Staff Reporter

NAGAPATTINAM: About 391 salt workers and their families were examined at a health-cum-eye camp organised by the Salt Department at Vedaranyam recently. They included 224 male workers and 167 female workers.

The camp that has been organised after a gap of five years witnessed participation of over 30 medical and para-medical staff from various government hospitals. . Free medicines were distributed. Serious cases and cases of prolonged illness were referred to government hospital.

India is the third largest producer of salt after China and the US with an average annual production of 18 million tones. Seventy five percent of this production is contributed by Gujarat, followed by Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. T.N has an average annual production of 20 lakh tonnes. The production from these three states caters both to edible and industrial requirement of the country, says A.Vedarathnam, Salt Manufacturers & Merchants Association president.

In Tamil Nadu, Vedaranyam is the second largest salt producing centre after Tuticorin with an average production of three to four lakh tonnes per annum.

Salt is a labour intensive industry with predominant manual labour except pumping of brine. In Vedaranyam, about 3,000 labour are directly engaged in production of salt.

An equal labour force is engaged in other allied activities such as crushing, packing, iodising, etc.

This labour intensive industry is afflicted by occupational hazards caused by prolonged exposure to saline atmosphere, causing skin and eye disorders and other ailments.

Therefore, the Salt Department under the Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry, is mandated to undertake several labour welfare activities. These include general health cum eye camps, construction of rest sheds, drinking water provisions, construction of dwelling units under Namak Mazdoor Awaas Yojana (NMAY), construction of special wards in government hospitals, provision of additional class rooms in government schools and recreation avenues through sports meets.

Additionally, five such health camps were scheduled at Marakkanam, Vedaranyam, Tuticorin, Kayalpattinam and Nagercoil in during the current financial year.

The camp was inaugurated by V.Vairamani, Deputy Director of Health, Nagapattinam and was presided over by V. V. Laxmi, Assistant Salt Commissioner, Tuticorin.