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

Missed call drive for VVPAT verification follows online plea to "pressure" poll panel

By Our Representative
Several political activists have begun a new campaign, asking concerned citizens to give a missed call on 9667655855 to “support the demand that 2019 Loksabha elections must be declared only after verification of 50% electronic voting machines (EVMs) with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) receipts.” The effort, supported by civil society networks across India, is meant to "further pressure" India's election machinery to ensure that the poll outcome becomes more transparent.

Did Modi own, buy digital camera costing Rs 7 lakh in 1987-88, also used email?

Counterview Desk
In an interview to the news channel News Nation, aired on Saturday last, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring that he had approved the air strike despite bad weather because he felt the clouds would hide Indian planes from Pakistani radar is known to have become a laughing stock across India.

Now, top Gujarat "litterateur" close to Modi says: Godse was patriot, so was Gandhi

By Rajiv Shah
A little over a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticized BJP candidate from Bhopal Pragya Thakur for calling Nathuram Godse a patriot saying he would never forgive her for the remark, a top Sangh Parivar ideologue, known to close to Modi in Gujarat, has supported her, saying her statement should be seen “within a context.” Thakur won from Bhopal by more than 3.5 lakh votes defeating her nearest rival, veteran Congressman and ex-Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh.

When a neo-nationalist "invaded" hijab clad ladies, Bengali looking scholar in Delhi metro

By Aditi Kundu*
Travelling in Delhi metro on a daily basis to commute from Mayur Vihar to Dwarka, I see diverse people everyday. One can hear them talk about different aspects of life, from kitchen pilitics to national politics. On the morning of May 13, I witnessed a strange incident; disturbing and amusing at the same time.

Terror attacks: Difference in public reactions in India, those in Colombo, Christchurch

By Battini Rao*
Recently, on April 20 during Easter Sunday, more than 250 people were killed in a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in churches and hotels in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Local Islamic organisations Thawheed Jamath (NJT) and Jamathei Milathu Ibrahim (JMI) are held responsible for the attack. Islamic State has also claimed responsibility.

Women lost 88 lakh jobs in 2018: Why Modi "failed" to address their disempowerment?

Counterview Desk
Five human rights leaders Anjali Bhardwaj, Shabnam Hashmi, Purnima Gupta, Dipta Bhog, and Amrita Johri of the Women March for Change have posed 56 questions (alluding to Modi’s claim of 56 inches chest) to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP against the backdrop of his interview with a Bollywood star, which was allegedly masqueraded as a “non-political” conversation.

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.

Disproportionately high death sentences against Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims: UN told

Counterview Desk
In their joint submission to the United Nations Human Rights Committee to meet for the listing of adoption of list of issues at its 126th session, July 1-26, 2019, top Dalit rights organizations have taken strong exception to, among other things, "disproportional application of death sentencing by the judiciary of minorities, such as Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis".

India's 80% construction sites "unsafe", deaths 20 times higher than those in Britain

By Rajiv Shah
The Government of India may be seeking to project India’s construction sector as the country’s second-largest employer of the country after agriculture, providing jobs to more than 44 million people, and contributing nearly 9% to the national GDP, yet, ironically, its workforce is more unprotected than any other industrial sector of the country. Data suggest that the possibility of a fatality is five times more likely in the construction industry  than in a manufacturing industry, and the risk of a major injury is 2.5 times higher.

India sans Modi preferable, Congress worthier recipient of Indians’ votes: The Economist

By Our Representative
In a strongly-worded and crucial commentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the electoral political battle is on, influential British weekly “The Economist”, has declared that “Indians, who are in the midst of voting in a fresh election, would be better off with a different leader”, even as pointing out that that under Modi, “India’s ruling party poses a threat to democracy.”