Vijaysinh Parmar, TNN, Nov 18, 2010,
RAJKOT: The recent unseasonal rains have not only hit the farmers hard but also made life miserable for the salt pan workers in the Little Rann of Kutch. On Wednesday evening, heavy rainfall was recorded in Patdi, Kharaghoda and the Little Rann. The unexpected rains washed away the salt pans prepared by the workers last month, making it difficult for them to move out of the area and return to their villages.
There are more than 5,000 salt pan workers in the Little Rann, who produce salts in the traditional way and some making salt pans as far as 45 km from their villages in the Surendranagar district.
According to Shanta Bambhaniya, a salt pan worker and resident of Kharaghoda, the heavy rains destroyed his salt pan and another spell of rain washed away his month-long labour. "After the rains destroyed my efforts, I along with my seven family members decided to leave for Kharaghoda on Thursday morning, but could not leave the place as no vehicle can run in the Little Rann because of rains. Rains have made our life miserable," he added.
He said the salt pan workers have lost their ration and the makeshift arrangements at the site. Bambhaniya's salt pan is about 35 km from Kharaghoda and inside the Little Rann. "A number of salt pan workers have lost Rs 25,000 each which they had invested in the beginning of the season. This amount is very big for us," he added.
The loss because of rains has added more pains to the lives of salt pan workers, many of whom are already in debt. "They will have to start from scratch, which means their efforts in making salt pan, charger, and crude have gone down the drain. Currently, we have no idea about the situation of workers in the Little Rann. All we know that they want to move out of the area, but are stuck there due to 'keechad'. For next two- three days, no vehicle can venture into the Little Rann," said Ambu Patel, a resident of Kharaghoda and a writer.
However, Surendranagar district administration said it had not received any emergency call from the area. When contacted, Kharaghoda talati-cum-mantri M B Solanki admitted that people who had gone to the Little Rann are finding it difficult to return. "It is true that they will suffer economic loss because of this year's unseasonal rain, but we have not been approached by anyone for any emergency help," Solanki added.
"The real damage will be known only when the route to the area is cleared and the salt pan workers are contacted,'' Patel said.