rate of 8% and the production increase is just 3%. In future, if the government doesn’t take care of this industry, the industry will definitely be in trouble. 
    • There should be a nodal agency with common rules and regulations.
    • Responsibility has to be fixed on governments and manufacturers. A new Salt Act as a common policy for the entire country is needed.
    • To keep the farming alive, farmers must be given the access to the technology to make the final by-product of their effort. 

    Dandi March

    • It is also known as Salt Satyagraha and marked the first step of the Civil Disobedience movement.
    • Reasons behind the launch of Dandi March:
      • Simon Commission: No Indian was included in it despite protests by Congress and all major parties.
        • Britishers even mocked Indians by terming them incapable of framing their own constitution.
      • Lahore Declaration of Congress, 1929: It declared Complete Independence as the goal of Indian Freedom Struggle.
      • Non Acceptance of Gandhi’s 11 Points Demand: Gandhi ji put forth 11 demands including release of all Political Prisoners, Issual of Arms license to Indians for self defence, etc.
    • Gandhi ji after his 11 points demand was not met launched a non violent march from Sabarmati Ashram on 12 March 1930, travelled to 21 places and over 390 kms and reached Dandi on 5 April 1930.
    • Gandhi also published an article titled “Duty of Disloyalty”. In the issue of Young India.
    • Gandhi, Nehru, etc were arrested on breaking salt law which again instigated masses to take part in Civil Disobedience.
    • Why was Salt Chosen?
    • Salt appealed to masses as Repressive Salt Law prohibited Indians from processing and manufacturing salt.

    Gandhi’s Previous Experiments with Civil Disobedience

    • Transvaal Protest in South Africa: Transvaal immigration act was opposed by Gandhi in South Africa.
    • 1906: A legislation in Transvaal, required the Indians to register themselves and carry registration certificates at all times.
    • Gandhi initiated passive resistance or “satyagraha” and called the Indians to burn their certificates in public.
    • Later, the authorities even imposed restrictions on the interprovincial movement of Indians, and declared their Hindu marriages legally invalid.
    • Finally in 1913, Gandhi launched a March from Natal to Transvaal, crossing the border illegally.
    • These Marchers were sent to jail and treated brutally. But the struggle paid off, and under the Gen.Smut-Gandhi agreement, most of their demands were accepted.
    • Champaran Satyagrah:
      • It was Gandhi’s first CDM in India
      • Indigo farmers were relieved by less tax at the end.

    Source: TH