A zoo keeper’s attempted suicide has brought lack of job security for contract employees to the fore

This zoo employee spent four hours in a cobra enclosure to wake up the govt
news Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - 16:03


On October 2 2015, Harshad made news for all the wrong reasons as he tried to commit suicide by locking himself up inside the cobra enclosure in Thiruvananthapuram zoo with more than 20 snakes slithering around him.  

AS Harshad, 40, a reptile keeper in the zoo who has been working there for the last 15 years on contract basis, was demanding permanent posting of his job. He sat inside the enclosure for four and half hours, demanding the government to give him a permanent position.

Harshad says he took that extreme step as he did not have any other option left for survival.     

“That day I did not even have money to buy some medicines and at home we had some issues due to shortage of money. I was deeply hurt and all of a sudden I did that, I did not mean to trouble others,” Harshad told The News Minute.

The Zoo and Museum Ministry has now promised him a permanent post after the local polls.

Harshad is hopeful that all his problems would be solved after elections and he can continue doing his favorite job.

“In 2000 when I joined, the daily wage was Rs 91 and now it has risen up to Rs 315. I stay in a rented house 27 kms away from the zoo, after paying the rent, travel expenses and medical expenses of my aged parents I was left with nothing,” he says.

“That day I heard that one person who had the same experience as mine will be made permanent and I will not be, I was shocked and with that pain I locked myself inside,” he added.

Harshad belongs to a family of street circus performers and has vast experience dealing with many wild animals.

“I wanted to settle with my family so I selected this job in the zoo. My family had been saying to go for circus as the pay was higher but I always believed that I will get the permanent post, where I will be paid Rs 20000 per month,” he says.

He adds that since childhood, he was trained to deal with wild animals and it was after 1995 that the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 was implemented strictly which restricted the use of animals in streets and circuses.

After the suicide attempt, he was asked by the director of the zoo to go on a long leave, but he joined back after two days.

“That was a momentary action; I will not do it again. Even after that incident my colleagues are supportive,” Harshad said.

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