Narayan Sutar saw his uncle die of a snake bite. It only took a couple of hours for his uncle to succumb to the venom of the reptile, recalls Narayan in a moving video.
But it wasn’t the only death he had witnessed when he toiled in the fields of his tiny village in Maharashtra.
This is a story that perhaps resounds in most villages across India where hundreds of farmers lose their lives to snake bites. According to a report, over 46,000 people die from snake bites.
While a snake in an urban setting may have alarms being set off, ambulances rushing and the victim being administered anti-venom drugs in the hospital, many of these farmers die due to untimely medical aid, lack of access to medical facilities and dependence on local vaidhs in their villages.
Bengaluru-based Prasadam Industries has developed a ‘snake guard’ in the form of a walking stick that a farmer can carry to the fields.
Made of out iron, and still, in the testing stage, it is being claimed as an ultrasonic, solar-powered snake-repellent.
The idea is to not only protect the lives of the farmers from fatal reptile encounters but also avoid the gory killings of snakes by the rural community.
Most villagers, as a habit, carry a walking stick with them for self-defence while venturing into the woods or farms. The device, powered by a solar battery, can work for 24 hours after a charging time of three hours.
The innovators claim that when this snake guard is buried eight inches into the soil where the farmer is working, the lower tip sends out ‘seismic pulses’ every 20-seconds much like stomping our feet on the ground. Snakes and other rodents at a distance of 50 meters feel this through their skin, staying away from the device.
Vedobroto Roy, the man behind the innovation, told The Better India, “The purpose of this innovation is to minimise the encounter between farmers and snakes with a simple mechanism. We have distributed a few sticks among farmers in Karnataka, and Maharashtra for a pilot and the feedback has been positive. We now aim to test the snake guard in different soil conditions, and take it to the Agriculture Department for approval.”
Set to hit the markets in July, the Snake Guard costs between Rs 4,000-5,000 at the moment, but Roy’s team is working to reduce the costs further to make it affordable for farmers.
Roy shares how the idea to develop the device came to him after he witnessed a few farmers beating a non-venomous rat snake to death.
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“Rat snakes are non-venomous and are considered beneficial for killing crop-damaging rodents in the fields. But over the last few years, since the number of deaths due to snake bites is on the rise, even the sight of a snake is enough to send the villagers into a frenzy, resulting in them beating the snakes to death. To avoid these killings and warn the snake as well as the farmer of the lurking danger, the Snake Guard was developed.”
Roy added how the snake guard is a minor deterrent as against the poisonous sprays, powders and sticks people use to keep snakes away or kill them.
“My grandmother was an organic gardening enthusiast. She would grow a few veggies in her garden but was tired of the snails who would infest the lettuce and cauliflower. When my uncles and grandpa would spray chemicals to keep the snails at bay, my grandmother did not approve of it. So every time she made breakfast, she would save the egg shells. She crushed them and scattered them around the crops. So it meant that the snails would have to pass over the eggshells to eat the veggies. Since the snails have extremely sensitive skin, passing over these eggshells meant having to cross over shards of glass. So every time they sensed these, they would turn away, not to return. This inspired me to create the Snake Guard as well,” says Roy.
About Prasadam Industries
Prasadam was initiated by Vedobroto Roy alongside his wife Chetna and their two-year-old daughter. After having worked in the advertising industry for over 16 years and created successful campaigns for top brands like Samsung, Pepsi etc., Roy quit his job in an attempt to give back to society.
“We had the money. But there was no sleep. We were working triple shifts in office, then living wild and free on the weekend. There was a sense of not having done anything meaningful. And so we quit our jobs and bought a small piece of land in drought-hit Chikkaballapur district in rural Karnataka,” shares Roy.
Ever since, the family has been working with farmers and farmer widows, who, for the last decade have seen nothing but hapless situations due to crop failure. From migrating to other villages, grappling unemployment to being stuck due in bureaucratic red tape to get BPL ration cards, the farmers here have been struggling in all spheres.
Prasadam is using modern innovations to stabilise the livelihoods of these underprivileged sons and daughters of the soil. These include the root solution (using earthen pots for irrigation), green paper bag and cigarette-filter paper-making (once you dispose of these bags, they grow into plants), among others.
“While the cause of the farmers is something very close to our hearts, we wanted to do this, especially for our two-year-old, Araadya. We want her to know and remember that food doesn’t come from a grocery store or a supermarket. It comes to our table due to the backbreaking hard work our farmers put in their fields.”
So far, Prasadam has won a National Geographic Gold and Silver at the Goafest for their Snake Guard. In two years, they have also managed to start a production unit, PaperAlive, in Nairobi, Kenya. Headed by Arindam Sarkar, this unit will carry forward the work of Prasadam in the continent, whether it is creating their ‘planet rejuvenating paper’ or the new snake guard.
We wish Prasadam and the Roy family the very best!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)