| View Thread | Return to Index | Read Prev Msg | Read Next Msg |

Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum

Changing the cycle of debt and dependency

Posted By: Haraka Gaudi
Date: Saturday, 12 February 2000, at 4:28 p.m.

In Response To: The social cost of salt extraction (Kavita Khanna)

It is with a heavy heart that I am trying to understand the plight of the immigrant labourers who work in the salt fields in the coastal region of Gujarat. Let me make a few comments and pose some questions. Please excuse my ignorance of the situation in the world's largest democracy.

1. The first thing that comes to mind when reading this response is the easy escape route of blaming the victim for his poor state of affairs. This is the cheap excuse used by governments, merchants and investors who will argue that their efforts will bring about job opportunities and improve the livelihood of the salt workers, so why complain?

2. The sociology of poverty inadvertently states, and is believed by many poor people in the developing regions of the world, that their plight is caused by their own doing or fault. The conventional wisdom that "I am poor because I am lazy and that I can improve if I work hard" is wishful thinking. Opportunities are in the hands of the few in power.

3. Alternative livelihoods, remaining trapped in a cycle of debt, and the merchants' extreme concern that their traditional relationships with the salt workers are not disrupted reminds me at a micro level of the macro level relationship between that World Bank, IMF and countries like mine (Papua New Guinea). How can the salt workers and third world countries prosper and progress when they are forever tied down to servicing their debts or loans, they will forever be dependent. One can almost compare this to a situation where the doctor continuously keeps a patient under sedation and the latter's welfare and right to live is unquestionably in the hands of the doctor. Alternative choices or livelihoods are restricted by the merchants and the major players who ultimately control the playing fields of business and economics and at the same time referee the games using their own rules. The power is in their hands. Environmental factors appear to be against the salt workers also.


1. Can and does the caste system and social stratification compound the problems experienced by salt workers?

2. Can these migrant salt workers be integrated into a community within the vicinity of Gujarat from perhaps the same caste, like the integration of the migrant ship-breaking workers into the Koli caste (see "Changing social conditions and the ship breaking industry / Alang-India" by Vidyut Joshi and H.C. Dube)? Perhaps this could address the more humane aspects of the salt workers' livelihood through community support, acceptance and integration in order to make something out of this seemingly hopeless scenario.

Please help us understand this dilema

Messages in This Thread


| View Thread | Return to Index | Read Prev Msg | Read Next Msg |