Reasi: Following the discovery of lithium, the villagers in Salal see prosperity for the country as well as for Jammu and Kashmir but fear it might lead to their displacement.
The villagers said that their ancestors had settled in Salal and other adjoining areas amid hardships when there was no road connectivity or other infrastructure.
The Geological Survey of India has found 5.9 million tons of inferred resources of lithium in Salal in district Reasi.
This is considered to be a revolutionary discovery in the country.
With a population of 10,000 Salal has two panchayats – Salal Kotli and Salalkot.
Rattan Singh, a local farmer, said, “We used to be busy in our daily work but after the discovery of lithium, villagers continuously watch the news channels to know about the government's plans.”
He said when journalists come to the area for coverage, people ask them about the government's plans.
“We have lost peace of mind. We continuously keep ourselves updated. No one is presenting us with the true picture,” Singh said. “No one in our village is starving with hunger although the employment ratio is low. We are dependent on these fields.”
He along with a dozen others expressed frustration among the villagers after the news about lithium reserves was reported on February 10.
“We are proud of it. Everything belongs to the country, especially when it comes to the resources. It would be used for fellow countrymen. But the government should think about us. We are poor. We have small fields. We have no other option,” Singh said.
He said that a team of the Geological Survey of India had visited Salal in 2018 to collect samples.
“They dug holes in an area approximately 6 km or more for sample collections. Prior to them, geologists had visited the area in 1976 and collected samples,” Singh said.
Subash Chander, who shares his ancestral land with three brothers Mohan Lal, Krishan Chand, and Romesh Kumar, said, “We cannot sleep. We want to know what the government is going to do. We constructed our dream houses after working as labourers on the Salal power project. People here are poor.”
As the group of villagers gathered to highlight their concerns, women and children kept looking outside from the houses and their lawns.
“Please do not take our photos,” a villager requested with folded hands.
PANCHAYAT TO DISCUSS CONCERNS
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Sarpanch of Salal Kotli, Preetam Singh said, “We are happy with the discovery of lithium but people are worried as they feel that the authorities might take over their area. To discuss the concerns of the villagers, we have scheduled a panchayat meeting in the next few days.”
He said that if the government had to take over the area, they should first provide alternative land to the people and rehabilitate them properly.
FROM JANGI AREA TO WHITE GOLD
Transporter Balbir Singh told Greater Kashmir that Salal and its adjoining areas used to be known as ‘Jangi’ area (strategic area) for Dogra rulers who had set up nine watchtowers and a gunpowder store in the area.
Rattan Singh, a local farmer said, “Iron used to be extracted from iron-like stones in Salal during the rule of the Dogras in J&K. Even when Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was in power in J&K, a south Indian company extracted iron from here but the company stopped its work when the workers raised hue and cry over wages three decades back. Locals closed the mining holes after two workers were wounded when they were inside one of the mining holes.”
Locals said in the past the villagers used to extract iron in Salal and use pellets extracted from the iron-like stones to hunt the wild animals.
Balbir Singh said that these pellets were used in antique guns for poaching and for protecting agricultural fields from wild animals.