Monkey business in India is nothing new and for Himachal Pradesh it is a problem of plenty. With simians creating trouble in the hilly state, they had been declared vermin who could be shot at and killed. Now there is a clear choice for those on both sides of the fence. One can either kill monkeys or they can save them. Interestingly both ways the person will get rewarded.
While monkeys are revered as an avatar of the Monkey lord Hanuman, there are those who would do anything to save them. Those facing problems with them running riot, a section even wants them dead, atleast in Himachal Pradesh and other places where they cause trouble.
Having failed to contain monkey menace, the Himachal Pradesh government has announced it will pay Rs. 300 to those who kill monkeys. The Centre had earlier declared monkeys as vermin in 38 tehsils and 10 districts.
The Himachal wildlife department is to setup special control rooms to monitor monkey culling and disposal of carcasses. For those watching the process, this had to happen after monkey sterilization processes failed.
Surveys show there are two lakh monkeys in the state who cause losses of nearly Rs. 200 crore annually to both agriculture and horticulture.
There are others like a Delhi-based foundation who have announced cash awards for saving animals like monkeys, dogs and cows in various places in India.
Killing monkeys is a sin says Yogi Ashwani Swami, founder Dhyan Foundation.
With the six month period where monkeys were declared vermin ending on September 14 the government has now written to Ministry of Environment and Forest to declare monkeys as vermin for one more year.
Experts are quick to add that to counter human animal conflict culling of animals is not the solution.
With heavy losses to crops it was the local farmer who was demanding that crop-raiding animals be categorised as “vermin” under India’s Wildlife Protection Act for a period of at least two years. Farmers so far have approached District Collector’s office to provide them with guns and ammunition at subsidised rates to shoot rhesus macaques.
Rhesus macaques are hardy, adaptable monkeys and have a long history of living in close contact with human settlements. Mostly centred in rural habitats, they enter kitchens and damage property in urban settlements, besides approaching people sometimes aggressively for food in public parks and temples.
Farmer rights groups say the state lost crops worth Rs 2,200 crore due to monkeys between 2007 and 2012.
Himachal Pradesh to be fair has taken up various strategies to make aware from culling and sterilisation drives to awareness campaigns not to feed monkeys. The state spent Rs 6.4 crore to set up eight sterilisation centres but to no avail.
Himachal Pradesh was first to experiment with culling in 2007, after farmers started protesting in Shimla against government apathy.
Its easy to paint the monkey as the villain. Keeping nature’s hints at coexistence in mind, we need to take a call now.