Kolkata, Feb 18 : Snake charmers in Kolkata and other parts of West Bengal have said that they are on the verge of starvation following a government order to ban the keeping of snakes.
"From the time of my father, grandfather, we have been in the snake charming profession. The law has banned this tradition but we continue with the trade to make a living," claimed Lalu Sapuria, a snake charmer.
The Government banned the keeping of snakes as pets under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The Act also prohibits snake charmers from catching snakes or using them for entertainment.
Voluntary groups, however, say snake charmers are a part of the country's heritage and insist that their traditional knowledge should be preserved and developed as a modern science.
"In India, some 800,000 people are associated with the tradition of snake charming. In West Bengal, there are 100,000 snake charmers. The snake charmers are backward. They have no voter identification cards or ration cards. We have tried to bring them under one organization to help them," said Raktim Das, an organiser of the Snake Charmers' Federation of India.
Snake charmers are demanding the right to catch snakes and to sell venom of theses reptiles to snakebite antidote manufacturers.
According to the World Wildlife Fund survey on the occasion of Nagpanchmi, some 70,000 snakes die of pneumonia, lung infection, sepsis and milk allergy.