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Wanted: A second salt Satyagraha

Mumbai 22nd July, 2019: A second salt satyagraha is the need of the hour in order to get rid table salt of all harmful substances, said Shiv Shankar Gupta, who has recently took premium Indian salt brands to task over the use of potassium ferrocyanide in salt as anti-caking agent.

Universal iodization is part of a larger marketing gimmick and conspiracy to sell refined salt as “iodized salt”, and it has successfully killed the sale of natural salt, which is abundantly available in our country, said Gupta, a 91-year old man, who has seen the transition of multi-crore Indian salt industry.

In addition to this they are adding toxic drug compounds like potassium ferrocyanide as anti caking agents, which is already being prohibited by countries like United States and Great Britain due to the toxic substance in it, he alleged.

“The natural salt contains moderate amount of iodine, and therefore there is no need for adding artificial iodine. But, when the salt is refined and stripped of its essential elements, which are naturally present, the salt manufacturers use artificial iodine as a camouflage to market it as iodine-rich,” he said.

“The politics of salt has hardly received the kind of attention it deserves in this country. Despite being such an essential commodity, successive governmentshave allowed market forces to use salt for their vested commercial interests,” said Gupta, who has been raising his voice for indigenous natural saltwell over a decade.

“In the year 1962, the National Goiter Control Programme (NGCP) was launched by the Government of India in order to provide iodized salt to the population living in goiter-prone areas like in the Himalayan region. This opened up new vistas to big Indiancorporates to exploit the masses in the name of iodized salt. They entered the salt manufacturing industry, producing vacuum salt, which is nothing but industrial waste masquerading as edible salt,” he said.

In his book, titled “Could universal iodisation of salt be the chief cause of hypertension assuming epidemic proportion?,” retired Col Rajesh Chauhan has concluded that universal iodisation of salt could be increasing the risk of high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart ailments.The study included patients who were consuming iodised salt regularly, and were compared with another group who were not using iodised salt.

The Salt Commissioners’ Organization, under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry (Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion), used to be the regulatory body for salt trade in India. That remained so until 2006, when the Salt Commissioner abdicated its responsibility of ensuring salt standards to FSSAI, giving a free hand to big corporate houses to sell vacuumsalt.

FSSAI, on its part, lowered the standards for edible salt to be sold in the country. And today, the situation is such that any powder/granules containing sodium and chloride can be passed off as edible salt. Accordingly, FSSAI turned a blind eye to the selling of vacuum salt, which is nothing but industrial waste derived from chemical processes.

Pure salt

It is recognized fact world over that India has huge deposits of natural salts in its lake situated at Sambhar, Rajasthan. The higher authorities, including the Salt Commissioner, was well aware of the fact that the salt in Sambhar Lake is far superior with rich nutrients and essential minerals.

Gupta said that though the government-owned Hindusthan Salts Ltd, and its subsidiary Sambhar Salts, sought to harness the salt resources available in Sambhar Lake, the benefits did not percolate to the common man, primarily because of the apathy of authorities in popularizing and making efforts to sell the natural salt. What instead happened was big industrial houses took advantage by selling industrial salt. These companies market residue of industrial salt as pure salt. The residue of chemical process is called industrial waste. There are rules for disposing industrial waste, like disposing them to deep sea. However, these industrial salt manufacturers, in connivance with the government authorities, declared that the residue actually contains sodium chloride, which is salt meant for human consumption as per revised standards fixed for quality of common salt in India. In effect, by just comparing the common salt ingredient as sodium chloride, the residue is being sold as common salt in India. 

“Hindusthan Salts Ltd, under whose control is the salt in Sambhar Lake, is a loss-making organisation. Both the parent company and its subsidiary, Sambhar Salts, are considered as BIFR-referred Company fit to be closed. While the salt manufactured and sold by this government enterprise fetches a price of about Rs 300 to 500 per quintal, the private salt manufacturers are able make insanely huge profit by selling salt at Rs 10.00- 15.00 per kilo. One can only wish that this government enterprise is given sufficient freedom to exploit salt available in Sambhar Lake, which is one of the purest forms of natural salt available today,” said Gupta, who is also known as the father of Indian gemstone industry urging the government to consider public private participation to save Hindusthan Salts Ltd and Sambar Lake.

“The giant corporate players, for their commercial motives, have been selling substandard salt in India at huge price, giving two hoots about the health of the masses. It is high time the public at large are sensitized to the need for the consumption of natural salt. Mahatma Gandhi led his Salt Satyagrahain 1930, as part of the freedom struggle of India. It is time for a second Salt Satyagraha in the larger interest of this country. A Satyagraha to redeem our natural salt,” said Gupta. 


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