As salt production in Vedaranyam has slipped to just 20 % of the volume realised last year, due to the damages inflicted last November by Gaja cyclone on the pans spread over 3,500 acres, at least seven to eight thousand breadwinners of the dependent families are believed to have migrated to other districts and States to sustain livelihood.
The deposit of one foot of slush on the pans brought in from the sea by the cyclone have now dried, and the several hundreds of small-scale salt pan owners are finding it simply impossible to revive production. “Leave alone the cost incurred towards removing the deposit, the question is where the dried slush could be shifted,” said A. Vedaratham, President, Vedaranyam Salt Manufacturers and Traders Association.
Sea water entered the salt pans from the Palk Strait in the South and Bay of Bengal in the East, inundating the bunds, brine pits and bore wells. “Identifying the demarcation of salt pans has become difficult,” Mr. Vedaratnam said, lamenting that the Election Code of Conduct turned an impediment in the revival of salt production.
The administrative machinery could respond in time after Tsunami, and the salt pan owners were compensated to the extent of ₹ 14,000 per acre, and were also compensated for loss of working days, though the storage loss was not recompensed.
Post-Gaja, the small-scale salt pan owners had voiced the need for the Central and State governments for compensation of one lakh rupees per acre of salt pan for revival of production.
The storage of at least one lakh tonnes of salt, a revenue source during the winter months, was washed away by Gaja cyclone. And now, the salt pan owners and workers have nowhere to go. Almost all the dependent families have pledged their last jewel to survive, Mr. Vedaratnam said.
The last straw of hope of the families dependent on the salt pans is Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s support. As the Defence Minister then, she had visited Vedaranyam three days after the disaster and took stock of the damages.
“We have planned to approach Finance Minister Ms. Nirmal Sitharaman shortly with a request to prevail upon the Commerce and Industries Ministry to address our plight,” Mr. Vedaratnam said.
The blood pressure of the visitors were checked and screening was also done for diabetes and hypertension, said Dr. AL. Meenakshi Sundaram, Dean, Government Medical College Hospital, Pudukottai.
Dr. Meenakshi Sundaram said 48 persons were screened – 24 each by the general physician and the opthalmologist. Four persons were diagnosed with cataract during the camp, he said.
The camp would provide an opportunity for the aged people to avail themselves of the utility of free healthcare, the Collector said, adding that specialists would also be included in the medical team depending on the future requirements.
(source :The Hindu)