Skip to main content

Gujarat govt "destroyed" 150 salt farms in Rann of Kutch, Narmada water release created agariyas vs farmers situation

By Pankti Jog*
The Gujarat government does not miss a single opportunity in praising itself for its ambitious Narmada project or the Sardar Sarovar Dam. Expenses behind this project have increased by many fold, yet, the fact is, in many parts of the state’s farmers are waiting to see Narmada water reaching their farms.
The question is, if water does not reach farms, where does water go? If you ask this to the poor agariya, who farms salt in the Little Rann of Kutch, in a huge expanse about 100 kilometres north-west of Gandhinagar, Gujarat capital, his answer would be simple: It is being thrown away in the desert of Kutch.
This answer may seem ridiculous, as Gujarat has always fought for raising the height of the dam, with the aim to collect and store more water.
But if you visit the Rann from October to May, you will see crores of litres of Narmada water is thrown in the salty desert every day from three corners of the Rann, Kuda, from Radhanpur and from the upper parts of Ghatila.
The Rann is a mud desert with nearly 5,000 sq km area, and various rivers like Banas, Rupen and Saraswati meet here, instead of the sea. More than 8,000 agariya families migrate and reside here for eight months and farm crystal, earth salt called “vadagaru” or poda salt. Salt farming in the Rann has a history of 600 years.
When Narmada water is released in the Rann, it washes away their salt farms, leading to a situation of manmade disaster. Recently, in the heat of elections, huge quantities of water were released from the Kuda minor canal of Narmada in Surendranagar district. The water released was continuous and, obviously, to please the farmers, as elections were approaching.
However, farmers could not use much of the water during that period, and the rest of the water was then released into the Rann. It washed away 150 salt farms completely, while an equal number got partially affected.
Each of the salt farmers had spent around Rs 1 to 1.25 lakh by taking advance from traders with the promise to sell salt. However, due to this calamity, caused by Narmada water, they have now returned to their native village, leaving the Rann.
“We have to compromise for the next year’s price, as neither will we be able to pay the advance amount, nor will be able to farm any salt”, Dhirubhai, one of the affected salt farmers, said.
Agariyas represented to the district collector, Surendranagar, as well as at the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL), the state agency responsible for the Narmada project in Gandhinagar.
“Every time, the Narmada department has the standard oral reply: Farmers demand for water, and we are asked to release water in canals, we do what we are asked to do”, said Harinesh Pandya, trustee, Agariya Heet Rakshak Manch, the non-profit organization working among salt farmers.
“However”, he added, “As per the rules of operation of Narmada canals, the department has to calculate the water requirement and release it accordingly considering the carrying capacity of the canal. They want to portray this as an agariyas versus farmers issues.”
“The construction of canals is very weak and they can’t carry the load of water. Whether we demand water or not, the engineers release water from the canal’s siphon to save the canal from getting damaged”, Keshubhai, a local salt farmer reasoned.
“Narmada water has become a big disaster for us. The government is not bothered about agariyas as we are scattered in four districts”, he added.
It has a human rights and environmental angle, too. The sudden release of water caused the death of pregnant women two years ago in the Rann. The Rann is also Wild Ass Sanctuary, where such irresponsible act of the Narmada department can cause irreversible loss of an extinct species.
Meanwhile, the salt industry and the Narmada department have begun to survey the Rann areas, even as water is still being released from another side– Maliya. Unless there is some permanent solution to harvest this water on the periphery of the Rann and distribute it to the areas where it is actually required, the life of agariyas and wild asses in the Rann will be at risk.
---
*With Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel, Ahmedabad

Comments

TRENDING

#MeToo moment in Hyderabad Urdu varsity? Two girl students seek action against authorities

Counterview Desk
Has the #MeToo movement reached Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MAANU)? It would seem so if a recent letter by newly-appointed chancellor Firoz Bakht Ahmed to MAANU vice-chancellor Dr Aslam Parvaiz is any indication. Seeking reinstatement of two girl victims of “sexual harassment and humiliation”, the letter specifically names head of the department of the Media Centre for Journalism, suspecting, the problem could be much deeper.
Text of the letter: It is a matter of utmost perturbation for me to receive the two representations from the girls studying in the MCJ (Media Center for Journalism) regarding their sexual and subsequently, mental and social harassment at the hands of Prof Ehtesham Ahmad Khan, the HOD, MCJ.
We do not know, how many girls have been exploited by him and preferred to be silent for saving their family’s honour; however, there are two brave girls who stood to the depraved advances and misuse by Prof Ehtesham and came up with written complai…

"Ineligible" funding of Sardar Statue in Gujarat: CAG tells Central PSUs, it's not a heritage CSR activity

By Our Representative
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, in its recent report on Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSE), has qualified public sector undertakings’ (PSUs') funding the 182-metre world’s highest Sardar Statue, currently being constructed in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam as an “ineligible” corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity.

Gujarat BJP MLAs, youth leader "incited" attack on North Indians: Cong releases video

Counterview Desk
Senior Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, currently in charge of Bihar and national spokesperson, All-India Congress Committee, has sent a legal notice to chief minister Vijay Rupani threatening criminal case and civil defamation suit for accusing him with "baseless statement" that he was responsible for attacks on north Indians in Gujarat.

29th "NRC-related" suicide in Assam, as Nirod Baran Das takes his life by hanging on a fan

By Our Representative
Reporting 29th case of National Register of Citizens (NRC)-driven suicide in Assam, one of India’s human rights campaign sites has said that, on October 20, tragedy struck Kharupetia town in Darrang district of Assam, when a retired school teacher and advocate Nirod Baran Das “took his life by hanging himself to a fan in his home.” The report adds, “The NRC process has so far claimed over two dozen such lives in the past four months alone.”

"Highly irregular" for PSUs to fund Sardar Statue under Corporate Social Responsibility

Counterview Desk
In a letter to I Srinivas, secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, former secretary (economic affairs), Ministry of Finance, EAS Sarma, has raised questions on the funding of the Sardar Patel statue in South Gujarat by Central Public Sector Undertaking (CPSUs) relying on the Comptroller and Auditor General report (No 18/2018).

Murder of Tamil Nadu teenage Dalit girl: "Stoic silence" despite #MeToo movement

Counterview Desk
Brinelle D'souza, who is with the Centre for Health and Mental Health, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, has prepared a strong statement to protest the brutal murder of 13-year-old Rajalakshmi. "Other than a few media reports, this gruesome killing has not caught national attention despite a very vibrant #MeToo campaign currently underway", regrets D'souza.

Post-MJ Akbar resignation: #MeToo movement and fears of backlash

By Sheshu Babu*
For the last few days, #MeToo movement has picked up momentum and many women are coming out with horrific tales of severe harassment in their past lives. They are not afraid anymore to expose famous persons including those at ministerial levels. As a senior journalist Neeraja Chowdhury opined (“An exit, a beginning”, October 18, 2018, indianexpress.com), "The #MeToo revelations are like the eruption of a volcano which was imminent, given the journey working women have covered. It was not easy to make public what they had gone through,and take on powerful men.”

Bank account frozen, raid on Amnesty office: Govt of India "treating" human rights NGOs like criminal enterprises

By Abhirr VP*
Amnesty India’s bank accounts have been frozen by the Enforcement Directorate, effectively stopping its work. Amnesty India is thus the latest target of the government’s assault on civil society in the country. The accounts of Greenpeace India were frozen earlier this month.

J&K Governor's rule: BJP's "failure" to go ahead with 44-plus strategy

By Syed Mujtaba Hussian*
Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) continues to witness cataclysm of events ever since the killing of editor-in-chief of “Rising Kashmir”, Shujaat Bukhari, followed by the BJP’s deliberated parting of ways with its coalition partner, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and imposition of Governor rule.

60 ex-civil servants seek release of CAG reports on Rafale, demonetisation before 2019 polls

Counterview Desk
As many as 60 retired civil servants have asked President Ram Nath Kovind to expedite the release of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) reports on demonetisation and the Rafale deal. The letter, signed mainly by former Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service and Indian Police Service officers, regrets that the status of the audit is "unclear”. According to them, “An impression is gaining ground that CAG is deliberately delaying its audit reports on demonetisation and Rafale deal till after the May 2019 elections so as not to embarrass the present government”.