.@Elangovantks: Bring Salt Pan Workers of Tamil Nadu into the Organised Setup
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Imagine a kitchen without salt? Impossible. Salt is such an important part of life - that when the British began to tax it, we actually rose up and marched in protest!
The importance of salt cannot be denied and yet are we treating the people who make it like machines. Machines who don’t need basic human necessities to stay alive.
The people who make the salt we eat are India’s unsung heroes. They do heavy manual labour in the harsh sun without protective equipment or safety precautions.
This is the Dark Side of the White Salt.
That’s why I have started this campaign to ensure that our salt pan workers are treated better. Sign my petition to bring our salt pan workers under the organised set up and provide them personal protection equipment.
Work in the salt pans involves hard physical labor. Many workers suffer acute dehydration and dizziness. The thirst gets unbearable due to extreme heat.Prolonged exposure to dehydration also results in kidney and renal issues.
Constant exposure to the sun’s UV rays without protection is known to cause irreparable damage to the optic nerve and eventual loss of vision. In addition, they suffer from painful skin ulcers caused by constant exposure to sharp salt crystals, especially on their hands and legs.
All of this happens because salt workers are employed as casual labor on contract basis and are therefore not covered by health insurance or other safety schemes.
As per our laws, salt units are expected to comply with a number of different standards and statutes laid down in the Factories Act. However, the existing safety prevention and management practices themselves need to be improved. Better monitoring of implementation is needed. Where exposure to hazards cannot be avoided, workers need to be given personal protection equipment.
It’s time we raise our voices for them. That is why I am asking the DMK to include the following measures to protect our salt workers in their election manifesto.
Provide them with:
- User friendly Protective sunglasses with adequate UV filtering and a pair of user-friendly gloves and boots.
- A waist support belt to hold a water bottle.
- The government must conduct health check-ups for salt workers on a quarterly basis.
- Workers should be educated about the need to use safety gear, its proper usage, and maintenance.
- Bring them under organised set-up by maintaining employee registers at all salt pans.
- Revised wages, proper toilets in every pan and alternate employment opportunities during lean season.to improve their livelihood options.
For the sake of their wellbeing, I urge the DMK to add these 6-point welfare measures to their election Manifesto and bring them out of their 4-decades-long misery.
Let’s make our salt whiter in its true sense. Let’s make the industry no1 not just economic figures but in holistic, humane development.
Picture courtesy:Kamala Thiagarajan (The Wire)
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