Sovrati was one of the first Kalandars in Bihar to be approached by the project. Despite opposition from his two brothers with whom his family shared a house, he chose to surrender the bear. Although sceptical in the beginning, the newly found mental comfort has eliminated his initial fears. Living in a rented house away from his dissenting brothers, Sovrati now also advocates alternative livelihood among other bear performers of his community.

Sovrati chose to buy two cycle rickshaws and a plot of land from the rehabilitation package provided to him through the ISBCWP. He fends for his family including his wife and five children, transporting load in one rickshaw and renting out the other. He is earning better, as compared with his earlier occupation. Moreover, he plans to send his children to attend school, an unthinkable luxury during his semi-nomadic life as a bear performer.

Sovrati invested a major portion of his package for non-entrepreneurial purpose with WTI’s consent to buy a plot of land, says Roy. He plans to build a house and open a shop in the land, which will be looked after by his wife. We are considering supporting her, as she played an important role in Sovrati’s acceptance of the alternative livelihood. Moreover, it will serve as further motivation to Kalandars to know that they have more to gain by choosing this path, Sarma added.

Within two years, the ISBCWP has rehabilitated more than 200 Kalandars in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Bihar, directly or indirectly. From a common past, they have diversified into a range of occupations including farming, animal husbandry, vending, operating public transport vehicles and dealing in scraps. Post-rehabilitation monitoring continues presently to help the rehabilitated Kalandars settle completely in their new lives, to prevent a relapse.

More Kalandars have agreed to give up their bears for an alternative livelihood package and are awaiting completion of necessary paperwork.

Thanks to the Wildlife Trust of India for this information.