Salt Workers Fight for Livelihood in Wild Ass Sanctuary

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Salt Workers Fight for Livelihood in Wild Ass Sanctuary

| Updated: February 15, 2024 20:32

Salt Workers Fight for Livelihood in Wild Ass Sanctuary

Ahmedabad, Gujarat: A dispute has arisen between 53 salt pan workers and the Gujarat Forest Department regarding access to the Wild Ass Sanctuary in Little Rann of Kutch. The workers, claiming to be traditional “agariyas” (salt cultivators), allege they were stopped from cultivating salt within the sanctuary’s boundaries, despite possessing “agariya pothi” cards issued in 2008.

However, the Forest Department, represented by Deputy Conservator Dhavalkumar Gadhavi, counters this claim. In an affidavit submitted to the Gujarat High Court, Gadhavi states that salt cultivation within the sanctuary requires specific permission and an “agariya card” issued only to individuals listed in the sanctuary’s official Survey Settlement Report. The petitioners’ names are absent from this report, rendering their cards invalid for sanctuary access.

The petitioners argue that traditional agariyas possess an inherent right to cultivate salt on up to 10 acres without permits, citing a 1948 recommendation by the Union government’s Salt Expert Committee. The Forest Department refutes this claim, citing a 2023 communication that restricts access solely to those listed in the Survey Settlement Report.

Adding complexity to the situation, the petitioners highlight that the survey to determine land rights predating the sanctuary’s creation remains incomplete since 1997, despite the sanctuary’s establishment in 1978. This, they argue, throws their traditional rights into question.

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