CHENNAI: A high prevalence of various occupation-related ailments was found by a study undertaken by a team from JIPMER in partnership with MSSRF among salt workers of Vedaranyam. The findings included a high prevalence of eye infections associated with exposure to the sun and UV rays, several times higher than general population prevalence, besides other occupation-related ailments.
Urgent action was recommended during a consultative meeting regarding problems faced by the salt workers in Vedaranyam, based on the study held at the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation.
In the Vedaranyam region in Nagapattinam district, marine salt is produced on 10,350 acres of salt pans with about 8,000 salt workers living in and around the place. Most of the workers earn about `150 to `300 per day, the wages also depends on the work they do, which is seasonal. Malnutrition, anemia, poor hygiene, vitamin deficiencies and inadequate supply of protected water are some of the other contributing factors leading to poor health.
This consultation brought together various stakeholders including Salt Commission, Health department, labourers, unions and others working in these regions.
S Jayanthi, who has been working in the Vedaranyam salt pan for 20 years, said: “Constant headache, skin diseases, lack of sanitation are a few of the problem faced. We feel the community is largely overlooked.”
Dr Sowmya Swaminathan, director, National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis, spoke about the working conditions in salt pans, Dr Ajay Parida, executive director, MSSRF explained that the foundation had focused on ecological restoration while Dr R S Kashyap, deputy salt commissioner, Chennai, highlighted the health programmes of the Salt Commission of India and urged the State to follow the “Gujarat model.”