Shimla, Oct 27: At a time when political parties are vying with one another to woo voters ahead of assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh, monkeys are back at the centre stage, with three major parties — Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party and Communist Party of India (Marxist) promising to find a permanent solution to the menace they are known for.
As many as 2,300 villages across the hill state are affected by simians, which has compelled farmers to diversify from the traditional agricultural practices.
As per a report by the agriculture department, the marauding monkeys and birds cause a loss of Rs 150.10 crore annually to different horticultural crops.
Similarly, wild animals cause a loss of Rs 184.28 crore to crops annually in the state.
Monkeys, found both in rural and urban areas of the state, also attack humans. In the past three years, monkeys have attacked 674 people across the state and the government had to pay a compensation of Rs 28 lakh to victims.
Two years ago, the Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government had asked the Centre to notify monkeys as vermin in Shimla town and 34 other tehsils in the state. The Union environment ministry, dissatisfied with the measures taken by the state government to control monkey population, had declined to issue such a notification.
In 2005, the Virbhadra government had also initiated a programme to sterilise monkeys. The state government has so far spent Rs 20 crore on this programme and sterilised 1.98 lakh monkeys in the state.
Since monkeys sterilised earlier had no marks on them, wildlife officials tattooed monkeys undergoing vasectomy so that they are identified to avoid their repeated sterilisation.
Interestingly in last one year not even as single monkey was killed.
The CPI (M)-backed Kisan Sabha, spearheading a statewide campaign against the wild animal menace, is demanding the central government to lift embargo on export of monkeys.
“This problem related to farmers has always remained the core issue for the party. We have kept the wild animal menace as one of the priority points in our election manifesto,” says CPI (M) leader Vijender Mehra.
In Kasumpti, a constituency adjoining the Shimla town, the party has woven its campaign around this issue only. “It’s strange that all these four years, the Virbhadra government made tall claims of resolving the wild animal menace. But you can see the hollowness of these claims in Kasumpti where monkeys still rule the roost,” said Satyawaan Pundir, who is district president of Kisan Sabha.
BJP spokesman Praveen Sharma said, “We have offered many solutions to the problem in our vision document.” Umesh Dutt, a member of the BJP’s vision document committee, said, “The party has proposed to keep animal watchers in rural areas. We will also motivate the farmers to install solar fencing around their fields.”
Farmers in Himachal also face the problem of wild animals which cause damage to crops, particularly in the low-lying areas of state. They have often sought intervention of the government to control the burgeoning population of sambar deer, which has increased manifolds in the lowing-lying areas. Its population is swelling in Sirmaur, Bilaspur, Una, Kangra, Chamba, Mandi and Solan districts. Sambars are usually not hunted by farmers due to fear of foresters. The wild boar and nilgai are other animals which destroy the crops.
As per a report by the agriculture department, wild animals cause a loss of Rs 184.28 crore to crops annually in the state. Similarly, the marauding monkeys and birds cause a loss of Rs 150.10 crore annually to different horticultural crops.
Source Hindustan Times