India Tales: Meet the Chhattisgarh villager who lives with over 100 pet pythons
Lately, Bharesar has become a sort of tourist attraction. People from far and wide are flocking to this village, about 12 km from Janjgir in Chhattisgarh, to see whether what they have heard is actually true - that one Mahatmaram Pandey lives with pythons, over 100 of them.
The pythons have a found a home in a hollow peepal tree, said to be over 200 years old, near Pandey's house. In the summers, they come out at night. "The small pythons love to play on the backs of the old ones. These pythons have not harmed anyone, not even birds that perch on the branches of the peepal," said Pandey.
How did these reptiles come to be here? "My grandfather Vedprasad Pandey brought a few pythons to keep as pets over a hundred years ago," Pandey, 60, said. "They made this peepal their home, and they have multiplied over the years." Pandey himself has added to the "collection", bringing pythons from the nearby villages of Samra, Khokhra, Munund, Dhaneli. "It is surprising that the new ones become friendly with the old ones in just a few days."
Asked about this, animal science expert Prof Ashwini Kesharwani said it shouldn't be surprising. "In a cordial environment, pythons can stay in one place for years. They swallow small creatures around the place, and some live by eating mud. And it is possible for them to have a close relationship with humans."
The pythons don't scare the local villagers. They are venerated, in fact. They see a python as a "giver of wealth", hence the name "dhanbera". "Whenever there is an auspicious event in the family, all of us seek the blessings of the pythons. They are lucky and radiate positive energy that's why people from other places come to see them. They are pride of Bharesar," said Pandey.
This is sure to bring relief to parents worried about their children zooming around on motorbikes. Hinesh Sankhla, a mechanical engineering student, has developed what can only be described as a "safe bike".
A GSM sensor monitors the bike's speed and puts through a "missed call" to a parent's phone if the pre-determined speed limit is breached. When the call is retuned, it will activate the GSM-connected circuit to cut the speed.
Hinesh's bike is a hybrid vehicle; the front wheel is run by an electric motor and the rear one by a petrol engine.
The most interesting feature of the bike is that it doesn't start until the rider wears the helmet. "A sensor in the helmet activates the petrol engine circuit, which in turn starts the bike," said Hinesh. "Without the helmet coming in contact with a head, the petrol engine circuit won't be activated and the bike won't start. It is like a key."
The bike took Hinesh eight months and nearly Rs 40,000 to build from an old scooter and parts of an electric bike.
Taking a lesson from the devastation caused by forest fires in Uttarakhand, Karnataka has devised a plan to better monitor its forests for fires. The state will buy a fleet of camera-fitted drones to fly regular over its forests, staring
with the famous Kudremukh, which is spread over 630 sq km in the Western Ghats.
Kudremukh is home to 13,000 tribal people, and boasts a rich wildlife. The spread and terrain of the forest makes "on foot vigilance" difficult. "By using drones, it will be possible to keep an eye on different areas from one place. At the same time, accurate information regarding criminal activities in the forest can be obtained," said Deputy Conservator of Forests Maria Christu Raja.
Apart from this, there's a plan to establish "vigilance towers with powerful zoom cameras to watch distant areas of the forest". "The cameras will keep watch round the clock and the information gathered will be sent to the control room of the range office," Raja said. This information will then be shared with the groups patrolling the forest so that they can reach the relevant spot and take appropriate action.
"Most people living in the forest live close to the grasslands. They use fire regularly. The fire is thus often man-made. Keeping an eye on this will help pinpoint the location of the fire and this will make it possible for the rescue team to reach the exact spot and take timely action," Raja added.
Also, Raja said, "We are trying to make patrolling on foot more effective. Patrol teams will get accurate information from surveillance cameras. We will be successful in controlling crime with drone cameras."