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99 Yatra
Derailed, Kutch salt industry threatens to rake up fuss
09 November 2006

It’s a salt satyagraha of a different kind in Kutch. The salt industry here, which produces 40 per cent of the salt in the State, has declared a war of sorts against the Western Railways if it is not provided adequate rail rakes to transport the salt, and has threatened a “rail rake roko” movement from November 15.

The industry claims that the railway wagons have now been mainly allotted for movement of imported fertilizer and wheat from Kandla and Mundra port. “The entire government machinery for the first time, is working solely for transportation of wheat and fertilizer at these two ports,” says Hiralal Parekh, president of Kandla Salt Manufacturers Association. He adds, “Three months ago, we used to get 70 rail rakes for transportation of salt in the Gandhidham section of Western Railway, but now we do not get three rakes a day despite being promised the same by Railway authorities. Strangely enough, rakes are kept spare for fertilizer and wheat. We can not take this lying down any more and have decided to resort to a rail roko agitation from November 15.” Parekh, who is former all-India president of the Indian Salt Manufacturers Association, said that for want of railway wagons 20 lakh tonnes of raw salt was lying in salt pans while five lakh tonnes of ready iodised salt was waiting to be transported.

He said while this had put salt producers in great trouble, small salt pan owners and thousands of salt pan workers are facing the threat of unemployment. Worse, he said, it was happening at a time when a new season of salt production had begun this month, adding that the worst hit were labourers from Rajasthan’s Barmer district. They suffered heavily during the recent heavy rains and floods there and now here, they are without work. “When there is huge stock of raw material from the last season lying, how one can we begin new production?” asks Parekh.

The industry clarifies it is not against allotment of rakes for fertilizer and wheat for it understands the need to create a buffer wheat stock and urgent need for fertilisers. Parekh says, however the railways should also consider the case of salt which if not transported could cause shortage and hike in prices. He said the immediate need was for 300 rakes to clear the huge stock of both raw and ready salt lying here for the past three months. Parekh, a former president of the Gandhidham Chamber of Commerce, demands equal distribution of rail rakes. While the Railway authorities had promised them that, they didn’t keep the promise, he alleges. From promising three rakes daily, all they received during the first week of the month was a paltry four rakes in all.

Courtesy- Ahmedabad Newsline - Ahmedabad,India kutchhis globally , from Mumbai

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