Skip to main content

Gujarat's 10,000 Rann of Kutch saltpan families' voting right hangs fire as state assembly polls approach

The Rann of Kutch, Gujarat: A community gathering
By Pankti Jog*
Would Gujarat’s Rann of Kutch agariyas, or saltpan workers, who migrate, live and work on what has now come to be popularly known as Survey No Zero for six months starting with September, exercise their voting rights this December, when the state goes to polls?
While agariyas, a denotified tribe, have become more conscious and aware of the power of their vote, their livelihood option of working deep inside the Rann of Kutch forces them not to return to their villages, which are tens of kilometres way, to actually exercise the voting right. Not without reason, very few percentage of agariya population actually vote.
Two well-known NGOs, Agariya Heet Rakshak Manch (AHRM) and Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP) recently made written representation to the chief electoral officer (CEO), Election Commission of India, Gujarat, requesting him to make some arrangements for the agariyas so that they could vote this time.
The CEO, however, has sent letter to the district electoral officer (DEO) of only one district, Surendranagar, asking the mapping of agariyas in the Rann, though they belong to three other districts – Patan, Morbi and Kutch. Yet, this was for the first time that electoral rolls were read out to mark agariyas in the Rann.
A virtual desert, from September onwards till April, over 50,000 people (8,000 to 10,000 families) reside in the Rann. They are involved in their traditional occupation – of farming crystal salt by extracting water from 40 to 110 ft depth, and spreading it in different pans. Salt pans are known as “agars”. On an average there are three voters per family.
The issue is: With the polls approaching, would similar circulars be expected for Patan, Morbi and Kutch districts? Agariya community leaders, associated with AHRM, have requested the election machinery to provide either transport facility or mobile polling booth in the Rann, especially for agariya women voters, to vote in a fair manner. Will it oblige?
Pankti Jog examining electoral list with agariya women
The families who migrate to the Survey No Zero (which is an un-surveyed triangular mud desert bearing 4992.53 sq km area lying between Surendrangar, Patan, Morbi and Kutch districts) are residents of over 107 villages of six blocks of the four districts. They migrate into the Rann of Kutch and reside at a distance that ranges from 20 to 70 km. 
Following efforts by the two NGOs and local activists, the government has started Rann-shalas, began supplying drinking water through tankers, and sending mobile health vans to this population. Male member of the family return to their villages once a month to buy grocery, but female members hardly get to visit their villages unless in case of health emergency. Bicycle is the only means of transport here.
Saltpan workers identify their names in electoral roll
Life in Survey No Zero is hard. The Rann, which is also Wild Ass Sanctuary, gets flooded during monsoon with waters from rivers like Banas, Rupenand Saraswati. On the other hand, saline water from the sea enters from the Maliya area, which is called as mouth of the Rann, turning this into a brackish water body, famous for prawn fishing. During this period, fishing activity is carried out by a denotified tribe called Miyana.
The planning of polling booths has begun for all the villages, towns and cities, yet most of the Survey No Zero remains out of reach. Should one expect that the agariyas would travel from up to 70 km distance to their respective villages on the polling day on their own, or allow some political party take advantage of the situation to send vehicles?
---
*With Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel

Comments

TRENDING

Green revolution "not sustainable", Bt cotton a failure in India: MS Swaminathan

Counterview Desk
In a recent paper in the journal “Current Science”, distinguished scientist PC Kesaven and his colleague MS Swaminathan, widely regarded as the father of the Green Revolution, have argued that Bt insecticidal cotton, widely regarded as the continuation of the Green Revolution, has been a failure in India and has not provided livelihood security for mainly resource-poor, small and marginal farmers.
Sharply taking on Green Revolution, the authors say, it has not been sustainable largely because of adverse environmental and social impacts, insisting on the need to move away from the simplistic output-yield paradigm that dominates much thinking. Seeking to address the concerns about local food security and sovereignty as well as on-farm and off-farm social and ecological issues associated with the Green Revolution, they argue in favour of what they call sustainable ‘Evergreen Revolution’, based on a ‘systems approach’ and ‘ecoagriculture’.
Pointing out that Evergreen Revol…

Rejoinder: Inescapable to have Central Water Commission as strong technical body in India

By BN Navalawala*
This is with reference to Counterview Blog (December 5, 2018), "Modi govt 'shelves' water reforms report, shows 'no interest' in its recommendations", below mentioned are my comments/observations thereon:
A committee was constituted under the Chairmanship of Dr. Mihir Shah, Former Member, Planning Commission, for restructuring of Central Water Commission (CWC) and Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) for optimal development of water resources in the country in the backdrop of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).

Some Hindu bodies in US defending BJP-RSS' divisive, violent activities: Agnivesh

Counterview Desk Last week, Washington DC saw speakers at a religious freedom roundtable, chaired by the US Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, express concern over "eroding" space for religious freedom in India. Dr Mike Ghouse, executive director, of the Center for Pluralism in Washington DC, referring to the roundtable, said in an email alert that Indian-Americans have "a moral duty to prevent India from being labeled as a Country of Particular Concern by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)".

Karnataka: NGO Akshay Patra "not sensitive" to nutrition demands of school children

Counterview Desk
Well-known civil rights organizations, Right to Food Campaign and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, have sent a letter to the Union minister of human resource development, the Chief Minister of Karnataka, other concerned ministers and officials of the state expressing concerns regarding the mid-day meal (MDM) to school children, insisting, all contracts to the Akshay Patra for supply of MDM should be immediately terminated.

Rejoinder: Worldwide anxiety post-Fukishima is fading, slowly and steadily

By Dr KS Parthasarathy* 
EAS Sarma, former Secretary, Government of India (GoI) in a letter addressed to the Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), GoI, stated that, there has been "worldwide anxiety about the consequences of catastrophic nuclear accidents, either due to manual lapses or natural calamities" (Counterview, December 2, 2018). "In the recent years, globally, the pace of growth of nuclear power has escalated in leaps and bounds, causing a great deal of public concern and apprehension."

India's rewritten textbooks talk of demerits of democracy, praise Hitler, underrate Mughals

Counterview Desk
A detailed, 3,800-word review of the books rewritten under directions of the BJP rulers across India since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in May 2014 has suggested that one of aims of the books is to instill a sense of doubt about India’s democratic polity among the country’s young minds. Reviewed in the prestigious US journal, “The New York Review of Books”, in its latest issue (December 6, 2018) by Alex Traub, the scrutiny insists, the effort has also been to paint Indian history from the angle of “Hindu triumphalism”, even as creating “Islamophobia”.

Preventing childhood deaths: India performs worse than Bangladesh, "equals" Pakistan

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released study, “The Pneumonia and Diarrhea Progress Report 2018”, prepared by the International Vaccine Access Centre (IVAC) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has identified India among 15 other countries which are still far off the mark in achieving the targets of the Global Action Plan for the Prevention of Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPPD).

Modi's PRO, who served previous Congress, BJP CMs in Gujarat with "equal" competence

By Rajiv Shah
A public relations officer (PRO), even as maintaining anonymity, is supposed to “manage” reputation of his or her client, reflecting the client’s views in order to influence opinion and behaviour. A PRO is also known to use, the world over, media and communication to build, maintain, manage and plan publicity strategies and campaigns, even as dealing with enquiries from the public, particularly media, organising promotional events such as press conferences, open days, exhibitions, tours and visits. A PRO is also supposed to final touches to press statements for his or client.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Proposed expansion of Karnataka N-plant "ignores" worldwide anxiety post-Fukishima

Counterview Desk
EAS Sarma, former secretary, Government of India (GoI), in a letter addressed to secretary, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), GoI, with copies to chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and chairman Karnataka Pollution Control Board, has said that radiation and environmental risks have been ignored in DAE’s proposal to set up Units 5 & 6 (2X700MWe) at Kaiga Nuclear Power Station in Karnataka.