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Finally,a snake-friendly Nagpanchami

Nagpanchami,this year,brought a sense of triumph to snake rescuers across the city.

Written by Nitya Kaushik | Mumbai |
July 27, 2009 5:37:21 am

Nagpanchami,this year,brought a sense of triumph to snake rescuers across the city. After years of campaigning against the practice of venerating the ‘snake god’ by feeding it milk — thereby damaging the reptile’s fragile digestive system,and in most cases,causing death — only a handful of snake charmers set out on streets on Sunday,with the usual snake baskets and been (snake charmer’s flute) in tow. Most charmers seemed to have traded them for metal or clay snake idols.

From 6 am to 6 pm on Sunday,about 20 groups of snake rescuers,who were recently given the ‘Friends of Snakes’ I-Cards by the state government, roamed the city conducting impromptu raids on snake charmers outside temples,railway stations and residential areas.

Sunil Ranade,an inspector with the Bombay SPCA Hospital said,“Over the past two years,awareness has increased among worshippers as well as snake charmers. Earlier,a few days before Nagpanchami,snakes would be brought to the city in hordes from parts of of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Here,at Nagdevi Street in Pydhonie,a bazaar used to be set. But this time,I did not spot any sale.”

Ranade,however,rescued two snakes —one cobra from Kemp’s Corner and a Sand Boa from Bora Bazaar. “The two reptiles are now in hospital but they seem to be in good health,” he said. The snakes would be released in the wild soon,he added.

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Apart from these cases,most rescuers said that they did not confiscate any reptile despite patrolling throughout the day. Jaywant Dhukhande,a police sub-inspector in Nirmal Nagar police station and also a Friends of Snakes card holder,said,“This year,there was only five percent snake abuse during the festival.”

Rescuers particularly patrolled railway stations on the Western and the Central line and temple gates. Bharat Joshi,who made rounds around several temples in Thane,Kalva,Dombivili,Badlapur said,“There are several Shiv mandirs in the Thane area. About four years ago,we confiscated cobras from there. This year,however,we didn’t get any report.” Joshi said that even outside Mumbai,in smaller villages of Maharashtra,the practice has reduced considerably.

According to law,snake charmers can be prosecuted for illegally possessing snakes,under the Wildlife (Protection) Act,1972. While cobras,pythons and rat snakes fall under Schedule I of reptiles,possessing other non-poisonous snakes also attracts a penalty. The government levied a ban on snake charming in 1991.

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