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Labour Day: Tamil Nadu salt pan workers fight low wage, temporary employment

The activities are divided in three phases: initial ground preparation, salt making and storing and the final stage is in the rainy season when there is enough salt in the ground.

By: Express Web Desk |
Updated: May 1, 2018 4:54:03 pm
Labour Day: Tamil Nadu salt pan workers fight low wage, temporary employment A worker walks down a heap of Salt at the Salt pans in Wadala on Monday prior to World Labour day. (Express photo by Nirmal Harindran)

Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are some of the major salt producing states in India. There are primarily three districts in Tamil Nadu which manufacture salt: Marakkanam, Tuticorin and Nagapattinam.

Labour Day: Tamil Nadu salt pan workers fight low wage, temporary employment Workers leveling salt at a Salt pan in Wadala in Maharashtra prior to World Labour day. (Express Photo by Nirmal Harindran)

The salt pan workers work under extremely hazardous conditions. They have employment for about six months in a year.

Labour Day: Tamil Nadu salt pan workers fight low wage, temporary employment Reflection of workers leveling salt at a Salt pan in Wadala in Maharashtra on Monday prior to World Labour day. (Express Photo by Nirmal Harindran)

Their daily wages vary from Rs 200-300. Women generally get lower wages than the menfolk. It is estimated that around 3,000 workers work in Marakkanam itself.

Labour Day: Tamil Nadu salt pan workers fight low wage, temporary employment Salt pan in Marakkanam in Villupuram district in Tamil Nadu. (Express Photo by Kajol Rustagi)

Poverty and deprivation are common to all the salt workers. Women suffer from serious problems with malnutrition and anemia being very common. They don’t have a support system to take care of their children.

Labour Day: Tamil Nadu salt pan workers fight low wage, temporary employment A salt worker cleaning salt and then collecting it for the next process of levelling. (Express Photo by Kajol Rustagi)

The workers hardly have access to medical care. The activities are divided in three phases: initial ground preparation, salt making and storing and the final stage is in the rainy season when there is enough salt in the ground.

Labour Day: Tamil Nadu salt pan workers fight low wage, temporary employment Salt workers collecting and levelling the salt in Marakkanam in Villupuram district in Tamil Nadu. (Express Photo by Kajol Rustagi) Labour Day: Tamil Nadu salt pan workers fight low wage, temporary employment Usually the female workers carry salt and collect it in big heaps along the highways near Marakkanam in Tamil Nadu. (Express Photo by Kajol Rustagi)

The workers start their work by 4 in the morning and go back only by 12 or 1 in the afternoon. The harvest season runs from January to May every year. In early January, harvesting can’t take place unless the water is dried out.

Labour Day: Tamil Nadu salt pan workers fight low wage, temporary employment A salt worker carrying salt in Marakkanam in Villupuram district in Tamil Nadu. (Express Photo by Kajol Rustagi)

Once the water is dried out, the workers collect salt in small heaps along the grids of the pans and then in big pounds of salts. If needed, water can be added to the heaps. No work can take place at the time of rains.

Labour Day: Tamil Nadu salt pan workers fight low wage, temporary employment Salt workers at Marakkanam in Villupuram district in Tamil Nadu. (Express Photo by Kajol Rustagi)

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