Common salt was banned in 2005 by the Government of India and also by most of the states on the ground that it is injurious to health and can cause goiter. However, there was no scientific evidence to that effect. On the other hand, iodised salt, if consumed in excess, is definitely harmful, if not fatal. Ban on common salt meant a regime of compulsory iodization of salt, which resulted to zero choice to consumers.
The common salt farmers were thrown out of employment as demand for their product suddenly dropped. The move also cost the economy dearly because of its import of iodine for salt iodiation. All this while the salt corporate lobby and the iodine import lobby thrived and regaled at the expense of the poor masses, including both salt consumers and producers. Being monopolists, the salt corporate sector could restrict the supply of iodised salt, creating artificial scarcity and consequently hiking its price beyond the reach of the ordinary man. A PIL was filed in the Supreme Court in 2006 by agro-scientists, doctors, healthcare experts and farmers in the name of “Academy of Nutrition Improvement & Others versus Union of India through Ministry of Health & Family Welfare” challenging the ban on common salt.
The PIL finally resulted into the apex court lifting the ban by its judgment dated 4th July, 2011. The ban was lifted not on merits as such but on the technical ground that the ban was effected under a Rule (44-I of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules) which prohibited sale of food or substances which were injurious to health whereas the Government never claimed that non-iodised salt when consumed by human beings was injurious or harmful to health.
However, at the same time, due to the sensitivity of the issue, the apex court allowed the ban to continue for six more months and directed the govt. to appoint a committee of experts to examine whether non-iodised salt was responsible for the spread of goiter and if so, to ban the consumption of common salt by legislation or appropriate measure.
Instead of following these directions, the Govt. of India proceeded to substitute Rule 44-I by a similar Regulation ( 2.3.12) under a different Act (Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction of Sales Act) and continues the ban on non-iodised salt thereby.
Terming these actions as an attempt to usurp the judicial power by the executive, the petitioners have now filed a contempt petition against the Health Secretary for violating the Court’s directions in which it has issued notice on 20th Sep. 2013. All these facts have raised some serious questions about the motive of the state behind banning and prohibiting the use of non-iodised salt. For the colonialist, it was salt which forwarded them towards occupying the whole country. Eminent historian Roy Moxham reveals that there are historical remains of a fence of about 2500 miles in India (including Pakistan) built by the British.
Most worrisome thing in this matter is that salt is never included while discussing inflation. A question was asked in Rajya Sabha (RS) on 10 July 1998 that iodised salt is 10 times costlier than common salt. The govt. replied that market price of common salt is Rs. 2 to 4 per kg. and iodised salt is Rs. 6 per Kg.
21st Oct. is celebrated as iodine Day and iodised salt is introduced as a cure-all. Companies involved in selling of iodised salt promote their advertisements in such a way that consumption of it actually helps speed up the brain.
Such more advertisements warn you that deficiency of iodine can cause goitre and dullness of mind. Contrary to it, when Institute of Nuclear Medicine & Allied Sciences, an institute related to the Indian Defence Ministry, studied over use of iodised salt, it found that before 20 years, those diseases, which were challenged to be eradicated after using iodine, still persist. The study was conducted in 16 cities among 39,000 children.
Goitre was the main disease which has been presented as a promo in the crusade against common salt. Advertisements related to it were so ugly that they caused fear more than enlightenment. INMAS report clearly indicates that iodised salt is not necessary. This clearly indicates that how this matter of salt is being played according to the global politics and globalization.
There was a time when green revolution was purported as a very beneficial program and at that time people were bewildered talking about the long term side effects of it. But today, everybody is making emphasis on organic farming. It is high time that both iodised and non-iodised salt be allowed to co-exist as is the trend in the developed countries. Only then can there be effective competition between iodised and non-iodised salt producers leading to improvement of its quality, increase in supply of salt in the market and bringing its price at reasonable levels to provide the utmost relief to the masses. In such a situation no one can create an artificial scarcity of salt and hike its price by rumors or otherwise.