Eight villagers were arrested for killing an endangered reptile on Monday after they brought a big, dead rat snake, around seven feet long, to the office of a power distribution company.
The people of an Ajmer village has been demanding the company to supply power to the farmers at daytime to run their water motors for irrigating the crop fields, arguing that they are at great risk of snakebites when they tend their farms at night.
The Ajmer Vidyut Vitaran Nigam Limited (AVVNL) supplies heavily-subsidised electricity to farmers at night in a rotational arrangement, restricting daytime supply only to industries and domestic consumers.
But the villagers are not happy with the night supply. To make their point, they brought the snake carcass, which they killed on Sunday night.
But the plan backfired and they ended up behind bars under the wildlife protection act for killing a schedule 1 animal.
“Many villagers have suffered snakebites watering fields at night last week,” said Omprakash Prajapat, the Ajmer tehsil president of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh.
“We are here because we are fed up with fighting snakes at night,” he said, shouting slogans with a group of fellow villagers outside the AVVNL office.
The rat snake that the villagers killed had appeared at Prajapat’s farm on Sunday night when his sister-in-law was tending crops. “If I hadn’t noticed the reptile, it would have killed her,” he said.
A rat snake is not known to be venomous, though. But its size may have intimidated the villagers.
The forest department sent a team when news of a protest with a dead snake spread. The team seized the carcass and registered a case against eight villagers before arresting.
“The snake is an endangered species, described under schedule 1 of the forest act, which prohibits its killing even for self-defence,” forest official Sudhir Mathur said.