Sardar mene apka namak khaya hai !..Remember this iconic dialogue by kalia from the Hindi film ‘Sholay’? Namak or Salt has been associated with loyalty in Indian Society. consuming somebodies salt means to get (wages/rewards/benefits) from someone, thus being indebted to that person for life!
SUGAR and SALT and all that is nice….Saltiness is one of the basic human taste and also essential for life ! This need of saltiness has led to many nations go war over it, It has lead to raising taxes,The best example would be salt march or Dandi march! it is even considered holy by some and thus used in many religious ceremonies . Black is sexy and color is fun…I say White is both ! Today I take you to land of snow white…Only Salt no sugary stuff…KHARAGHODA the homeland of Agarians lies in surendranagar district on the boarder of The Little rann of Kutch in Gujarat.
Before narrating my expedition in Kharaghoda…Let me reveal the sad history of Agarians…They derive their name from ‘Agra’ city from North India. During British Raj they had a flourishing life and had substantial amount of money and land to their account. The then local Muslim governor took notice and did and offensive sin ,by demanding their women ! Agarians refused and were imprisoned ! Firsad grandson of the great Sufi saint Moinuddin Chisti became their Savior and freed them ! Agarians converted to Islam as a gesture of gratitude. Now , these people belong to Gujarat and are involved in an very important task of producing salt for the nation. They produce 25% of India’s Salt ! source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surendranagar_district
If you were still with me here.. you will agree with me if I say ..” humne inka( Agarians ) ka Namak khaya hai” ( We have consumed, salt produced by Agarians) ! If we apply the theory of sholay, we should be indebted to them ! But then ,are we? We will discuss on that..lets start with the business of making salt..Salt or NaCl can be obtained by two ways. Number one :Salt mines ( Brine water lakes)and number two from evaporating sea salt.
At Kharaghoda , Salt is obtained from from evaporating water siphoned out of a 25-30 feet brine lake using pumps….
Brine water pouring out of these tubes are made to rest in mud embankments for 5 months..
They are guided through these small canals to settle in different embankments..
Thanks to the generous amount of sunlight received by this area…In 4-5 months Agarians get their gold( SALT)…their only source of income.
Journey of crystallization…
Crystallized salt – The end product….
The next step comes packaging of this product..After these salt crystals are mined out… they are sent to the factory….
SALT DUNE….yes! tonnes of salt crystals lie heaped in these factory…
Closer look – you have to see it to believe it..The sparkle and the glare from these Crystal whites can make you blind…
Pack up time !..I inquired from a factory worker, is this the salt that we eat/use in our food? His version was that these (salt) are exported to Nepal..The salt that we eat is sea salt…
Hindustan salt limited ( HSL) is a company established on 1958 is in the business of salt making in Kharaghoda. This is the only Central Government Public Sector undertaking engaged in the manufacture of salt. The company salt production works measuring 23,000 acres of land at Kharaghoda. source:http://www.indiansalt.com/profile.htm
At Kharaghoda , I got to know from the official site.that the company produces, kurkutch , Poda and Baragara salt.
Poda and Kurkutch are used for water softening in thermal power plants. Baragara salt is a bold crystal variety consumed extensively for edible purposes in U.P., tribal areas of M.P. and the Terrai region. This variety is extremely popular in Nepal also and approx 2 lac MY is consumed by them annually. When crushed into a fine powder it is an ideal substitute for vacuum salt and has found wide acceptability since it is 1/3rd its price.
I came across this blog http://saltpanworker.blogspot.in/, where I got to know the pain and agony and the (laggan)tax that these people pay to make salt..Education is a challenge and next to impossible as these people are (banjararas ) gypsy.. They come to this region to mine salt during October to June…Come july , Agarians have to move out as this place is a marsh land. With rains ,the sea level increases and this land is under sea for few months…They are landless people, they have no papers to proove that this land belongs to them for ages..and to top it all..Goverement has declared salt mining as illegal as a major part ofnearby little Rann of Kutch has been marked as Wild Ass sanctuary and is a protected site…When I write this I remember that song from hindi movie Rockstar..( o Eco friendly…nature ke rakshak..MEI BHI HUN NATURE )…MAN and BIOSPHERE both need to be preserved..Moving further everything the Agarians make is temporary…Their house..( thatched) or the traditional kuba house… Water they receive every 15 days …. vegetation is less and hence green veggies are minimum.. my lil one would have loved to be there I am sure..
The pain does not end here…I learnt that these people get only 18-28 paise per kilo of salt produced…If you want to feel their pain, Please go check the price and weight of salt packet that you might have stored in your pantry… The one that I use is ( 1kg for 18 rupees). Imagine..What they get for their hard-work…PEANUTS…
Their feet they say becomes so bruised and damaged working under scorching sun and smeared with brine water that their foot have to be buried separate ( as it wont get burnt)after their cremation!
During our visit to the salt pan…I found this gum boot lying at one corner …I felt a little sweet/relieved for these people of Salt land….