Bear trainers to take to sartorial, soap tasks

With their traditional profession of bear dancing declared illegal, a new future awaits bear trainers: tailoring and soap manufacture.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2006 15:22 IST

With their traditional profession of bear dancing declared illegal on pressure from animal rights groups, a new future awaits bear trainers: tailoring and soap manufacture.

Twenty-two 'kalandars' in Madhya Pradesh, as they are known, will be trained in the two jobs, according to the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), an animal welfare group.

Bear dancing - in which mountain bears are muzzled and trained to sway and gyrate on hind legs to popular tunes - was declared illegal in 1998 and made a punishable offence under Indian laws.

The WTI approached the Centre for Entrepreneurship Development in Madhya Pradesh to train the 22 from Kotra Sultanabad area in different skills.

Said Nidhi Aggarwal, the WTI programme officer: "After their training is completed, the centre will provide assistance in marketing and financial support for setting up livelihood projects."

According to Parthasarthy Changdar, an assistant field officer of WTI, the kalandars have agreed to be trained in making detergent powder and in tailoring.

WTI is conducting a nationwide survey to identify settlements for similar intervention. The survey is on in Jharkhand, Bihar, Rajasthan, Karnataka, West Bengal, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh.

"The kalandar settlements identified in Bihar and Jharkhand will be targeted in the next phase," said Aggarwal.

WTI has been campaigning against bear captivity across the country. The project aims at creating awareness among tourists not to encourage bear dancing.

Kalandars claim they have been in the profession since Mughal rule and were royal entertainers. Once the kingdoms ended, the kalandars became dependent on streets shows for a living till animal rights groups stepped in.

First Published: Mar 20, 2006 15:22 IST