Gandhi’s march to Dandi to break the salt laws in 1930 is being re-enacted. While it may be a gimmick on part of the Congress party, their answer to the Hindutva rath yatras, the salt march is a seminal event for Indian history worth remembering. The Hindu has an article on the history of the march. One of the things I learnt was:
The salt tax was no trifling matter. As many essayists sought to demonstrate, a tax of about 1,000 per cent on the cost was “the worst blot on our revenue system”. Although difficult to imagine now, we should bear in mind that in 1930, Indians were forced to spend a considerable fraction of their income on salt. People could not manufacture their own salt and most of it was imported. An astonishing five per cent of national tax revenue was from salt!
The article mentions a painstakingly researched book on the march by Thomas Weber, On the Salt March: The Historiography of Gandhi’s March to Dandi, it seems that Weber was a journalist in the 30’s. To understand the significance of salt, Mahasweta Devi’s story Salt in the collection Bitter Soil is a good introduction, it tells the story of a poor tribal community that steals the salt licks from a reserve forest. For an interesting social history of salt, there is Salt: A World History. And for the situation of salt workers in India see Kerim’s blog.