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Man vs Monkey: Delhi’s Theater of Absurd

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Ground Report | New Delhi: Authorities in Delhi was recently forced to put up portraits and cut-outs of langoors to keep the troops of monkeys away from Covid patients in the Sardar Patel Covid Care Center- a makeshift facility operating in Radha Soami Satsang Ashram on the outskirts of the city- which was touted to be India’s biggest covid hospital last year.

This absurd, but amusing, the temporary solution also characterizes the theatrical administrative approach in tackling Delhi’s simian menace. Delhi municipal corporation’s veterinary department and state government’s forest department have been shifting their responsibilities to catch monkeys in the national capital. Legal battles have been fought for many years but with no solution. The municipal corporation argues that monkey is a wild animal while forest department thinks it should fall in the category of other strays like dogs and cats.

Delhi’s Monkey

Did you know that Delhi offers the highest prices in the country (@Rs2400 per animal) to catch simians, which are then relocated to 100 acres Asola Bhati area which is mostly filled with fruitless keekar trees. The Asola Bhatti sanctuary is located next to the covid center and monkeys can simply jump back to human habitations as they have been doing during the last decade. There are no natural food sources or fruit trees in the area and there is no barrier between the sanctuary and nearby colonies. The Forest department claims to drop fruits and food in the area but What do monkeys do? They jump out. The multi-crore relocation project has been going round in circles. It is akin to filling a bottomless tumbler.

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Over the last decade, more than 20,000 monkeys have been relocated to this area. How many still remain inside the sanctuary area? No one knows. Payments have been made to monkey catchers. Over Rs 10 crore have spent on feeding them. But the problem stands as it did in 2007 when High Court had directed that captured monkeys be relocated to 100-acre sanctuary in Asola mines. Court had stated: “we piously hope that Delhi will be free of monkey menace in 3 months.” Well, 163 months later, Delhi is still monkeying around with this theater of absurd.

Md Tasleem, who is capturing monkeys in Radha Soami Ashram’s Covid care center, had arrived in Delhi in 2007 when the then deputy mayor of the city had passed sway falling from the roof of his house during a monkey attack. Langoors used to scare away Rhesus Macaques have been replaced by portraits to meet modern sensibilities about animal rights and monkeys catchers are now subject to art cinema. The solution to Man versus Animal conflicts still eludes us. Thousands get injured due to monkey attacks every year and the poor animal to wanders in our concrete jungle in hungry troops.

Some highlights:

  • Delhi Municipal corporation’s veterinary department and Delhi government’s wildlife/forest department have been fighting over shifting the responsibility of monkeys.
  • Both argue over the ‘wildness’ of monkeys and whether they should be treated as stray animals.
  • The number of monkeys caught has been progressively decreasing. While
    1283 monkeys were caught in 2015
    The number was less than 500 last year.
  • Despite the highest monkey catching rate in the country, very poor response from private monkey catchers. No one wants to work in the city despite lucrative benefits as animal lovers slap them with cases of animal abuse No monkey catchers want to work in the city, Rates doubled from 1200 to 2400 per monkey
  • Langurs can no longer be used to ward off monkeys as it is now considered animal cruelty
  • Monkey census find hotspots has not been carried out
  • Feeding of monkeys relocated to Asola Bhati carried out by wildlife department, complaints of these relocated monkeys entering neighboring residential area very frequently.
  • In 2007 deputy mayor of Delhi S S Bajwa died of head injuries after falling from the terrace of his house, following an attack by monkeys
  • Re-location to 100 acre Bhati mines area started in 2007 after HC order
  • Over 20,000 monkeys have been relocated so far and over 10 cr spent on feeding them
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