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IND Press: More trouble for charmers

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Fri Jul 15 09:14:34 2011  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  

TIMES OF INDIA (New Delhi) 12 July 11 More trouble in store for snake charmers (SinghBinay Singh)
Varanasi: The forest department is going tough on snake charmers. The department will launch a drive against public display of snakes, like python and cobra, particularly during the Shrawan month.
"Since keeping snakes in captivity and their display in public is prohibited under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, it is an illegal activity," said divisional forest officer of social forestry, Varanasi, LR Bairwa. "Such drives are conducted from time to time just to discourage this illegal practice," he told TOI. He, however, could not specify how many snake charmers had been caught so far. Most of the snake charmers were allowed to go after realising a penalty from them, he said.
According to him, both python and cobra are listed under endangered species of wildlife. As per the Wildlife Act, no person can hunt any wild animal specified in schedule I, II, III and IV. The Government of India enacted the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 with the objective of effectively protecting the wild life and put a check on poaching, smuggling and illegal trade in wildlife. The act was amended in 2003 and punishment and penalty for offences under the act had been made more stringent. "Only law cannot discourage this practice, but there is need for public awareness as the profession is also associated with the religious sentiments of people," said Arvind Mishra, a science writer associated with the UP Chapter of Indian Science Writers' Association.
Public display of snakes is a common scene in most parts of the country. Special occasions like Naag Panchami and Shrawan month witness a number of snake charmers displaying serpents along the streets and other places. In Hindu mythology, snakes find a respected status. Snake charming is an inherited profession. But, it was banned in India in 1991. And, since then, people associated with this trade have been struggling for survival.
Today, the practice of snake charming in danger particularly after banning ownership of serpents. The Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 originally aimed at preventing the export of snake skins, introducing a seven-year prison term for owning or selling of the creatures. Later, the snake charmers were also brought under its purview.
"We have left this profession due to the fear of forest department," said an elderly snake charmer, Mewa Lal, a resident of Nat Basti in Newada area. About 20 families of snake charmers dwell in this locality. But, today, they are out of job and forced to work as daily wagers or earn livelihood through begging. "Snake charming is our traditional profession. But, for the past one year, we have left this profession," said Mewalal, a father of eight children. Nowadays, he begs on the ghats to feed his family. His wife Lalti Devi said they were unable to fulfil even the basic needs of their children. "The government has banned our profession, but did nothing for our survival," said another woman, Kewala Devi, adding they were not getting any benefits of the government programmes. Obviously the profession was hardly a profitable one, but their situation worsened after the ban. Almost all dwellers of Nat Basti are living a pathetic life.
More trouble in store for snake charmers


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