The Gujarat High Court has stepped in to address allegations of discrimination against 53 traditional salt pan workers, known as agariyas, from Santalpur in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK). The court issued a notice to the state government's forest department, Department of Forest and Environment, and Labor and Employment Department, responding to a petition filed by the agariyas.
In the Santalpur region, agariyas are not allowed to cultivate salt
The petitioners contend that, despite possessing valid licenses for salt farming, they are being denied the opportunity to cultivate salt in the Santalpur region. The 53 salt pan workers from Santalpur, Patan, filed the petition, expressing their dismay over the state's Forest and Environment department's refusal to permit their families to cultivate salt.
These agariyas argue that they have been cultivating salt in the Santalpur area of LRK based on the agariya pothi (document permitting cultivation) issued to them in 2008. This issuance followed the recommendation of a High-Level Empowered Committee and a comprehensive survey of the land parcels designated for salt cultivation in the LRK.
Denial of salt cultivation rights constitutes discrimination, said the advocate
Advocate Anand Yagnik, representing the petitioners, argues that denying salt cultivation rights to the Santalpur agariyas amounts to discrimination. In contrast, approximately 3,800 other traditional agariya families facing similar circumstances have been permitted to cultivate salt in various regions of LRK, including Kharagoda, Dhangadhra, Zinjuvada, Halwad, and Maliya. The petition raises concerns about the inconsistency in the Forest and Environment Department's policies and practices, leaving one group of margaritas marginalized.
Justice Vaibhavi Nanavati presided over the case and issued notices to both the state authorities and the Patan district collector on Thursday. The court has requested a response from the concerned parties by January 29, setting the stage for a thorough examination of the matter. The notice reflects the court's commitment to ensuring justice and fairness in treating the salt pan workers, who play a crucial role in the region's traditional salt farming practices.
LRK has a longstanding tradition of salt cultivation
The LRK, known for its unique salt flats, has a longstanding tradition of salt cultivation, with agariyas playing a vital role in the industry. The livelihoods of numerous families are intricately tied to salt cultivation in this region. Any disparity in treatment among salt pan workers raises concerns about individual livelihoods and the equitable implementation of government policies in sustaining traditional occupations.
As the Gujarat High Court takes up the case, the salt pan workers from Santalpur await a resolution to their grievances. The outcome of this legal battle may not only impact their lives but also set a precedent for fair and uniform treatment of agariyas engaged in salt cultivation across the Little Rann of Kutch.