For snake charmers in Dhanbad, rapid urbanisation is posing a big challenge to their traditional occupation and source of livelihood.
"Snakes are our bread and butter, but nowadays we are unable to catch many," ninety-year-old Swapan Bedia says.
"The dwindling population of snakes due to urbanization is forcing us to take up rickshaw-pulling or other manual labour under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme for subsistence," said Jitu Bedia.
The two are among the 150 families residing near Panchrukhi village in Dhanbad district whose livelihood depends on catching and rearing snakes. They are part of the Bedia community.
"We used to entertain people and sold the poison of snakes as antidote, but it is now a thing of the past. Poisonous snakes are fast disappearing from the region following urbanization. Even snake-charming is no longer attractive," adds Dukha Bedia.
"We used to play with snakes and never got bitten. Nobody in our village has ever been bitten by a snake. But now children prefer toys," said Dukha as he recollected how he grew up taming the reptiles.
"Now our children prefer to attend schools, which we encourage particularly after Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the midday meals. There is no future in catching snakes," adds Dukha.
Inspite of the difficult times the Bedia community is facing, elders still abide to strict principles as a matter of faith. They do not catch snakes during the Shravan puja and release those in their possession once a year and worship them on Mansa puja.
When approached, a government official in the block said the administration had several welfare programmes to offer.
"We are offering job cards to any person desiring to work under NREGA," the officials said.