Turning heads from across the nation, two snake catchers from the Irula community in Tamil Nadu have etched a prestigious milestone after being conferred with the Padma Awards, one of the highest civilian honours in the country. With the precious accolade, both of them have pushed their boundaries and proved that their work in the woods is nothing short of decorating the national stage.
On Wednesday, a day ahead of Republic Day, the Union government announced the list of Padma Award winners and six people from Tamil Nadu were made into the list to lift a national honour. Among the six were two snake catchers - Vadivel Gopal (47) and Masi Sadaiyan (45), who belong to the Irular community. Both these snake catchers have been conferred with the Padma Shri, the country's fourth-highest civilian award.
The two expert snake catchers, now laureautes of Padma Shri Award, are a native of Chengalpattu district. They belong to a downtrodden Irula community that drawn a huge attention through Suriya starred movie 'Jai Bhim'. It was certain that the pain and suffering behind the community was showcased in the movie and the community is known for catching snakes.
Now, two snake catchers from the community have indeed touched the peak and the Padma Awards will be decorating their hands and community. Vadivel Gopal and Masi Sadaiyan were part of the team that led by renowned conservationist and herpetologist Romulus Whitaker. The team, with these two snake catchers, flew to Florida, the United States to work on controlling the population of pythons.
According to reports, Vadivel Gopal and Masi Sadaiyan had helped the international team in hunting the Burmese pythons in Florida and the duo caught over 25 pythons in the US state. A note issued by the Press Information Bureau said that the Irula community plays an important role in the healthcare ecosystem of India by helping in collection of antivenoms and these two awardees use the indigenous knowledge inherited from their forefathers to help save lives.
The note further said, "They specialise in catching dangerous and venomous snake and travelled globally to train other snake catchers." Vadivel Gopal and Masi Sadaiyan are the members of the Irular Snake Catchers' Cooperative Society in Vada Nemmeli, on the East Coast Road and after learning that they have been conferred with the Padma Shri Award, they said, "This award is the result of years of hard work."
Speaking to DT Next, Masi Sadaiyan said, "We thank the government for the prestigious award. It was herpetologist Romulus Whitaker who took us in his team that captured a large number of pythons." While they are among the six people to get bestowed with the Padma Awards, the other four recipients are Vani Jairam (Singer), who is awarded with Padma Bhushan, Paalam Kalyana Sundaram (Social Work), Dr Gopalsamy Veluchamy (Medicine), and K Kalyanasundaram Pillai (Art) have been conferred with the Padma Shri Awards.
Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi congratulated Vadivel Gopal and Masi Sadaiyan for their historical milestone. Taking to Twitter, the Governor wrote, "I am happy to know that Vadivel Gopal and Masi Sadaiyan, Snake catchers from the #Irular tribal community of Tamil Nadu, have been announced for receiving #PadmaShri this year. My heartiest congratulations to them and other Padma awardees. Vadivel Gopal and Masi Sadaiyan are repositories of our Indigenous knowledge of dealing with dangerous snakes and have also helped in collecting rare snake venoms which saved numerous precious lives."
Vadivel Gopal and Masi Sadaiyan are repositories of our Indigenous knowledge of dealing with dangerous snakes and have also helped in collecting rare snake venoms which saved numerous precious lives. (2/2) @PMOIndia @HMOIndia @PIB_India @ANI @PTI_News— RAJ BHAVAN, TAMIL NADU (@rajbhavan_tn) January 25, 2023