Salt Satyagraha enacted in Goa

| 17 August 1997 10:47 IST

While the whole country was celebrating 50 years of Indian independence, the tiny tourist state of Goa witnessed a unique kind of "salt satyagraha", by selling traditional salt and protesting against the invasion of multinationals in the salt industry.

Since 15 August, Goa government has banned sale of non-iodised traditional salt for consumable purpose, in protest of which the symbolic satyagraha was staged by salt farmers and few NGOs here. The ban is imposed as per the guidelines issued by the International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorder, courtesy the WHO and the UNICEF.

Several NGOs as well as the opposition parties have decried the ban, alleging it as a plot by the multinationals who are monopolising the salt market by selling iodised salt. Even the monsoon Assembly session had witnessed an uproar over the issue, but in vain.

The state government's sample survey regarding iodine deficiency has become a joke here, as it shows deficiency among 49 per cent and goitre among 35 per cent. It means every second Goan lacks iodine in his body while every third person is suffering with goitre, though the health department figures show that malnutrition rate is much lower in Goa compared to the national rate.

Deputy chief minister Wilfred de Souza, who insists on use of iodised salt based on the sample survey of 133 people, however admits that no figures of yearwise iodine deficiency of last five years are available while no systematic study of living conditions and eating habits of Goans is also carried.

The scientists however claim that hardly any Goan would be found with iodine deficiency, especially because of its fish-eating habit. There is more malnutrition due to poverty, epidemics or diseases like malaria. "In fact, Goan salt contains iodine", claims Manohar Parrikar, the BJP MLA.

Goa, which is one of the few states left with ban on non-iodises salt, has still not fully digested the WHO theory of consuming iodised salt and most of the people still use traditional salt. The government has also not banned sale of non-iodised salt but only for consumable purpose as large quantity of salt is used as a fertiliser.

The traditional salt industry, which exists here since 500 AD, however looks at the ban as yet another onslaught after destroying the traditional profession since Goan liberation in 1961. Though Agricultural Land Development Panel was appointed in 1988 after a violent agitation by salt farmers, its recommendations to upgrade the salt industry are not implemented till date.

Goan salt had been considered to be of the best quality and was exported to several African and Arabian countries during post-Medieval period. It however received a setback after liberation due to breaching of bundhs, pisciculture, land reclamation and water pollution caused due to industries.

With over 200 salt pans still existing in 13 villages of four talukas of Pernem, Bardez, Tiswadi and Salcete, it produces around 35,000 metric tonnes of salt annually. The Congress government however has paid only lip service to the farmers to help the industry prosper.

Drop a comment

Enter The Code Displayed hereRefresh Image