The irreplaceable affinity of our taste buds with salt is beyond the shakers kept on our dining tables. The series of reactions within the Chemistry labs confines have been the “labour rooms” for almost all known salts to humanity. Even those who have failed to maintain the scores of margin in the Chemistry papers never took a choice to ditch their bond with the so-called Sodium Chloride. The kitchens are incomplete without the cans of these white powders. So are our plates filled with dishes. After all, we cannot ignore its might.
The typical Indian women are too precautious and vigilant in adding this ingredient to their daily eatables. Or else, they might land up in the “witness boxes” of guilt either for its excessive or lower content before the court of their hubbies. A pinch of salt can do wonders.
The uncommon mastery of the common salt on the Arabian Sea’s shores and the Bay of Bengal doesn’t end here. In a land where power is considered before anything else, civil services are the career choice for many in their dreams. The respect and prestige associated with the same are unimaginable and irrevocable. Yet, it would be palm-on-the-cheek news for the majority in the country when they come across the fact that we have an elite Indian Salt Service under the ‘heaven-born’ services.
The conventional obsession of the natives towards the All India Services never allowed this reverent cadre to be brought out of the veils. These ‘salty’ elites have been the British legacy product when the colonial administration intended to unleash a series of reforms in the country’s salt administration. There can be no parallel civilization in the entire world that knows the significance of salt, unlike the Indians. The Salt Satyagraha’s reminiscences launched by Mahatma Gandhi in 1930 as a powerful non-violent agitation against the imperialists’ salt monopoly, which called for the illegal production of salt from the seawater, still lingers in the hearts and minds of the populace.
About the service
These ‘less glamorous’ bureaucrats owe their courtesy to their patron William Chichele Plowden, the then Secretary, Board of Revenue of the North Western Frontier Province under the Queen’s rule, pioneered the alterations in the salt governance of British India in 1856. Under its commercial value, they brought the salt under the provincial governments’ tax regime, which they later revoked through the Government of India Act (1935). Since then, the salt department was made a matter under the central list.
The Seventh Schedule of India’s Constitution provides for the assignment of monitoring, regulation and supervision of the manufacturing, supply and distribution of salt along with quality updating and standardisation with the Government of India. The creation of an Indian Salt Service in 1954 was, in actuality, an act of ‘sprinkling the old salt in a new pot’. The Salt Controller, Deputy Controller and Assistant Controller positions have been re-designated as Salt Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner respectively as early as in 1952 itself.
They changed the earlier parent control of these ‘salt men’ from the Central Board of Revenue (Ministry of Finance) to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. They also manpower Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) such as Hindustan Salts Ltd and its subsidiary Sambhar Salts Ltd. Despite these posts of power’s occupancy by the brilliant minds of the nation, the Indian Salt Service has failed miserably in showcasing its prowess and shine.
The lack of awareness among the people constitutes the major factor towards this mounting trend of ignorance. The popularization of this elite ‘salt class’ is a concern of urgency to woo the young minds towards this career. I admit the onus is on the government that it couldn’t afford to pay Lara Dutta or Priyanka Chopra, unlike the corporate giant – Colgate – to spread the presence of ‘salt’ in the toothpaste, but not the government.