Bhopal: Five Kalandars who opted for alternative livelihood scheme of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) in Kotra Sultanabad settlement in Bhopal have been successfully rehabilitated to other professions.
Three out of the five Kalandars are now employed into transport ventures privately owned by them – after WTI provided the initial sum to start these projects. The other two have joined in the privately owned waste-disposable ventures.
All the five Kalandars had performed bear shows (dancing bear shows) in the past to earn their livelihoods.
To address the issue of “dancing bear” holistically, WTI with support from the World Society for Protection of Animals (WSPA) initiated the Integrated Sloth Bear Conservation and Welfare Project in the year 2005.
Under this programme, alternative livelihoods are being provided to Kalandars in settlements across the country. Sloth bears in their possession are being rescued and have been sent for rehabilitation.
Riaz Khan and Rafiq Khan, who owned the “Bhatt” (a transport commercial vehicle) in partnership – today ply on the Kotra New Market route in Bhopal and earn between rupees 300 to 500 per day.
Rafiq Khan said, “I have been in menial jobs for past two years after the forest department took away Tinku – one, with whom I spent my childhood. More than anything else, he was close to our family for several years, I still miss him.”
However, Khan’s new employment has earned him self-respect. Those who had earlier looked down at him for his dancing bear profession are now in praise. In addition, financial security in his new job has brought stability to his family and they positively look forward to this new venture for livelihood in the future.
Other Kalandars have also expressed similar sentiments on their alternative livelihood and their new found status.
Vijay Dhasmana, Manager of the Communities for Conservation Programme of WTI said that presently, about 22 Kalandar families are in the Kotra Sultanabad settlement in Bhopal and their bears are already surrendered to the forest department. The rescued bears are being rehabilitated at the Van Vihar Zoo in Bhopal.
After the ban on the street performances of dancing bears in 1998, many Kalandar families had to abandon this profession and were forced into rag-picking, worked as laborers, part-time drivers, or entered into small roadside ventures.
This rehabilitation scheme by WTI will be important to permanently stop the illegal practice of bear shows by the Kalandars.
pix credit: Parthasarthi / WTI