Ajesh Lalu is in the thick of campaigning at Kunnathukal in the capital district’s rural suburbs when he receives an urgent call from someone in Parassala. A snake has been found inside a well and his services as a snake catcher are urgently needed so that the residents could use the well.
36-year-old Lalu, who has been a snake-catcher for close to two decades, is the United Democratic Front (UDF)’s candidate in the Kunnathukal division of the Perumkadavila block panchayat for the upcoming local body elections. Over the course of daily campaigning, he receives numerous such calls. Despite his political commitments, he had taken breaks from campaigning to honour his professional commitments too.
“Most of us snake catchers are in touch with each other. So, whenever I get calls, I take up the work if it is close to where I am. If it is at some other far-off corner of the district, I redirect it to someone else who is near that area. Even during the campaigning, I constantly get calls from various parts of the district. I have rescued around 15 snakes during this campaigning,” says Mr. Lalu.
After the murder of a woman near Anchal allegedly by her husband using a poisonous snake early this year, the Forest Department had announced a licensing system for snake catchers. Mr. Lalu was one of the snake catchers who underwent the training provided by the department recently and is awaiting his licence.
From school days
“I was still in school when I caught the first snake. Since then, it has been my wish to protect these creatures in whatever way I can. In recent years, I have worked as a daily wager at the Government Snake Park, Poojappura, as well as at Parassinikadavu. Over these 20 years, I have received two serious bites, one from a cobra and another from a viper. But I have survived,” he says.
His first stint with politics came as a college student, when he became a member of the Kerala Students Union. Although he has not been an active political worker due to his commitments as a snake catcher, he has made his presence felt in the Congress’s activities at times. His familiarity with the people also made the party approach him to be a candidate.
He is making an all-out effort to capture the division currently held by the LDF.