ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Salt Iodisation Programme

You have done well to highlight the hasty reversal of the public policy on the universal salt iodisation (USI) programme in India, although you have not taken a firm stand either for or against the policy (‘Public Policy: Hasty Reversal’, May 27). Over the last 20 years the programme was built on scientific evidence gathered across the country by eminent public health specialists like V Ramalingswami and others on the dangers of cretinism and mental retardation due to iodine deficiency particularly in the hilly regions of India. In the columns of EPW I have argued extensively why we should adopt the universal salt iodisation (USI) programme in India (February 3, April 13 and June 22, 1996). The government has unfortunately bowed to the powerful salt lobby of Gujarat.

India produces 135 lakh tonnes of salt per year and the private sector handles 90 per cent of the salt production. Nearly 60 per cent is produced in Gujarat and the salt lobby there is very powerful. Many Gandhians in Gujarat and Rajasthan should understand that these private salt producers of Gujarat are the ones who have started a campaign against iodised salt in the name of Mahatma Gandhi and are misquoting the salt satyagraha of the Mahatma which was done for a noble cause and for a different purpose. Gandhiji considered six essential features of any satyagraha: the grievance must be genuine, the opponent must have been given the fullest chance to correct himself, all other remedies must have been exhausted, the resistance must be nonviolent in the shape of inviting self-suffering with full faith in truth and god, suffering must be ungrudging, cheerful and with goodwill even towards him who inflicts it and there should be humility all through and readiness to compromise without giving up principles (see R R Diwakar, Saga of Satyagraha, Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi, 1969, pp 45-46). Judged against this background the stand of salt satyagrahis, to say the least, is idiotic.

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