Salt Workers (2000): Indian salt mine workers are employed in horrendous conditions and are exploited ruthlessly. Now their livelihood is threatened by the campaigns of environmentalists who claim that salt mining is accelerating deforestation.
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Like generations before them, and 30,000 other families today, Savita’s family mines salt for US$50 a year. Many are nomadic tribes and untouchables, who have no caste. The salt eats away at their hands and feet, and their eyes are blinded by the glare. Many borrow money from traders, who are accused of being in cahoots with politicians and making vast profits, while workers on the ground earn next to nothing. “Now I realise how much the traders exploit and cheat me. All I can do is put my thumbprint on paper.” Efforts are being made to educate the younger generation – The Sewa Organisation takes care of children until age 7, educating and feeding them. But bad news is on the horizon; environmentalists claim salt mining has to stop, as deforestation is threatening the Indian wild ass. The salt workers lament that they are considered less important than animals.
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Marion Mayor-Hohdahl – Ref. 0830