ByÂ Azra Qaisar:
As children, a lot of us must have heard the tale of “the monkey and the cap seller”. Just a few days ago, the New Delhi Municipal Council took this tale up to another level. The NDMC employed 40 men as “monkey mimics” in the capital, earlier this month. Yes, you read that right. Monkey mimics refer to a group of men who have been assigned the task of scaring away monkeys around the Parliament and the Prime Minister’s residence. When M Venkaiah Naidu, the Minister for Urban Development said “Various efforts are being made to tackle the monkey and dog menace inside and around the parliament house,” who would have thought that something as bizarre as this was in store.
Armed with a stick and an ability to impersonate, these monkey mimics are here to “rescue” the politicians and bureaucrats from the terror of the primates. They wear masks that resemble langurs and make scary noises to drive the monkeys away. They mimic the sounds of the langur, which is the natural enemy of the red faced macaque monkey. They, however, do not dress up as the animal itself. These men are said to be village performers or actors. Many of them belong to the Medari community. The Medari community has been known for taming monkeys for entertainment and street performances. They have been hired on contract and earn around 8000 rupees per month for this unique job.
Over the years, the population of macaques has increased in the capital. From stealing things to causing damage to property, these animals are known for wreaking havoc. There have been attempts to move them into their natural habitat but the attempts have failed. These monkeys are also known for their rapid breeding patterns which is another factor in the increase of their number in the city. Apart from that, the macaque monkeys are treated as sacred by many Hindus, which makes matters more complex.
Until last year, real langurs were used to scare away the monkeys but since the langurs form one of the protected species, therefore the government has come up with this, one of its kind initiative. The schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 does not allow employment, ownership or sale of langurs. This act has been there for a long time but its implementation is being taken seriously only now. Many feel that this idea is not just a waste of human resources but also doesn’t make a lot of sense. The ideal way to solve the problem is to take the monkeys back to their natural habitat. However, the NDMC does not agree with this argument. According to them, the monkeys eventually return to the city in search of food.
On a lighter note, The BJP led government did promise to make jobs for the unemployed if voted to power and this method has come across as an interesting twist in the tale.