The Salt Miners' Co-operatives in the Little Rann of Kachchha in Gujarat: A Case Study

"Inland salt production has a very high potential as a source of income to the farmers in and around the Little Rann of Kachchha (LRK) in Gujarat. Salt in LRK is produced from brine by four categories of producers, viz., licensed public, private, and co-operative firms and unlicensed individual proprietors, Salt Miners' Cooperatives (co-ops) locally known as mandalis were established to improve the socio-economic condition of the salt miners by unshackling them from the clutches of the private traders-cum-money lenders, The co-operatives account for nearly 2 0% of the total salt produced in the LRK. This paper presents the results of a case study of salt miners' co-ops. The study aimed at examining the operations, management, effectiveness and the impact of the salt miners' co-ops. It revealed that a lion's share of the profits from salt production is grabbed by the private traders-cum-money lenders and that the poor salt miner receives only about four per cent of the consumer's price. The authors highlight the need for restructuring the existing system of salt production and marketing in the area on the lines of Anand pattern co-operatives and improving the existing marketing system and the basic infrastructural facilities in the area. The Sabarmati Salt Farmers' Society has been spearheading the task of reorganising the existing co-operatives on the Anand pattern and helping the salt minders in obtaining credit from institutional sources. It is hoped that the exploitation of poor salt miners by the traders and money-lenders will gradually decline and their lot will improve. The authors conclude that it is only after the existing mandalis are reorganised into genuine producer-owned-and controlled co-ops that the goals of equity, efficiency and sustainability in the use and management of brine which is a common pool resource can be achieved."
common pool resources, cooperatives, equity, mining