As the forest department announced issuing of identity cards to 10 selected sarpmitras in Nagpur circle, hordes of other sarpmitras, who risked their lives too often to catch the dreaded snakes and free them to the nearby jungles, have cried foul on the department’s end. “Only those who were close to senior officials in forest department or the ones who could manage to do ‘something’ for them have been favored for the job. The department officials should have checked the records of entries made at the forest check posts which could have revealed the real performance of any sarpmitra,” reacted Monu Singh, a well known sarpmitra who operate along with his team.
Monu runs a small dhaba near Hingna and gets flooded with calls round the year from households, business establishments or any other residential or public place where snakes are spotted.
Last Sunday, Nagpur Today team followed Monu’s team to the wilds of Salaimendha, a dense forest area off Hingna road. Through the narrow stretches of dilapidated tar road, our team reached the jungle where another set of 10-12 people were already present on the road, waiting for us. Some of them were sarpmitras. In two nylon sacks and pet jars were kept more than 30 snakes, which they caught in various operations recently.
Entries at forest register can reveal truth
Monu Singh informed, “We have to make entry to the forest department’s register before leaving our catch into the forests. Such entries are made round the year. A look at these records would reveal, for sure, how our team performed during emergency situations. We risked our lives for the want of medicines and other resources. One of our friends died after he met with an accident during the operation.”
Nothing except department’s recognition
He added, “When our team works on certain assignment, we don’t intend to have anything in return from the owner of the place where we catch these biting creatures. It is just our bit towards the service of society. And we do not want anything except recognition. We need identity cards from the forest department as we have been doing this for the past many years. We can say for sure that we stand among the deserving few.”
Villagers oppose freeing serpents in forests
As Monu and his team members carried the serpents to the deep of the forests, they made their way through the gushing waters from the overflowing dam after reaching half way. Nagpur Today team also walked along with them and saw the members dedicatedly freed all the snakes to the jungles. Says Monu, “We cannot free these snakes into the wilds from the roadside. The villagers are opposed to even leaving these snakes deep in the jungles as they believe that the serpents would more often crawl down to their hutments.”
Forest officials extra cautious
On the other hand the forest department officials claim that large scale smuggling of serpents’ venom has led them to be very selective in the issuing these cards. These 10 selected sarpmitras will be reportedly given identity cards in October.
When Nagpur Today contacted Maheep Gupta, Chief Conservator of Forest and Deputy Director General, and quizzed him over the partiality in handing out identity cards, he plainly refused to comment on the issue saying that the case of sarpmitras does not pertain to him. “You may contact CCF Tembhurnikar who is handling all this.”
However despite repeated attempts we could not reach him.
Owing to the misuse of these cards, the forest department has to seek special permission from the Ministry of Forest.