Snake-charmer unleashes reptiles on bribe-seeking officials in UP

A snake-charmer, fed up with demands for bribes from revenue officials in Basti in Uttar Pradesh, dumped more than a score of snakes inside a government office, sending frightened officials scurrying for cover.

Hakkul Khan, the snake-charmer, had last year written a letter to president Pratibha Patil, claiming that he was now working for the conservation of the reptiles and wanted some land from the government to preserve the snakes that he caught.

The state government had then directed the local district officials to allocate land for him. However, according to Khan, the revenue officials refused to give him the land till he gave them some money.

A frustrated Khan then decided to dump some of the poisonous snakes in his possession at the revenue office in Basti. Many of the government officials panicked as the snakes slithered up chairs and tables. Most of them tried to escape out of the office and no one was bitten by the reptiles.

Police and forest officials later managed to catch the snakes, thought the charmer had escaped by then. A local government official later said that Khan's complaint would be taken cognisance of and land would soon be allotted to him.

Khan, a traditional snake-charmer, took to conservation of the reptiles, after the government at the behest of activists began discouraging the practice of charmers performing in cities. Khan, who is usually summoned by officials in the district when snakes stray into homes or offices, became a conservationist.
 
Animal rights activists and conservationists have been urging the central and state governments to crack down on the trade of snake-charmers. In fact, in most cities across India there are very few snake-charmers, even on festivals like Nag Panchami.
 
Activists are also trying to convert snake-charmers into rescuers to ensure a livelihood for them. Still, there are an estimated one million snake-charmers in the country, who are  finding themselves increasingly irrelevant in a modernising India.