Last week we visited the community of Adesar in Gujarat to see how salt pan workers live. The local word for making salt is “bhor”. In this area, it involves extracting briney groundwater (which is the norm there) and letting the water evaporate out in large “pools” that were built by creating earth walls. Water is pumped from the ground and rotated around several of these pans. The final salt product is raked, excavated, piled and sold in large quantities.
You can imagine that this is a very hot and sunny job. Workers have built day time shelters for rest. They retire to villages nearby, away from the desert. From these villages they also engage in agriculture when it is no longer the dry salt making season.
Drinking water for these villagers cannot come from groundwater. We saw one village where they had built a lake to retain monsoon rainfall. They also could receive tap water trucked to them from the government.
We visited a community that worked as a collective to keep their land. There is a challenge in this area, a fight with government over land. Many small salt pan workers have seen their land snatched up. These salt pan workers , with the aid of NGOs , have managed to keep their heritage and livelihoods by banding together and opposing government claims to their land.