Among incidents officially recognised as calamities in Odisha, snake bites lead lightning strikes and drowning in causing fatalities. In the State, snake bites kill close to 500 people every year. Since the 2015 announcement by the Odisha government categorising snake bite as a state-specific calamity, deaths recorded due to snake bites increased from 411 in 2015-16 to 486 in 2016-17. Since April this year, as many as 34 lives have already been lost in Odisha due to snake bite. Nationally, the State leads in snake bite deaths recorded in government-run hospitals. The surge in snake-bite death data may well be due to just better recording. “Ever since Odisha added snake bite as a State-specific calamity and announced that ex-gratia for loss of life would be paid from the disaster relief fund, snake bite deaths have registered a sharp jump,” Prabhat Ranjan Mohapatra, Deputy Special Relief Commissioner, told The Hindu. Better recording“There is no scientific evidence to say that snake bite deaths are on a rising trend. We also cannot attribute habitat loss to snake bite deaths. Many snakes reside near human habitations because they get easy prey. Cobra and common krait bites are higher in numbers and the two venomous species are found near human habitations. Russell’s vipers are found in fields,” said Pratyush Mohapatra, a scientist with the Zoological Survey of India.One of the positive aspects of the inclusion of snake bite in the calamity list is that people are rushed to hospitals immediately after snake bite. The process for getting ex-gratia is easier if the death occurs in hospital. The next-of-kin of snake bite victims are paid Rs. 4 lakh from the disaster relief fund. There is also increased awareness among people that they must get treatment in hospitals for snake bites rather than go to black magic practitioners and snake charmers.“There has also been marked improvement in the availability of anti-venom drugs in government-run hospitals in recent years. But we lack ventilators,” said Mr. Mohapatra.