Friday, 13 April 2012

Salt making by evaporating water of the Sambhar lake in the large panes has been a consistant activity since ages of the people in this region of Rajpootana comprised of several villages surrounding it and inhabited by all castes, particularly the Jats. The activity picked up pace when in 1802 the British East India Company created the Department of Salt and later the Office of the Salt Commissioner (now located in Jaipur) thereby regulating the salt manufacturing and trading. It also levied a tax, called Salt Tax.  Salt is an essential commodity without which our food is incomplete and remains distasty. However, the salt making takes a heavy price that starts from exploitation of human laabor force to withering of human bodies and the ambiant environment. The day I visited the lake area and found people making salt, there was hardly a drop of water in the lake that is 40 miles long and about 20 miles wide (please don't trust Google Earth's imageries as they might be older than you think). The people were clever to dig bore deep-wells and draw brackish water in greater quantities than the nature would have provided or anybody could envisage. When it rained in the catchments, large volume of water used to fill the lake bed from which people used to make salt in the summer months. The activity starts from early morning and continues until noon when due to excessive harshness of weather, rest is permitted until it cools down and starts again around 4 PM, which may go upto 7 in the evening. Nowadays, people see more profit in salt making than raising crops or rearing cattle because there is hardly any bush in the jungle. Farmers have taken to converting their agricultural land into panes for making salt. It was told that the owners sell the salt at 73 paisa a kilogram to the traders and industrialists. Compare this with market price of Rs.20/kg. Astounding revelation of harsh truth.

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