The Agarias

Who are the Agarias?

A small dedication ahead of International Labor Day

Legend has it that even after an Agaria is dead and cremated; the soles of his feet remain. A lifetime of hardship in the salt pan makes their skin so hard that even fire cannot burn them. [1]

In a world that seeks more comfort, more money, more recreation and a better standard of living, they stand out. They burn their skin, destroy their body, dehydrate, toil and exhaust themselves in the land unfit for men. It may not even occur to us, but we owe a lot to them for we simply consume the salt that they produce.

There is nothing much to compare their life style with ours. They lack the a/c, they do not have a place to sit, they do not have water for a hundred miles around, they have no transport, they don’t party, they don’t go after gadgets, health is the last thing on their mind and worst they don’t own a house (unless you consider a mud hut dug out in a crude pit in the middle of a desert as one)!

Exploited by the well to do, another victim of caste politics they stand alone with probably nothing more than their rake and salt pit. When farmers to factory workers are demanding a good working standard, when most among us consider 8 hours in front of a PC as a curse (sorry for the language used), they would give everything they have – their mud hut, their clothes and their rakes – to lead this kind of a life.

Their work is more or less similar to a farmer, except that they plough the barren land, the forsaken land. Every pinch of salt they produce is a sweet result for the pain that they have undergone. Hopefully, in a few decades, the government will glorify their hardship and reward them for all their sweat, not with money and awards but with recognition, at least, of them being human. Let’s just take a moment to thank them.

They are truly THE laborers and deserve this day in their name.

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FOOTNOTES
1.  Based on what I learnt from an article in Frontline (dated May 5, 2006 issue)

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Author: Rajesh Narayanan

A small speck of dust in the ever expanding ether

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