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Salt farmers resent hike in ground rent

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It's double whammy for the manufacturers in the state who had suffered major blow to their business couple of months back because of and subsequent floods.

The Centre has increased the ground rent on salt fields from Rs 5 to Rs 120 per acre per annum. It has also increased the assignment charge on the manufacturers from Rs 4 to Rs 100 per tonne of salt per annum.

In its order, the government has sought to collect the increased ground rent in lump-sum with retrospective effect from January, 2013.

"The salt manufactures in the state, particularly in Ganjam, the major salt producing district, have already been hit hard by the recent cyclone and flood. The central government order only worsens their situation," said the salt manufacturers in Ganjam district.

"The decision of the government is not meant only for Odisha. It's applicable to other states as well," said the salt superintendent, Humma (Ganjam) H K Agrawala. The manufacturers, however, urged the government to reconsider its decision.

"We will sit together and adopt a resolution appealing the government to reconsider its decision as the salt manufacturers in the state have been ruined in the recent natural disasters," said Goutam Pollai, president, salt manufacturers' association.

Ganjam is the major salt producing district in the state having around 5,000 acres of lands. There are 43 manufactures, including private ones and two cooperative societies engaged in making salt from the sea water. They produce 15,000 to 20,000 tonnes of salt every year. The salt farming land is leased to cooperative and private sector firms by the central and state governments.

"When the salt industry in the state is facing a bleak future after the cyclone, the decision of the government will pinch the producers further," Polai said.

While the infrastructure facilities like the sheds, pump sets, iodization godowns, and electric transformers were damaged in the cyclone, there was heavy siltation in the fields due to heavy rains and floods following the storm. At least Rs 10,000 per acre is needed to de-silt the salt fields to revive the production, he said.

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