Monday, July 6, 2009

No insurance cover for sarpa mitras

5 Jul 2009, 0512 hrs IST, Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN

Sarpa mitras' (snake friends) have blamed forest minister Babanrao Pachpute for not fulfilling his promise to recognise them by issuing I-cards and also providing insurance cover.

Last year, at a sarpa mitra parishad' organised by the forest department in Aurangabad, Pachpute had promised to issue I-cards to sarpa mitras' and also insurance cover. Several meetings of top officials were also held with the minister on the issue to discuss modalities but the snake friends have failed to get their due.

The issue assumes significance, especially when snakes have started surfacing with the onset of monsoon. The snake friends have been attending frantic calls to rescue reptiles who at times threaten the lives of residents and also get killed at the hands of the irate crowd or dwellers. Last year, over 1,000 rescued snakes were released by the forest department. Snake bites claimed two lives in the city. The victims included standard VII student Jaspreet Randhawa of Ramai Nagar and rickshaw puller Sanjay Nikhade, who was bitten by a Russell's Viper on WHC Road on Monday. Nikhade succumbed to his injuries at GMCH on Thursday.

On Thursday morning, one more deadly Russell's Viper was rescued by sarpa mitra' Laxmikant Harkare from Prakriti' premises, an NGO working for women's development at Lonara near Nagpur. The snake did not harm anyone and was released by forest guards Kishore Kadwe and Harkare.

"Genuine snake friends need to get a better deal as they are working for a noble cause. The problem is that most of them are unemployed and have to spend from their pockets on phone calls and petrol. The forest department too doesn't have vehicles and staff to handle such emergencies. Besides, there is a lot of paper work involved," said Harkare.

Sarpa mitra' Bhuvan Patel of Dahegaon on Saoner Road too supports Harkare. He said in the past 15 days, their group has released around 100 snakes in Khapa forest. "We do it out of interest in wildlife and not for money but the forest minister has not kept his promise of issuing even I -cards, forget insurance cover," Patel said.

Last year, around 30 sarpa mitras' had come under one roof on the initiative taken by the Nagpur forest division. Conservationist Kundan Hate and Maharajbagh zoo incharge Dr S S Bawaskar had worked to unite sarpa mitras' but the move fizzled out.

Hate blamed snake friends for the mess. He said that they did not unite for the cause thinking their importance will diminish if they joined hands. Besides, those who were not trained also applied for I-cards leading to chaos. Hate agreed that genuine snake friends need to be recognised and given insurance cover. The government needs to act fast.

PCCF C S Joshi was not aware of the issue of I-cards to sarpa mitras'. N Rambabu, conservator of forests (CF), Nagpur division, promised to issue I-cards to sarpa mitras'. He said providing insurance cover is something which is not in his hands and will be decided at the government level.

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