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99 Yatra
Debt drives agariyas to suicide
30 March 2007

Ahmedabad, : The vicious circle of debt is pushing agariyas or saltpan workers in the Rann of Kutch to commit suicide. In the last six months alone, seven Agariyas in the little Rann are reported to have killed themselves. The figure could be higher. “The exact number of the cases is difficult to cite, as many cases are not registered with the police,”said Ghanshyam Zula, a field worker of Agariya Hit Rakshak Samiti based in Santalpur district.

Talking to this correspondent on Thursday, Zula said the agariyas are forced to take loans from local salt traders to sustain themselves in the Rann for eight months when they make salt. “However, the traders without fail use this opportunity to pre-fix the price of salt at a minimum,” ZULA said, adding that this year the rate has been fixed at Rs 100 per tonne on an average. In certain areas like Kharagoda village in Patdi taluka of Surendranagar district, which is said to have the highest cases of suicides, the source of water is unpredictable, said Zula. “Often the well dug for getting brine water dries up, and the pan worker has to either sacrifice a pan or suffer very low production.”

Ambubhai Patel from Kharagoda village, while dwelling on the plight of the agariyas, cited a case wherein a young man of the village went for vasectomy operation just to avail the meager amount of Rs 200 given by the State government as family planning incentive. “Though the state government has announced a number of welfare measures, cases of suicide repeat every year due to illiteracy and faulty trade practice. The agariyas are trapped dually, as they have to borrow money even during the four months of rain when they stay in their village,” said Harinesh Pandya from Agariya Hit Rakshak Manch.

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

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