Surprising, but true. In Himachal Pradesh, the monkeys keep the state government on toes. So much so, that the government, which was earlier giving money for catching monkeys (for sterilisation), has now announced an incentive of Rs 300 for killing a monkey in certain areas outside forest. The reason: Under tremendous political pressure, the state government got monkeys declared as ‘vermin’ from Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, first in municipal limits in Shimla ( in areas outside forest) in March this year and then in 38 tehsils across the state. This meant that the monkeys in these areas could be eliminated legally.
However, what created a lot of confusion was that the issue of killing of monkeys was stuck in the Court for some years. The Forest department’s stance of announcing an incentive for killing monkeys last week has cleared much air. So far, there hasn’t been a single case of killing of monkey after the animal was declared as ‘vermin’ as per forest department records.Even otherwise, not many people will take to sticks or guns to eliminate the primates, for there are many angles involved in the killing.
The critics rightly question the move to kill the monkeys as they ask…Is killing the solution to check monkey menace or any human-animal conflict? Is it an environment friendly move? On ground, there has been much hue and cry over the damage caused by monkeys, whether it is attack on humans or crops. Data shared by Forest minister, Thakur Singh Bharmauri in Vidhan Sabha showed that in the last three years, there were 674 attacks on humans by the monkeys and the sufferers were compensated Rs 28 lakh during this period.In Shimla alone, on an average more than 1000 cases of monkey bites are reported in a single clinic at Rippon hospital.
The state has been conducting a monkey sterilization programme since 2006 and more than 51 percent of the monkeys in the state have been sterilized. The population of monkeys is over two lakh in Himachal Pradesh. The monkeys and other wild animals damaged agricultural crops worth Rs 184 crore in the year 2014 in HP, and the average annual loss over the last some years is estimated at Rs 150 crore. On the face of it, the successive governments in Himachal have only mishandled the issue.
The public issue is alive and politically volatile for the past over one and a half decade. Little wisdom on the part of policy makers could have solved the problem by now. While plantation of fruit trees in pockets to provide natural habitats of monkeys, which are encroached by humans with the passage of time, coupled with a sustained sterilisation programme could have solved the problem of monkeys interfering with human lives and economy much.
However, unfortunately, all those at the helm of affairs have so far thought of piece meal approach to control the monkey numbers and have experimented with one or the other method to fail every time. In the Congress tenure in the past, there were allegations that the forest department simply transported monkeys from towns to lesser populated places or nearby forests for temporarily relief. This compounded the problem even more and monkeys therein could be seen even in places, where they never used to be. Some farmers at that time, particularly, in Sirmour, had taken to guns and shot many monkeys dead. The move was later abandoned as it too did not solve the purpose and failed to get support of the state government then.
The previous BJP government opened a primate park for monkey on pilot basis near Tara Devi. Some monkeys were kept in an earmarked area, with fencing around. In no time, all the monkeys managed to escape the park one by one. And it flopped. Then came the era of sterilisation of monkeys which is still continuing at different sterilisation centres in the state.The experts said the sterilization can control the monkey population after a certain time period if done scientifically. This has actually brought down the monkey numbers to an extent, but the ‘unscientific catching’ of monkeys for sterilization and dropping them back unmindfully has slowed down the success and has left the monkeys, who are known for their group behaviour, more aggressive.
Sterilisation apart, the government is now talking of ‘Van Vatikas’ for monkeys, which would have fruit trees and, again, an earmarked habitat. The implementation has not been taken up, as yet. The monkeys have pushed the government to formulate policy to give subsidy to farmers fence their farms with specific wires, which will shoo the animal away and save their crops. The state has also been vasking the Centre to lift the ban on export of monkeys for research to other countries, but in vain.Still, there is no rescue for the government as monkey menace is a big poll issue every time and people look to every government for solution.