Skip to main content

Salt farmers hit: Railways "uproots" track in Little Rann of Kutch on Dandi march day

By Pankti Jog*
Agariyas from Dhangadhra and Patadi, the towns situated along the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, may not participate in voting on April 23, the day polling takes place in the state, as a mark of protest against an “insensitive step” that the Indian Railways has taken – to close down the Kuda-Dhangadhra Railway line and uproot the track.
They have been farming crystal salt in the Little Rann for over 600 years. This has been one of the oldest traditional production systems in the region. During the British rule, a railway line was laid down right up to the Little Rann in order to facilitate the transportation of salt. There were schools for kids, and pipeline for the supply of drinking water, too.
On March 12, the Dandi Satyagraha Day, we proudly remembered how a pinch of salt played a key role in shaking up the British empire in India. Ironically, on the same day, the Railways began the work of removing the track of the Dhangadhra-Kuda railway line, which is Agariyas of the Little Rann consider as their lifeline, as it helps them transport salt from their salt farms.
“The Railways told us that they are closing down this line as it is not making profit. But how can the government forget that this railway line is giving livelihood to thousands of Agariyas in the Little Rann and giving over 30 lakh tonnes of salt per year to the rest of the country?”, wondered Bharat Somera, district coordinator, Surendranagar, Agariya Heet Rakshak Manch (AHRM), a civil rights organization representing Agariyas of Gujarat.
“Agariyas made several representations to both state and Central governments, and also to the committee formed by the Railways which came for the site visit last year for inspection. But they appear to have ignored us”, Somera regretted.
“It is worth recalling that when the railway line was repaired a few years ago, contributions from salt cess were also made, as this railway line benefits the transportation of salt. And yet, Agariyas were not consulted before the officials of the Railways took the decision to uproot the tracks”, he added.
Agariya representatives with district election officer, Surendranagar
“We did not expect such an insensitive approach and step from the government towards Agariyas’ livelihood. By closing down the cheapest transport mode, the government is ruining our livelihood and life”, said an Agariya salt farmer.
“Of all days, they chose March 12, the 89th anniversary of the Dandi march, to start removing the tracks laid down to help us”, he said, adding, “We all are terribly disappointed and have approached the District Election Officer to inform him that we are not going to participate in voting.”
“Over 18,000 to 20,000 Agariyas, including their family members, might not vote in protest against this cruel decision of the Indian Railways, implemented ahead of the elections,” said Harinesh Pandya, founder, Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), the state’s civil rights watchdog for the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Significantly, MAGP is currently involved in the Matadar Jagruti Jumbesh 2019, a campaign for maximizing voter turnout on April 23, the day Gujarat goes to polls, and ethical voting. “We too have drawn attention of the District Election Officer about this thoughtless act and hope he would take appropriate action”, Pandya added.
In a written representation on March 12, sarpanches of several villages of Dhangadhra taluka have supported the Agariyas, and urged the state and Central governments to immediately look into the matter. If the government fails to address this issue immediately, Agariyas will go on strike, the sarpanches have warned.
---
*With Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel, Ahmedabad

Comments

TRENDING

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Contempt of court? UP CM taking 'personal vendetta' against Dr Kafeel Khan: Activists

Counterview Desk
Demanding that the Uttar Pradesh government immediately release well-known paediatrician Dr Kafeel Khan, a group of more than 100 academicians, activists, researchers, doctors and lawyers have said in an open letter that he is being “targeted at the behest of the chief minister”, wondering, “When is an act of challenging the government a threat under the National Security Act (NSA)?”

A locked up offer? Govt of India 'not serious' in involving NGOs: IIM-A survey

By Rajiv Shah
Was the Government of India serious when it asked 92,000 civil society organizations (CSOs) in early April to “assist” state governments and district administrations in taking care of food, shelter and other needs of migrant workers, known to have been affected by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’ sudden 21-day lockdown in order to “combat” the spread of Covid-19 virus, announced on March 24?

Gujarat link of controversial US doctor who 'forced' WHO quiz Trump's wonder drug

By Rajiv Shah
A top American doctor, Sapan Sharankishor Desai, born and raised in the “affluent” North Shore (Chicago) region of Illinois by Indian parents, at one point of time involved in NGO activity through the Desai Foundation dedicated to “improving” the lives of the impoverished in Gujarat, is in the eyes of a major international storm following his paper in a “Lancet” questioning Donald Trump-promoted drug hydroxychloroquine.

Will Govt of India, ICMR end 'perverse' practice of extracting profits from ill-health?

By Asmita Verma, Surabhi Agarwal, Bobby Ramakant*
The Epidemics Act, 1897 gives the central and state governments authority to impose any regulations which may be necessary to contain the outbreak of a disease. Some state governments such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhatisgarh have already used this power to bring private healthcare facilities in their state under government control.

Dalits in India, Blacks in US suffer 'similar' humiliation: Macwan drafts letter to Trump

Counterview Desk
Well-known human rights activist Martin Macwan, recipient of the prestigious Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2000, has drafted an open letter to US President Donald Trump following the disturbing turn of events with the murder of George Floyd, leading to widespread protests in the US. He has sought signatures of concerned citizens before sending it to Trump.

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam*
In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

'Violation' of migrant workers' human rights: Legal notice to IIM-A director, govt babus

By Our Representative
Taking strong exception to the police action against protesting migrant workers off the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) on May 18, senior Gujarat High Court advocate Anandvardhan Yagnik, in a legal notice to the IIM-A director "on their behalf" has said that the workers had only been seeking to to go back to their home states, Jharkhand and West Bengal, for the last more than 20 days because they were not paid their “earned wages because of the lockdown.”