Irula Tribesmen Vadivel Gopal, Masi Sadaiyan Win Padma Shri, Twitter Hails Heroic Duo

Last Updated: January 27, 2023, 18:00 IST

Vadivel Gopal and Masi Sadaiyan were conferred one of India’s highest civilian awards for social work. (Image source: Twitter)

The duo are expert snake catchers specialising in anti-venom extraction. The techniques used by them are part of the indigenous knowledge of the Irula tribe.

Masi Sadaiyan and Vadivel Gopal are two of the many unsung heroes brought into the media limelight with the announcement of the prestigious Padma Awards on the 74th Republic Day. The inclusion of these two snake catchers from Tamil Nadu’s Irula tribe in the list of awardees has led to an outpouring of heartfelt wishes on social media. Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer Supriya Sahu, too, expressed her jubilation at the news. The Additional Chief Secretary for Environment, Climate Change, and Forests to the Government of Tamil Nadu took to Twitter to laud Sadaiyan and Gopal’s achievement.

In her tweet, featuring a photo of the two Padma Shri awardees, Sahu wrote, “fantastic news! Expert snake catchers Vadivel Gopal and Masi Sadaiyan, Irula Tribals from Tamil Nadu have been conferred with Padma Shri. Congratulations, what a journey it has been! Their expertise and traditional knowledge have been utilised by many countries.”

Gopal and Sadaiyan, members of the Irular Snake Catchers’ Cooperative society in Chennai, were conferred one of India’s highest civilian awards for social work. The duo are expert snake catchers specialising in anti-venom extraction. The techniques they are lauded for are a part of the indigenous knowledge of the people of the Irula tribe and are passed down generationally. The two men have also shared their traditional knowledge with snake catchers in several other countries. Their skill in catching the elusive Burmese Python in Florida in 2017 earned them some recognition.

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Several people joined Sahu in extending their best wishes to the decorated duo. One user wrote, “Congratulations to both of them the way they work deserves this and many more to come. I am sure this will get recognition to them,” while another commented, “it is a heroic act. It is an art. They Deserve it.”

The recognition has helped highlight some important facts about the Irula tribe. It has shed light on the role they play in the healthcare ecosystem in India through the collection of anti-venom. On the other hand, it has highlighted their abysmal economic condition as well.

Sadaiyan told The New Indian Express that his three children could not get an education due to his poor income. “They are working as daily-wage labourers. We need some guaranteed monthly income for our high-risk work. We were bitten by snakes and endured life-threatening situations several times over the years,” he said.

According to the news outlet, Sadaiyan’s monthly income typically lies between Rs 2,000-4,000 per month. He also works as a farmhand and woodcutter in the summer months when snake catching is prohibited.

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