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TN forest department grants permission for Irula tribals to catch snakes for venom

- March 29, 2022

Chennai, March 29 (BPNS)

The ST Irula community who shot into fame after the movie ‘Jai Bhim’ which projected the torture and torment faced by the community can now heave a sigh of relief after the Tamil Nadu forest department granted it permission to catch snakes. The Government order for the same has come out.

The community who are expert snake charmers and catchers have a society, Irula Snake Catcher’s Industrial Cooperative Society has also been issued permission to sell 54 lakh worth of snake venom. The Chief Wild Life Warden of Tamil Nadu, Syed Muzzamil Abbas issued sale permits of the venom of 224 g which was worth Rs 57 lakh and was in the possession of the cooperative society.

This society was the leading supplier of snake venom in the country with an annual turnover of Rs 4 crore but with the forest department not granting permission to catch snakes, the sales and profits from the venom have dwindled.

In the financial year 2021- 22, the Irula cooperative society could manage sales of venom to the tune of only Rs 30 lakh, and the functioning of the society constituted in 1978  was almost crippled. The order from the state government issued on Monday that the society can catch snakes and sell venom has brought a major relief to the community.

The Irula’s were permitted to catch around 13000 snakes annually but of late the Tamil Nadu forest department prevented the community from catching snakes and reduced the numbers to 5000 which affected the business drastically. Officials with the Irula Snake Catchers Industrial Society said that the Madras High Court had granted the society permission to catch 13000 snakes a year to extract venom but the Tamil Nadu forest department has been preventing this for the past few years.

The society officials said that in 2021 also they were allowed to catch only 5000 snakes and this led to the business of selling snake venom coming down drastically.

Society, according to the officials, at present have the venom of spectacle Cobras and Rusell’s vipers but the anti-venom-making companies require the venom of common krait and saw-scaled vipers also.

It is to be noted that Irula society is the only authorized supplier of venom for the production of anti-venom medicines and if the society’s functioning is crippled it would lead to companies depending on unauthorized venom suppliers.

The relentless pursuit by the Irula society officials with the Tamil Nadu forest department has led to the granting of permission for the society to catch snakes as well as to supply venom to anti-venom-making companies.

Studies have revealed that around 58,000 people die in the country due to snake bites a year and without an adequate supply of snake venom, anti-venom medicines cannot be made and this has led to the Tamil Nadu forest department sanctioning permission for the society to catch snakes and extract venom as also to sell the stock of venom it has.